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Puberty and Menses for Female Swimmers


My daughter is 11 years old and she started to experience her first menses in February this year and coincidentally it happens on her 200 Free trial and she clocked 2:53. Then one month later at an important national age group meet, menses happened just prior again and clocked 3:02.

Can menses, which unfortunately had happened twice just before her meet, affect her 200 free timing by such large deterioration?




Hi Mel,

This is a hard question to answer because it depends on each individual and how menses affects them and what else is going on in their life at the same time. For example, 3 late nights in one week may affect performance at a swim meet on the weekend.

In my book Swimming for Parents there is a whole chapter on female development that helps explain what happens as young girls go through puberty.

Going through puberty, and starting your first period, can be a time of mixed emotions for any girl.

For girls who swim, it can be a more challenging time than it is for most girls, due to the following facts:

1. Any slight change in their body—shape, hair growth etc., is ‘revealed to the world’ when they put on their swimming costume.

2. Bleeding during their period makes it difficult for most girls to continue training or racing, unless they choose to use tampons.

3. For some girls, the changes experienced during puberty can affect swimming performances, making it difficult to stay motivated.

The most common feeling that a young girl has as she begins her journey through puberty is ‘Everyone Is Looking at My Changing Body’. The chapter on Female Development in Swimming for Parents has been written so that your daughter can read them herself or you can read them together.  It includes sections on “Puberty… and Periods” and “Puberty… and Performance”.

For all young girls it will take some time to get used to menses each month.  We had a number of girls in our squad who would regularly get their menses just prior to swim meets, especially if they have rested up or tapered for the meet.

Also please keep in mind that large fluctuations in times are quite normal for young inexperienced swimmers. You will find as she gets more experience, that her swimming times will gradually become more consistent and the fluctuations will reduce.


The Swimming Expert

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