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The Menstrual Cycle: Female Athletes' Experiences and Perceptions

In the second in a series, the Welsh Institute of Performance Science’s Natalie Brown shares athletes’ experiences of the menstrual cycle on their training and sporting performance, considering how confident and comfortable female participants are in discussing the menstrual cycle

Female athletes experience a wide range of physical, affective and psychological symptoms during their menstrual cycle (period) that may impact on their training and competitions. When considering this topic, athletes highlighted experiences of these that resulted in them having to adapt practice sessions or even miss training completely.

The menstrual cycle is normal; it should not be awkward to talk about.

The feelings and symptoms created increased anxiety and distraction whilst at competition, with many stating that it affected their performance.

One of the biggest factors highlighted by the athletes was their reservations about having conversations about their menstrual cycle and symptoms. The athletes stated that the frequency of conversations and both their comfort, and that of their coach, in discussing their menstrual cycle, was a significant factor. Crucially, they reported feeling more comfortable talking to other females.

Implications for coaches

The menstrual cycle should be considered equally and discussed when necessary alongside other performance factors in sport, with the absence of feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness during conversations. 

Increasing openness and comfort of conversations should be a priority for health, well-being and performance. This can be helped by athletes’ increased self-awareness, including the monitoring and recording of their menstrual cycle and symptoms, along with lifestyle patterns.

Additionally, improving coaches’ confidence to discuss and increase their knowledge of the menstrual cycle will have a positive effect on managing the symptoms and challenges in training and competition.


Q. How comfortable are you as a coach speaking to your athletes about their menstrual cycle?

Q. Are your female athletes aware of the importance of periods and female health especially in sport?

Q. Is this something that you have considered as a barrier to participation and performance inhibitor?


More from Natalie Brown

This is the second resource in a series on menstrual health developed with Natalie Brown


Related Resources

  • Menstrual Cycles and Participation

  • Building Successful Coach-Athlete Relationships


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