In the heat of Olympic events, conversations are always unfolding around athletes’ health, well-being, and – perhaps surprisingly – how human sexuality has an impact on overall performance. Recently, an article was published by Yahoo Sports that sheds light on an alarming trend among female Olympic athletes – pill usage for the purpose of controlling one’s menstrual cycle.
Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis was specifically featured for her response to the German women’s gymnastics team’s decision to wear long-legged bodysuits, as opposed to the classic leotards.
“Although my immediate reaction was that it was very cool, I then wondered if they had been deducted points for wearing them,” Francis said. She continued, “When it was revealed that wearing full-body suits is in the rule book and completely allowed, my reaction was, ‘Wow, why didn’t I know about this?”
Yahoo’s article was written with the intention of highlighting the over-sexualization of women in gymnastics, but Francis’ next statement raised alarms for us regarding the reason for her distaste for the classic leotards.
“I also hate to be on my period during a competition, because there is that fear of your tampon string hanging out of that thin bit of material,” she said. “So, I use my birth control pills during a competition to control that, and make sure I’m not on my period.”
This, quite frankly, is concerning – but it’s also understandable. Anyone who’s done extensive research on how a woman’s menstrual cycle affects her athletic performance (a training technique referred to in some circles as “bio-hacking,” which is becoming increasingly more popular and mainstream in recent years) knows that a woman’s peak performance time occurs during the follicular phase of her cycle – more specifically, the days leading up to ovulation.
On the contrary, the days during menstruation are likely the phase of her cycle that her athletic performance would be at its worst, as her body is likely slowing down and needing rest.
So, with all of this in mind, it makes sense that Olympic athletes would attempt to manipulate their cycles. But what will be the long-term consequences of that manipulation?
In her book, Beyond the Pill, Dr. Jolene Brighten emphasizes the often-unspoken risks and side-effects of artificial hormonal birth control use:
- A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who take the pill were more likely to be prescribed an anti-depressant.
- Women who are taking the pill often experience hormonal confusion, including missed or inconsistent periods, unusual bleeding, and headaches.
- Women who are taking the pill often experience digestive issues, including leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Women on the pill have also historically struggled with skin issues, mood disruption, low libido, vitamin and mineral depletion, and energy reduction.
- Finally, the pill poses a host of serious health risks for women, including:
o Thyroid issues, which further hormonal complication
o Blood clots, which lead to stroke
o Breast, cervical, and liver cancers
o Heart attack
o Autoimmune disease
All of this in concerning, particularly for some of our nation’s most impressive athletes. What’s equally concerning is the lack of awareness of these risks and side effects in women.
The Guttmacher Institute reports that 4 in 5 women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been on the artificial hormonal birth control pill at some point in their lifetimes. And yet, the bulk of these women are unaware of the potential for harm it’s doing.
This is at the heart of our mission at Feminae Vero. Women need to know what they’re putting in their bodies and how it’s impacting their health and fertility.
In addition to providing this education to women, we also partner with nutrition specialists who have a background in exercise science and are able to provide women the guidance they need on how understanding their natural cycles can have a positive impact on fitness levels and athletic training overall.
If you’re interested in learning more about our partnerships with nutrition specialists, click here and fill out our contact form.
Women’s bodies were made for maximum performance just the way they are – prescribing training techniques without accounting for their natural cycles will inhibit that, not help it!