Faculty member and athlete extraordinaire, Dr. Laura Borgelt, was recently interviewed by Women's Running magazine regarding the top questions female athletes ask about running, sex and one's menstrual cycle. Here’s the top questions that the magazine asked and Dr. Borgelt's answers:
Will using the pill affect athletic performance?
As far as we can tell, using the pill—with the current doses and strengths that we have available—there would not be a negative impact with athletic performance. There can be side effects that occur, so depending upon the woman, there may be side effects experienced, but athletic performance would not be an indicator of whether to use it or not. It is based on whether someone tolerates the pill or not.
Is my performance affected while on my period?
When looking at physiologic performance—oxygen consumption and muscle strength—it is not affected when someone has her period. Having said that, there are (as we all know) symptoms that can make a day of racing or training uncomfortable due to pain, moodiness, cramping and more, not tied to physiological performance. How you feel or are able to perform can be affected.
Is it okay to not have my period? What forms of contraception allow me to not have my period?
If a woman is not having her period because she is training so much that her systems and hormone regulation is shutting down, that can have negative consequences. Overtraining or too much exercise can shut down those regulatory mechanisms. In the other scenario, if you are using contraception and the right things are happening, it is fine to not have your period. This can happen safely as long as you are in your reproductive life. There are several methods that allow women to not have a period. The most effective is the progestin-only intrauterine devices (IUD). These devices are good for roughly 3-5 years, depending on the device. This device is simply inserted and within about 6 months, a woman will not have her period as long as the IUD is in. Also available are birth control pills, which can be used in a continuous manner where active pills are taken every day and the placebo pills are never taken. These birth control pills have estrogen and progestin combined. Progestin-only pills stop women from having a period, but they are rarely used as a routinely birth control. Finally, the Depo-Provera shot can be given every 3 months to eliminate a period, but it is not recommended often because it can cause weight gain.