How to deal with your period during sports

We’ve all been there, and it’s unavoidable: when your menstrual cycle coincides with sports practice, competitions, or triathlons. Although exercise has been proven to be good for us during our periods, it can often feel like our menstrual cycle gets in the way. So, in this article, we’re going to compare the options of period underwear, menstrual cups, and more traditional period products to see what option is right for you.

Can you do sports on your period? 

Yes! Research encourages us to be active during our menstrual cycle and it leads to a lot of benefits, including increased blood flow and oxygen which decreases pain. Exercise can make us feel better from dopamine and serotonin, and it makes us stronger, live longer, and feel better overall. 

So, what should you wear whilst working out? 

Are menstrual cups good for sports? 

Yes! But there are a few things to consider, like how heavy your flow is, what the sport is, and how long you’ll be out training or competing. 

Menstrual cups are great for a variety of sports like:

  • Swimming
  • Horse riding
  • Gymnastics 
  • Running 
  • Yoga
  • Cycling 
  • Weight lifting 
  • Snow boarding

Menstrual cups have a lot of positives and are a great option to stopping leaks whilst remaining comfortable during your period. But why? 

  1. They hold more blood than a traditional tampon.
    In fact menstrual cups can hold up to 3 times more blood than a tampon and can be worn for up to 12 hours. This gives you plenty of time to focus on training, or winning without worrying about leaks. 
  2. Less likely to dry out.
    Because menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone, they don’t contain harmful chemicals or dyes that upset your natural pH system. They won’t dry out your genitals and won’t cause irritation. Just be sure to wash them with a cup wash or mild unscented soap!
  3. No leaks.
    Menstrual cups create a leak proof seal in your vaginal canal. This ensures no leaks and lets you play all day.
  4. They’re comfortable.
    When you have the right size cup, and it’s inserted correctly, you shouldn’t feel your cup at all. Unlike pads that can bunch up, your cup conforms to your body shape. 
  5. Good for the environment.
    They’re a good choice for the environment because they’re reusable, made with recycled materials, come with minimal packaging, and can be used for years.

But what about the cons:

  1. They can move.
    If your cup is not firmly in place, or your pelvic floor is really strong, your muscles can end up moving the cup and causing a leak. 
  2. They can be expensive.
    They can cost a lot more up-front, and although they will cost less than tampons or pads in the long run, not everyone has the budget to spend that much on period products in one go. 

Is period underwear good for sports? 

Period underwear is a great choice for sports as well. They’re great for sports like:

  • Swimming
  • Horse riding
  • Gymnastics 
  • Running 
  • Yoga
  • Cycling 
  • Weight lifting 
  • Snow boarding

They are just like traditional underwear, but made with more layers so they are absorbent, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and odour-free. But there’s plenty of reasons you should choose them as your period protection.

  1. They’re comfortable.
    Period underwear is designed to be lightweight and feel almost exactly like traditional underwear. They aren’t bulky and won’t bunch up like pads, as they are designed to move with your body. 
  2. They are discrete.
    You won’t ever be able to tell you’re wearing period underwear, so feel free to wear them under your uniforms or workout clothes. 
  3. They stay in place.
    Because the entire gusset is made to be absorbent you don’t have to worry about them moving around. There are no leaks with period underwear. 
  4. They are sustainable.
    Period underwear is really sustainable, they last for years and are made with materials that can be recycled. They also outweigh the costs of disposable period products in the long run, because they last so long. 
  5. They’re easy to clean.
    You can toss them in the washing machine on a cold-wash cycle, and be done! 

There are some things to consider before buying period underwear: 

  1. They’re expensive.
    You need to buy multiple pairs of period underwear and the initial costs can really add up.
  2. They only work for light to moderate flows.
    If you have a heavy flow, period underwear might not work for you. Their absorbency only goes so far. 

Are tampons good for sports? 

Tampons can be a good choice for sports but shouldn’t be used for extended periods of times or for heavier cycles. They’re best for sports like:

  • Swimming
  • Horse riding
  • Running 
  • Yoga
  • Weight lifting 

If you’re planning on being out for more than 4 hours, we recommend an alternative if you’re unable to change, or don’t want to worry about finding somewhere to change your tampon. But they can be helpful because:

  1. They’re discrete.
    Tampons are discrete and the only thing you need to worry about is a loose string. (If you are in leotards for dance, gymnastics, or even swimming you might worry about your string.)
  2. They’re easy.
    Simply throw the tampon away and put in another one; no need to fuss with cleaning.
  3. They’re less messy.
    Unlike menstrual cups, you won’t have to worry about cleaning your tampon. You won’t get blood on your fingers, and by re-suing the wrappers, you can simply dispose of it and insert another one.

Tampons can have some downfalls: 

  1. They can be irritating.
    Because of dyes, chemicals, and being made from cotton, the materials can cause irritation and infection. 
  2. They don’t last long.
    Menstrual cups last up to 12 hours, whereas tampons hold a lot less liquid. If you’re going to be training for a while it might be a safer option to go with something else.
  3. The string can be a hassle.
    You don’t want to have to worry about your string showing through your uniform, which could take your head out of the game. 

Are pads good for sports?

Pads are probably the worst choice for sports, as they can be bulky, bunch up, and become displaced with high-movement activities. We recommend avoiding pads for sports. They are much better suited for low-impact exercise like walking. 

Overall, you should go with what period product you think is best, and what makes you the most comfortable. We do encourage you to try multiple options and even combine them to see what works best for you; that way you can keep reaching for gold. 

Can you do gymnastics on your period with a pad?

Certainly, you can engage in gymnastics and other sports while on your period using a pad, but there are a few things to consider for optimal comfort and leak prevention. 

To prevent any discomfort or the risk of period leaking, especially during high-intensity sports like gymnastics, it's advisable to check and change your pad regularly. This ensures both hygiene and peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your performance without any distractions. So the answer is yes: you certainly can do gymnastics on your period with a pad, just opt for the most comfortable one out there.

How to play sports on your period with a pad

Playing sports on your period with a pad requires a little extra planning but is entirely feasible. Look for pads specifically designed for sports, offering better grip and coverage to handle rapid movements and physical exertion. 

How to play sports on your period with a pad is always an interesting question and the answer often varies among women. Wearing tight-fitting sports underwear or compression shorts can help keep the pad in place, reducing the chances of shifting or bunching up. 

Managing tampon leaks during sports

Understanding the concerns about tampons, like "Do tampons leak?" or "Can your period leak through a tampon?", is essential when engaging in sports. While tampons are generally reliable, they can leak if not changed frequently enough or if not the right absorbency for your flow. To prevent period leaking, it's crucial to choose the correct absorbency level and change your tampon every 4-6 hours, or more frequently if you have a heavy flow.