Women’s Health in Diving

Written by DAN staff

DFD_WomenDiversWith PADI® Women’s Dive Day coming up on 15 July, this is an excellent time to review a few issues unique to female scuba divers. The issues that pertain to women’s health and safety in the water aren’t broadly publicized. Refresh yourself on some of the most common gender-specific questions student divers may ask and do your part to better educate the dive community.

Oral Contraceptives

While there has been no evidence found that the use of oral contraceptives increases a diver’s risk of DCS, it may slightly elevate the risk of clotting conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Research indicates that use of an oral contraceptive pill (OCP) can increase the risk of events like a pulmonary embolism, heart attack or stroke. That risk is further increased by a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. While these events may be somewhat manageable on dry land, they can cause serious issues in the water. OCP use is generally accepted as safe for divers, but it’s recommend that student divers exercise regularly and not smoke to reduce their risk of clotting conditions that could cause injuries during a dive.

Diving After Pregnancy

Recommendations for returning to diving after childbirth vary based on the type of delivery. After a typical delivery without complications, a woman can generally resume diving in about 21 days. This allows time for the cervix to close and limits the risk of infection. Uncomplicated Cesarean sections generally require eight to 12 weeks of recovery before diving to limit infection risk. If a woman is put on bed rest due to complications of the pregnancy, it is prudent to refrain from diving for more than 12 weeks because of the loss of strength and aerobic capacity. Following a miscarriage, a woman can return to diving as soon as a physician releases her for full and unrestricted activity.

Couple on an adventure

Osteoporosis

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women receive a bone density test if they have broken a bone after age 50, are menopausal or postmenopausal with risk factors, or are older than age 65. The recommendations include a significant portion of both divers and potential divers, and the condition should not be overlooked. Osteoporosis is not a contraindication for diving, but women who have the condition or severe bone loss should consider donning equipment in the water and adapting their diving to reduce the risk of fractures and falls. Good precautions for divers who may have compromised bone health include avoiding wearing heavy dive gear out of the water, carrying cylinders on land, or undertaking hazardous shore entries.

Breast Implants

Once sufficient time has passed after a breast augmentation or reconstructive surgery, a diver may resume diving without increased risk. Divers with implants may experience minor buoyancy and trim changes following their surgery, and should avoid constrictive chest straps that may increase the likelihood of implant rupture, but otherwise have no reason to be concerned. Breast implants do not pose a problem to diving from the standpoint of gas absorption and do not represent a contraindication to diving.

For more information on women’s health and diving visit DAN.org/Health

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