Many women trekkers ask us this — is it okay to trek during my periods? The concern is real because the thought of being out in the wild during your periods can be uncomfortable.
But much of this discomfort stems from false assumptions. The reality of trekking during periods is different.
Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes, has been trekking for more than a decade, says, “Periods are very normal. If you are okay in your daily life with periods, you will be okay on the trek too. It’s no big deal. You don’t need to worry about that.”
But it’s important to be mentally prepared for it. For that, here are 7 things you should know while trekking during your periods:
1. Physical exertion can cause bad cramps (Not true)
It’s a big myth that exertion makes your cramps worse during periods. And it’s this misconception that keeps women from doing physically intensive activities during their periods.
“Extreme exertion may not be advisable. But going for walks, treks; leading an active life during periods could help in easing the cramps,” says Dr Shreelakshmi.
Nivedita Siddharthan who recently trekked to Nag Tibba during her periods says, “I usually have very painful periods. But I realized that the more physically active I am, the fewer cramps I get.”
Reality is, long hikes and fresh mountain air makes you feel better.
But it is also true that some women suffer painful periods while in the city. So what do you do if your periods are painful and you are going to be on a trek. We asked this question to Dr Shreelakshmi, consulting physician of Indiahikes. She said, “If you have a lot of pain during your periods, you can do the same thing on your trek that you do in the city. Lie down in your tent with a hot water bottle near your back. This will alleviate the cramps. If the pain is too severe then you may take a painkiller like Ibuprofen or Meftal Spas.”
On another note, your trek leaders are trained and equipped to assist you during your periods. “Your trek leader always carries emergency sanitary napkins, painkillers, and even a hot water bottle to ease your cramps,” says Lakshmi Selvakumaran, Head of Experience at Indiahikes.
2. Reality check: Trekking could alter/advance your period dates
Never be too sure of not getting your periods on a trek. “Even if your period dates don’t coincide with your trek dates, it’s wise to be prepared for it,” says Nandana Kamasani, Head of Experience Coordination at Indiahikes.
The reality is that the exertion and experience of a high-altitude trek could trigger your periods. This may result in getting your periods earlier or later than usual. “Many times it takes trekkers by surprise because they are not expecting to get their periods on the trek. And this un-preparedness adds to the discomfort,” Nandana adds.
But even in the face of this unpredictability, periods are nothing to be concerned about. Your flow is not going to increase on a trek. They are just as manageable as they are in the city.
3. Managing sanitary waste is hassle-free
Perhaps the biggest question on your mind while trekking during periods is — what to do with the sanitary waste?
“Sanitary napkins are non-biodegradable. So if you are using napkins or tampons, they must not be left behind in the mountains at any cost,” says Sandhya.
The easiest thing to do is pack sanitary napkins or tampons in the newspaper, put it in a plastic/ziplock bag, and bring it back to the city with you. Yes, it does require the foresight to keep some sheets of an old newspaper folded in a remote corner of your backpack.
“Wrapping it well and putting it in a ziplock ensures there is no sight or smell. This is what most of us do on our treks,” says Sandhya UC.
Watch this video in which Indiahikes Team Member Neha Satheesan shows the right way of managing sanitary waste on a trek.
4. Menstrual cups are the future of trekking (and even otherwise)
At Indiahikes, we have discovered how magical a menstrual cup can be. Not only is it totally hassle free, they are environmentally sustainable, zero cost and don't make us feel as if we are in our periods.
“A menstrual cup can hold blood longer on average as compared to tampons. Despite my heavier flow, I still feel that I need to change less often as compared to tampons. If you are confident with the cup, you might have less things to carry as compared to pads and tampons,” shares trekker Tanja Mathias.
Menstrual cups are the easiest to clean. All you need to do is rinse it with water — something that is easily available on trek.
Menstrual cups create far less trash compared to tampons and pads. There’s no plastic, no wrapping paper, no non-biodegradable material. It saves the environment and our treks. There is nothing to dispose of. For trekkers it is the biggest boon.
5. It's easy to stay clean and infection-free without taking bath
“Changing pads / tampons / menstrual cups is pretty easy on a trek. If you feel like changing while on the trail, you can follow a process that’s similar to what you follow during nature’s call. Go behind a bush/tree/boulder that offers you some privacy. Inform your teammates beforehand so that they can keep an eye. Finish your business and resume your trek. It is as simple as that,” shares Sandhya.
“At the campsite, you can request your tent mates to leave your tent for a while. Change in the tent. Or if you are more comfortable, go into the toilet tent and change. Carry tissue paper that you can dampen to wipe yourself while you are changing. This will help you feel fresh,” shares Sandhya.
Warning: Ensure you do not use wet wipes in this process. Wet wipes are not biodegradable, and are a nuisance to the environment since they are full of chemicals. Just use regular tissue paper by wetting it with a few drops of water.
6. Extra change of undergarments is important
Staining is a real concern during periods. But you don’t need to carry extra clothes to address that. “Instead, carry extra sanitary products and extra undergarments. This enables you to change often, thereby preventing staining,” says Sandhya.
While keeping extra undergarments, make sure you keep the cotton ones that allow your skin to breathe. This prevents sweating and infection in the nether regions.
Tip: It’s a great idea to use cloth pads / cloth liners along with your underwear when you’re using menstrual cups / tampons. They will avoid any leaks and are easier to wrap, pack and bring back.
7. It's not worth it to pop a pill to postpone your periods
Taking hormonal pills to alter your period dates is not healthy for you. “These pills can wreak havoc on your cycles. They not only affect your current cycle but also future ones,” says Dr Sreelakshmi. And tampering with your cycles can lead to hormonal imbalances.
It is easier to manage trekking with your periods. All you need to do is keep all the above points in mind and prepare accordingly.
Trekking during your periods could get slightly overwhelming if it’s your first time. And that’s why it’s important to talk about it, seek advice, and share your concerns.
The reality remains that it is not a big issue to trek during your periods. Most women do it successfully, without much hassle.
“If you are too fussy and finicky about having the comfort of your home on a trek during periods, then be ready for slight discomfort. Be open and don’t worry too much about it. Periods are a normal part of life, and it’s okay to have them on a trek,” reassures Sandhya.
If you have trekked during your periods I’d love to hear about your experience. Was it easy? Overwhelming? Write to me to share your experience.