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What size bra does a mermaid wear?

A Sea cup………

This leads me onto a topic close to my heart, women and diving. Scuba diving is no longer the preserve of macho men, scuba suppliers are now designing and manufacturing a whole range of equipment geared solely for use by women.  BCD’s with extra padding on the back plate and straps that don’t restrict our breasts; wet suits cut for the female figure, even regulators and snorkels with smaller mouthpieces – yes guys – we do have a tendency to have smaller jaws than you do.  Here in our centre in Las Galeras, we are seeing a steady increase in female divers coming into the sport and visiting the Caribbean.

There are many myths and misconceptions about women and diving so let’s try to dispel some of them.

Diving during pregnancy:  Not a myth.  No serious research has been undertaken, for obvious reasons, on the effects of pressure on a fetus.  If you are actively attempting to become pregnant, then stop diving and start swimming instead. If you dive not knowing that you are pregnant, contact your obstetrician for advice.

Diving when breastfeeding:  This is a misconception.  Breast milk is not affected by nitrogen, which is an inert gas that is absorbed into the body tissues.  A baby will not be taking on or accumulating excessive nitrogen if the mother dives.  Provided that there is no infection or inflammation in the breasts, there is no reason not to dive.

Diving during menstruation:  A misconception.  Sharks are attracted to blood, but the miniscule amount of seepage that may occur during menstruation is not likely to attract sharks. Of course if you are diving in shark infested waters, then the risk of a shark attack increases, menstruation or not.  It really is a personal choice to dive or not during your period.  For some women, diving is a great way of easing the cramps and niggling aches often experienced during menstruation, others opt for a hot water bottle and bed.  The same as with any dive, if you are not feeling ‘up’ for it, then don’t do it.

Diving with breast implants: Another myth.  There are many active divers with implants, all women I believe, and there have been no reported cases of implants exploding during or after a dive.  Some concerns were raised about implants absorbing nitrogen so Duke University undertook a study.  Their researchers, who allegedly enjoyed this work, found that some implants do indeed absorb gas but the exposure levels required for this to happen are way beyond anything recreational divers would encounter.

Diving with PMS: A misconception.  There is no reason not to dive when suffering from PMS unless it is so severe that you are taking drugs to alleviate the symptoms, in which case you should consult your doctor, or if the sufferer feels she cannot be trusted with a dive knife. Seriously though, sometimes a good relaxing dive with a sympathetic buddy can lessen the mood swings often associated with PMS and, as always, if you don’t feel comfortable, then don’t dive.

Women Divers need special treatment:  Another myth. We don’t need any special treatment.  We don’t expect our tanks to be carried, although it’s nice when it happens, or our kit to be prepared for us, we’d rather do that ourselves, nor do we expect our dive buddies to stop cracking jokes and being themselves.  Scuba diving is a great leveler, some guys are weaker than others, some guys are weaker than some women and being a diver means you look out for and help one another irrespective of gender.

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