There are still more male than female scuba divers in the world, but the discrepancy is becoming smaller and smaller each year as more and more women realize how fun it is to be a scuba girl. Older scuba diving literature sometimes focus heavily on true as well as perceived differences between men and women, suggesting that being a scuba girl is much more dangerous than being a scuba boy. This is however very far from the truth. Yes, there are a few special considerations for female divers, e.g. the issue of diving during pregnancy, but the individual differences between scuba divers overshadow the differences between the scuba girl and the scuba boy. A male and a female scuba diver of the same age, body size, BMI, cardiovascular condition and psychological preferences will have more in common than two female scuba divers with very dissimilar physical and psychological conditions.
Scuba girl rumour # 1 -Women are more prone to develop decompression sicknes (DCS).
This is a myth originating from the fact that the early studies within this field had a tendency to compare well trained men with out-of-shape women. Most modern studies show no significant different between the scuba girl and the scuba boy when it comes to the risk of developing decompression sickness. There are even studies that indicate that men are at higher risk of developing decompression sickness, but more research is needed before we can draw any reliable conclusions.
One theory regarding the mechanism behind decompression sickness suggests that there is a connection between a high amount of body fat and an elevated risk of developing decompression sickness. If such a connection is found, we might hear people stating “women shouldn’t dive”, since women have a higher percentage of body fat. Before we jump to any conclusions, we must however keep in mind that there is a difference between absolute amount of fat and percentage of fat. A high-quality study must therefore be able to conclude whether it is a higher percentage of fat that causes the elevated risk, or if it is a high absolute amount of fat is the true risk factor. Let’s explain using an example: A 55 kg woman with 20 percent fat will carry 11 kg of fat. A 55 kg man with only 15 percent of fat will of course carry a smaller amount of fat – 8.25 kg. Since most men are bigger than women, many male scuba divers do however actually carry more fat than their female scuba diving friends. A male 80 kg scuba diver with 15% fat will carry 12 kg of fat, which is more absolute fat than what can be found in the 55 kg scuba girl.
Scuba girl rumour # 2 – You will need a special diving suit and buoyancy system, since dive equipments for men do not fit the female body
This is actually somewhere between myth and fact. As we all know, wetsuits are made from neoprene or similar materials with great stretching capability. This means that just like the same wetsuit can fit two men of dissimilar body shapes; it can fit a scuba girl even if she's got a bust and wide hips. The male body is still considered the “standard body” for most manufacturers of wetsuits, but the wetsuits still fit women as well. If you want to borrow or rent a wetsuit from the scuba diving center when you train for your certificate, or during your vacation, you will usually find that the available wetsuits fits you just as good (or bad!) as they would fit a scuba diving man.
There is however a limited number of scuba diving companies that manufacture wetsuits and buoyancy systems especially for the scuba girl. When you start looking for a wetsuit to buy, they can be worth checking out. Since the typical scuba girl body will have a more defined waist, most scuba girls need to fasten their waistband over the narrowest part of the waist. This can be a bit of a problem, since buoyancy systems design for the standard male body often become more balanced if you secure them below the waist. Buoyancy systems designed especially for the scuba girl will take this fact into account, and make it possible for the scuba girl to secure weights and buoyancy below the waist. This is especially important if you, like most girls, have a shorter torso length and a lower center of buoyancy than the typical scuba boy.
Scuba girl rumour # 3 – Diving while pregnant is dangerous
Yes, scuba diving should be avoided when you are pregnant since we still can not know for sure how a dive affects the woman and her fetus. Even if scuba diving is not dangerous for the healthy pregnant female diver, it might still affect the fetus. There is still very little data to base any scientific studies on and giving a straight answers to whether scuba diving while pregnant is dangerous or not is therefore difficult. A “better safe than sorry” approach is therefore recommended. The fetus is most likely more sensitive to decompression problems, which is the main reason why scuba diving should be avoided by pregnant women. We also know very little about how the fetus could be affected if the pregnant woman needs treatment in a hyperbaric chamber after a dive.
If you go scuba diving before your realize that you are pregnant, the present evidence does not indicate an elevated risk large enough to recommend an abortion. Animal models and reports, mailed questionnaires to female scuba divers, and reports of injury in pregnant women are three main sources of information for the researchers within this field.