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Don't miss another practice! How to handle your period as an athlete

Suzi Milovanovic has been a mother of all kinds: stay at home mom, work from home mom, and go-the-office working mom. She blends all these perspectives in her contributions to various local and national print and online publications, tel...

Sports & your period

Being a female athlete promotes mental and physical well being and presents an opportunity to make new friends while having fun. Every month, though, a little thing we call a period comes along and threatens to spoil the fun -- including the practice schedule. Instead of letting your period slow down your groove, check out a few confidence builders and myth busters to help you handle your period as an athlete.

Swimmer

You can do it!

Contrary to the myths you've heard (like waiting an hour after you've eaten to go swimming), you can play any sport while you have a period. Some elite sportswomen report that they even perform better than usual around the beginning of their periods, possibly because of extra energy and maybe a bit more aggression than usual. Another bonus to continuing your sport: It seems to help relieve some premenstrual symptoms.

Relax: they can't tell

Modern feminine hygiene products have come a long way since the old-fashioned belted contraptions that women used in the early 1900s. You have a choice of products that fit in with any sport, outfit and need, from flexible liners to easy-glide tampons. With proper use, you can wear your favorite clothes without worrying about anything showing, and you can pretty much bet your good clothes won't get stained.

Timing is everything

You should have a pretty good idea about your own menstrual cycle so you know when to expect your period. Try planning alternative or modified practice schedules around your period in case you still don't feel confident about going full force. Just don't stop completely.

Swimming

If you use tampons or a menstrual cup -- both of which absorb flow internally -- you can swim while on your period. (It's always a good idea to change your tampon right before and after you go swimming). Pads are not recommended while swimming because they blow up like balloons.

Exercise affects menstruation

A little exercise doesn't affect the flow or length of your period, but it usually helps relieve menstrual cramps. Because exercise is important for good health anyway, it should be part of your daily routine. Very intense physical activity -- such as training to run a marathon -- may cause amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstrual periods. Check with your doctor if you feel that anything is out of the ordinary.

How do I tell mom I want to use tampons?

Younger lady athletes don't need to be embarrassed. Your mom will appreciate that you came to her for advice, says Dr. Gilda Carle, psychologist and author of The Teen Guide to Dating. Don't worry about the myths you've heard about tampons; they don't mean you're sexually active in any way. Be prepared and do your research about tampons made especially for young teens so you can present your case. She will see how this is affecting you and will give it more thought than if you approach it as no big deal.

Being an athlete on your period doesn't make you any different from an athlete not on her period. Use the products and know your body so that your period doesn't interfere with your practice schedule ever again!

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