Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
The bleachers are full of people ready to support their favorite team. You have been preparing for this competition for over a year now and you can confidently say you are ready. Your stomach has been feeling queasy but you have chalked it up to competition anxiety.
Stretching and warming up, you bend down to touch your toes and then you feel it. That warm sensation between your legs…
Being an athlete is more than just participation in physical activity. It is a sacrifice of mind, body, and soul in pursuits of greatness. Long training sessions, regimented exercise plan, restricted nutrition and dealing with competition anxiety are among the long list of reasons why choosing to be an athlete becomes a full-time commitment.
Athletes are devoted to excellence and optimal performance, but female athletes still have to deal with the added biological function of menstruation. Regardless of practice schedules and training requirements, female athletes still have to worry about period cycles and navigating the murky waters of being born a woman.
It was a hot topic when Fu Yuanhui, one of China’s famous swimmers talked about getting her period a day before the game. While she took responsibility for their fourth position in the 4x100m women’s medley relay, she acknowledged that her period had made her too tired to deliver a stellar performance.
While there has been no conclusive decision on whether and how menstruation impacts the performance of athletes despite various research and studies carried out, some athletes such as Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon ladies’ champion) have said that it is difficult to train and play when female players have their periods.
55% of the 789 female athletes surveyed online by the Female Athlete Health Group (a collaboration of the University College of London and St. Mary’s University) agreed that their menstrual cycle impacts their training and performance.
Benefits of Skipping Periods
As an athlete, there are a lot of important reasons why striking off periods from your things to fuss over could be extremely beneficial.
Cramps And Pain – Sure there are all the options of painkillers and hot water bottles, but how much can this help when you have a competition like the Olympics ahead?
The contractions which occur from your uterus shedding its lining causes menstrual cramps. Cramps are persistent, month after month and day after day. Skipping your period as an athlete could potentially reduce or eliminate uterine contractions thus lessening or avoiding menstrual cramps.
Medical Conditions – Between 8% to 18% of women have been discovered to potentially develop ovarian cysts in their lifetime. Ovarian cysts can disrupt your daily activity whether benign or even more dangerous, malignant. Cleveland Clinic has written that skipping your period with hormonal birth control can prevent cysts from forming or eliminating any cysts you may have in the first place.
Also, a condition such as endometriosis is worsened by menstruation while the women who experience heavy bleeding have a greater tendency to develop anemia due to the heavy blood loss. As an athlete, dealing with a condition which is worsened by being on your period could limit your ability to compete or practice adequately. You might have to take a couple of days off from training to deal with this condition depending on how severe it is. Safely skipping your period allows you to avoid having a period that could worsen your condition by eliminating the need to shed your uterine lining as blood.
Menstruation Symptoms – Menstruation comes with a cocktail of symptoms ranging from breast tenderness, bloating and mood swings to headaches, vomiting or extreme fatigue. Regardless of which particular symptom your period presents monthly, it could become difficult to manage with a regimented physical activity or sport. By safely skipping your period, you avoid most or even all of the menstruation symptoms and get to live life period-carefree. You can be armed with a better quality of life and do not have to deal with the moodiness of your cycle.
Reduced Risks of Injuries – Generally, studies have shown that women have higher injury rates – particularly ACL injuries – than their male counterparts. Studies have shown that female athletes are more prone to injuries at certain times of their cycle. While this prevalence to injury could depend on the female in question, just not having a period reduces the risk of injuries from being in a certain phase of your cycle altogether.
Discomfort – Sanitary products like pads, tampons and menstrual cups are designed for comfort and convenience, but nothing might seem so convenient when you have a marathon to run. Ask Kiran Gandhi who ran the London marathon in 2015 bleeding freely without any sanitary product to fight the stigma of menstruation and raise awareness to people who have no access to sanitary products. An athlete who skips periods escapes the confines of sanitary products. You can train freely without worrying about any discomfort that could be caused by chafing or your pad shifting at any time.
Is it Safe to Skip Your Period?
It all sounds so glorious to live a life without worrying about cramps and bleeding monthly, but your real question might be, is it safe to skip your periods?
Yes, it is safe to skip periods. There have been no significant negative effects reported by medical studies for skipping periods. It is not unnatural and does not come with grave consequences like death. Birth control has been prescribed to women by physicians to improve acne, heavy periods, diabetes and seizures. While it is suggested, that you check with a doctor before deciding to skip periods, according to the National Women’s Health Network, it is safe.
Periods are a part of life for almost all women. Periods come with financial, physical, emotional and mental stress in various ways that can hinder performance for that period. As an athlete, the stakes are just higher. Simply imagine getting your period the day before an event such as the Olympics? There are a number of benefits to safely skipping your period as an athlete but the most important factor to consider is cutting out menstruation and the associated risks that could work to distract you from excellence. With a stress-free and improved quality of life from eliminating periods, the world can truly be your oyster.
Interested in safely skipping your periods? Pandia Health makes it easy to access prescription birth control. You can also check out our blog on how to skip your period as an athlete. Focus on your athletic performance with no worries simply by giving Pandia Health services a try!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.