Female athlete practicing in the track and field.

How Do Female Athletes Manage Their Periods?

Female athletes are some of today’s most iconic heroines. Whether serving aces or shooting three-pointers, they seem to give the game their all regardless of the numerous challenges. For instance, there’s the pressure to succeed at the highest levels, ditch partying for training, and of course, attend to Auntie Flo. Yet many of these supergirls can ride the crimson tide and still deliver top-notch performances on the playing field. So how in the world do they do it? In this article, we’d like to answer a question always asked by sports fans: “How do female athletes manage their periods?” 

How female athletes deal with their periods

We all have to deal with our monthly visitor one way or another. But when you’re a female athlete, dealing with an entire slew of PMS symptoms while competing can be extra challenging. So, how do female athletes manage their periods? 

1. Making it part of the conversation

Today, the number of female athletes has considerably increased from decades ago. Yet, male athletic directors and coaches continue to dominate the sports scene. Thus, typical training programs and schedules generally don't consider female-sensitive factors. The good news is that this is slowly changing. Female athletes are doing their part by pushing for menstruation to be part of mainstream conversation. 

After 2016 Olympic bronze medallist swimmer Fu Yuanhui participated in the 4x100 meter relay, she candidly stated that being on her period made her feel weak and tired. She wasn’t making any excuses nor was she apologetic about it—she was just stating facts. Suddenly, people realized that female athletes have to deal with that “extra thing" on top of everything else. 

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Laura Trott says it's critical to openly talk about menstruation. This helps diminish the taboo perception of what should be seen as a very normal and uniquely beautiful process of the female body. Also, this helps towards more training and other self-efficacy programs in support of sportswomen. Additionally, the discussion encourages more research into better athlete management strategies. 

2. Period tracking 

Cycle tracking is nothing new to female athletes. For instance, Olympic hockey gold medallist Sam Quek tracks her period as part of her daily morning routine. Manchester United Women’s defender Alex Greenwood also uses a monitoring app. This helps them stay abreast of their cycles and determine when they should reduce the intensity of their training. 

When Women’s Health interviewed Lioness and Chelsea FC football player Fran Kirby, she likewise revealed that her team uses the “Fit for Women” app. This helps them watch their cycles so they can adjust and achieve optimum performance. In 2020, the Chelsea club became the world’s first female sports team to tailor its training program to female-specific factors. Here are examples of how tracking their period can help women athletes manage their red-letter days. 

  • The follicular phase is the initial phase of the menstrual pattern, lasting for 14 days or the first half of a typical 28-day cycle. Halfway through this phase, 

Estrogen surges to ripen the follicle and thicken the uterine lining in case fertilization happens. As a result, joints loosen up, making women athletes more susceptible to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). In fact, tendon and ligament damage are more common in sportswomen than in their male counterparts. Thus, at this time, female athletes and their trainers  should take additional precautions against likely tissue injuries. 

  • Although ovulation is the briefest of the menstrual phases, it can be a painful time. Right before an egg is released, the follicle containing it stretches the ovary and eventually ruptures. The ruptured follicle releases blood or fluid that causes inflammation in the abdominal lining. Knowing when this phase occurs can help female athletes prepare to deal with it. For example, they can consume anti-inflammatory edibles like green and leafy veggies. Another option is to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds. Although ovulation pain is common, one should see a healthcare professional in severe cases. 

3. Controlling cycles with contraceptives

Another common practice among sportswomen is taking birth control pills. In one study, about half of athlete respondents revealed that they were using hormonal contraceptives. Doing so helped them control the frequency of their cycle, its timing, and the intensity of menstrual bleeding. So instead of making their training revolve around their menstruation, it’s the other way around. However, there may be potential dangers in using this method to regulate menstruation.

To begin with, taking contraceptives comes with contraindications. These include a genetic history of blood clots, a weak liver, high blood pressure, and breast cancer. Eilish McColgan, a middle- and long-distance runner and two-time European medallist, tried pills to help with PMS symptoms. But she found them too strong after experiencing intense emotional fluctuations. 

Other possible side effects are migraine headaches and blood clots (especially if one smokes). Combination pills with progestin can also decrease good cholesterol while increasing bad cholesterol. There is also some evidence linking hormonal contraceptives with the heightened risk of cervical and breast cancer.

However, more substantial research is needed for more conclusive results. In addition, there is no one size fits all, as each woman’s body is different. As such, it’s best for female athletes to speak to their physicians before deciding to take birth control pills. 

4. Managing periods safely and effectively with period apparel

Fortunately for female athletes, they can leverage the latest scientific and technological advancements in menstrual management through period apparel. For example, Ruby Love Period Underwear can help them be 100% free of side effects or side leaks (and front and back leaks, too!). It also has no harsh PFAs, PULs, or nanosilver that can harm human health and the environment. 

Our Ruby Love Athletics for running, swimming, tennis, and gymnastics, enhances performance with lightweight and absorbent fabric for low- or high-intensity training. It also features a patent-pending “floating gusset” discreetly designed for winning movements.

But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy the freedom and confidence during that special time of the month. With Ruby Love, you can win hands down in managing your period. Check out our collection today!.

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