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July 1999 Vol. 25, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Problems for Female Divers?

from the July, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Most medical recommendations for female scuba divers are based on data from fit young men and animals, not from menstruating, menopausal, or pregnant women, and there is little documentation about whether diving might disturb the menstrual cycle or whether diving poses increased risks for menstruating women. Comparative studies between males and females have attempted to assess the relative risk of DCS, but the results have differed. On a recent examination of the Divers Alert Network (DAN) database, however, researcher D. Doyle found that women taking oral contraceptives were more likely to experience DCS if they dived while menstruating. (Doyle D, et al., Menstruation as a risk factor for DCI in female scuba divers taking oral contraceptives. Undersea Hyperbaric Med 1997; 24 (Suppl): 33.)

The Diving Disease Research Centre in Britain is also conducting a major study on “Scuba Diving and the Menstrual Cycle” to determine whether there is a correlation between incidents of DCS and female divers’ menstrual cycles. The study records information about each woman’s menstrual cycle along with depth/diving profiles and any dive incidents experienced. They are also investigating the impact hormone replacement therapies may have on diving.

Preliminary data shows that 48% of women noticed that diving affected their cycle or that the cycle had an impact on their ability to dive safely. Fifteen percent felt exercise affected their cycle, 18% said diving affected the heaviness of their periods, and 20% reported that menstruation had an effect on the pain they experienced when diving. So far the study, which will continue for another two years, has collected data from 956 women ranging from 14-69 (mean age 35) who collectively recorded 199,861 dives.

Female divers with HRT implants may participate in the study by contacting Jane Pimlott at

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