I remember when I was a teenager I heard a doctor on TV say that PMS was something women were making up. That it was essentially a figment of our imagination – it was all in our heads. Unfortunately, 20 years later there still is not much information or studies floating around that really shine much light on it. Thankfully though, there is at least a general scientific consensus that PMS does indeed exist and it does indeed impact our athletic performance.
Birth control pills, IUDs, shots, etc. have become a common tool to help mitigate these hormonal fluctuations within our bodies. This has worked marvelously for some and for others, not so much. I personally had a very bad experience with Skyla IUD. Where other women have had a wonderful experience with Mirena IUD. It’s the throw of the dice really and usually we have now where to turn for information backing up what we are feeling
Related Article: Skyla: the Pros and Cons as an Athlete
There is a legitimate lack of information or more importantly, science floating around about birth control and the side effects for athletic performance. To quote from PubMed “To date, research in the area of oral contraceptives and exercise capacity is sparse and much has been plagued by poor research design, methodology and small sample size.” Then add the fact each woman is different. What is one women’s side effect is easily a positive for another one.
Throughout the years I’ve listened to many female friends talk about feared side effects they were experiencing from their birth control.
Lack of motivation.
Swollen and tender breasts. (This one is a bigger deal than some realize. Especially with running)
Any one of those side effects could sideline a female athlete or at the very least, seriously impact her performance. I believe a great start for any female athlete would be to keep a health journal of sorts when you start a new birth control or are questioning the one you are on. Most of us have a Garmin account, Strava or Training Peaks. When you take a look at your training for the day, just add a little note about how you feel. More than likely you’ll find a correlation to what you are feeling and how you’re performing throughout the month. If you don’t like what you see, go see your doctor and change it. It’s really that simple.
At the end of the day it’s ok to trust your instincts, it’s ok to listen to your body, it’s ok to have a different experience than someone else. It’s ok to change your birth control.