Elite female athletes' experiences and perceptions of the menstrual cycle on training and sport performance

Natalie Brown , Camilla Knight, Laura Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of the current study was twofold (a) to examine elite female athletes’ experiences of their menstrual cycle, with a focus upon the impact on training and competition performance and (b) the openness of conversation pertaining to the menstrual cycle with coaching and support staff. Following receipt of institutional ethical approval, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 elite female athletes (25.5 ± 4.7 years) from multiple sports. Results revealed athletes’ experiencing a natural menstrual cycle reported physical symptoms alongside mood disturbances and reduced motivation to train. The decision to actively control the menstrual cycle was often triggered by a desire to reduce the effect on competition, to lessen anxieties about making required weight or reduce distraction to manage during competition. Athletes indicated an openness to talk about the menstrual cycle to other females, however, there was variation in the comfort athletes experienced regarding talking to male coaches. Overall, the findings highlight the need to educate elite athletes and coaches on the menstrual cycle, considering it in the same light as other physiological functions in sport to improve health, well-being, and performance. Furthermore, providing education on how to construct positive conversations, equipping individuals with the correct terminology, and confidence to talk about the menstrual cycle will reduce some reservations identified through improved knowledge and understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-69
Number of pages18
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021


  • elite female athletes
  • menstrual cycle
  • training performance
  • sport performance


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