Overcoming the Psychological Impacts of the Menstrual Cycle on Athletic Performance

12 Oct 2023
3 min read
Author – Vedika Jogani

A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika is OMP’s Product and Content Manager. During her studies, Vedika worked closely with Ithaca’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis Teams and Women’s Volleyball Team as their Mental Performance Consultant. Vedika is currently completing her Certified Mental Performance Consultant Certification.

The world of sports is an arena where athletes push their limits always aiming for peak performance. For female athletes, there is an added layer of complexity that can have a profound impact on their psychological performance: The Menstrual Cycle.  

Menstruation does not just bring physical challenges, it also affects an athlete’s mental and emotional state, playing a crucial role in their performance.  

Research has found that 85% of menstruating women suffer from at least one symptom of pre-menstrual syndrome which includes emotional, behavioral or physical symptoms.  

Here are some common psychological effects menstruation can have on an athlete’s sport performance:  

  1. Pain and Discomfort: Menstrual cramps can cause physical discomforts and distractions reducing an athlete’s ability to fully concentrate on their sport.  
  1. Heightened Worry and Anxiety: Some sports have regulated, pre-determined and standardized uniforms. These uniforms may be uncomfortable for female athletes causing worry and issues related to excessive blood loss.  
  1. Confidence and Self-Esteem: Some athletes may feel less confident during their cycle due to concerns related to changes in body image. This reduced confidence can affect their willingness to take risks and push their limits.  
  1. Fatigue, motivation and energy levels: Menstruation can lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels. Athletes might feel more tired than usual, affecting their overall performance, training sessions and motivation to perform.  
  1. Emotional Stress: Menstruation can cause severe emotional stress with athletes experiencing irritability and anxiety affecting overall well-being making it difficult to stay focused and positive.  

Female athletes continually suffer from menstrual cycle related to symptoms which affects their performance. There are various coping strategies that can help athletes to cope with these symptoms.  

  1. Awareness and Education: athletes and coaches should be educated about the potential effects of performance. Understanding these changes can reduce anxiety and help athletes to understand what is happening with their body.  
  1. Tailored Training Programs: Coaches can design training programs to account for fluctuations in energy levels and physical capabilities.  
  1. Psychological Support: Athletes benefit immensely from psychological support, incorporating sport psychology and mental performance techniques. These tools help manage mood, stress, and anxiety, fostering mental resilience.\ 
  1. Open Communication: creating a safe space for athletes to discuss their menstrual cycle-related concerns with coaches, trainers, and teammates is pivotal. Open communication diminishes stigma and strengthens the support network, enhancing coping mechanisms. 

It is important to remember that the menstrual cycle is not a hindrance; it’s an integral part of the female athlete’s journey.  

By acknowledging its profound impact on mental and emotional states, and by implementing targeted coping strategies, we empower these athletes to thrive despite the challenges.  

Through education, understanding, and unwavering support, we can create a sports world where every athlete, regardless of their cycle, can conquer their dreams and break through barriers, one period at a time. 



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