Menstrual symptoms are commonly cited barriers to physical activity in women. Delay or avoidance of menstruation through hormonal contraceptives may mitigate those barriers. Our purpose is to identify the uterine bleeding patterns of Portuguese athletes, their contraceptive choices and the impact of contraceptive methods in sports performance. We aim also to compare the outcomes between users and non-users of contraception.
Observational, descriptive and comparative study based on a customised self-assessment online survey aimed at Portuguese athletes. Athletes had to be at least 16 years old and competing at a national, international or professional level.
A total of 256 athletes from 18 modalities were eligible. The mean age was 29 years and the mean age of menarche was 12.8 years. Monthly bleeding pattern was prevailing and 50% presented dysmenorrhoea. More than 85% experience fluctuations in sports performance throughout the month. The majority (71.5%) used contraceptive methods. Only 16% believed that contraception decreased sports performance. Contraceptive users exhibit a lower mean body mass index, blood loss and percentage of dysmenorrhoea than the non-users.
Most athletes had the perception that performance varies throughout the month. The majority of participants do not report amenorrhoea and have monthly menses. The use of contraceptive methods is reportedly high, benefit cycle control and apparently without any physical inconvenience.