Health & Wellness

Olympic Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui discusses competing while she has her period

A lot of women can relate to how Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui was feeling on Sunday after coming in fourth place during the women's 4x100 meter relay.

Following the race, reporters found Yuanhui bent over and clutching her stomach. "Yes (my belly hurts) because my period came yesterday. I'm feeling a bit weak and exhausted, but this is not an excuse. Anyway, I didn't do well," she told them.

Her quote was picked up by numerous news outlets and women around the world rallied around Yuanhui for her honesty — and for breaking the stigma and taboo nature of talking about a woman's menstrual cycle.

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It may have been an especially eye-opening comment for her fellow Chinese, many of whom didn't understand how she could swim during her menstrual cycle. According to an industry report, only about 2 percent of women in China use tampons. They're poorly informed about the product and believe using tampons would prevent them from remaining virgins.

RELATED: Teen's viral post about being period-shamed resonates with women around the world

China isn't the only country with questionable views on menstruation: Just last week, an image Sophie Tabatadze snapped at her local swimming pool in Tbilisi, Georgia, went viral: "Dear ladies! Do not go to the pool during periods."

"The sign was really disappointing. We live in a strong patriarchal culture … with lots of stigma associated with menstruation, which limits women's participation in sports," Tabatadze told TODAY via email. As of today, the sign is still up and the gym didn't respond to TODAY's request for an interview.

RELATED: Pool tells women no swimming during their periods, claiming 'contamination'

"I think this poses a good opportunity to raise awareness and start a discussion on women's health, including that periods are not something unhygienic, shameful," she said.

Swimming in a public pool during your period does not pose a health risk, experts say. Most women use tampons while swimming, which absorb the menstrual fluid. It is possible that a little fluid could escape past a tampon, but it's rare and it would be a very small amount.

RELATED: What makes your eyes red in the pool? It's not the chlorine

"I'd be a lot more worried about fecal matter in a pool, personally," Dr. Jen Gunter, a San Francisco Bay-area gynecologist told TODAY.

Thanks to Yuanhui and Tabatadze for starting this conversation, which hopefully will continue and reduce the stigma around a woman's menstrual cycle.

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