Although it’s hard to get definite numbers, one thing is clear – diving is not just for men. Countless numbers of women enjoy heading under the surface just as much as their male counterparts. In fact, recent studies have shown that roughly half of all individuals granted certifications each year are female, and many dive-related websites, clubs and shops are geared toward women.
While everyone who dives should be mindful of their health and any physical issues that may lead to complications, there are certain biological issues unique to females that could pose certain problems or, at the least, alter the way they would normally take part.
It’s believed by many that a women who dives during her period faces a greater risk of attracting sharks, but there is no evidence to back this up. What is known is that some shark species are actually not attracted to menstrual blood. Of greater concern, however, is the possibility that women face an increased risk of decompression illness during the first week of their menstrual cycle and while on oral contraceptives. This is due to certain changes (such as water retention and swelling) that may make it harder for the body to eliminate nitrogen. Although studies have been confined to laboratory settings and no conclusive “real world” proof is currently available, women would probably do well to stick to shallower depths and make longer safety stops during this time.
The question of whether it’s safe to dive while pregnant is still up in the air. Very little study has been done on human subjects, although experiments with sheep (an animal with a placenta quite like a human’s) have resulted in significantly high fetal mortality rates. The concern focuses primarily on decompression illness: if the mother is stricken by it, the fetus – receiving oxygen via the placenta – may also be affected and have no way to rid itself of potentially harmful bubbles, as it would be incapable of filtering nitrogen. Because of this risk, as well as the fact that a fetus may also be susceptible to hyperoxia and carbon dioxide retention, it is highly recommended that women forgo diving while pregnant. After giving birth, it is advised that women who undergo a vaginal delivery should start diving again only after a four week break, and those who have a c-section hold off for at least eight weeks.
In recent years there have been many cases of breast implants leaking and rupturing, with some blame being assigned to pressure experienced during mammogram tests. Because diving involves subjecting the body to pressure, one may wonder if it can be risky if you have had augmentation surgery. It must be remembered, however, that underwater pressure affects air and not liquid, so implants filled with saline and silicone are perfectly safe. The only problem that may be experienced is a minor change in buoyancy if the individual has silicon-filled implants, which are heavier than water. This discrepancy can be easily remedied by altering your amount of added weight.