Young Adult Woman Athlete Sitting On Bleachers Smiling And Talking To Male Coach About Menstrual Health

How to Normalize Talking About Menstrual Health With Your Athletes

BY Claire Badenhorst

Confidently initiate a conversation about your athlete’s menstrual health and its impact on training.

As a coach, what does it mean to talk to your athletes about menstrual health? Is it having a chat about what the menstrual cycle is, discussing menstrual cycle symptoms, or just identifying the phase your athlete is currently experiencing? 

Simply describing the menstrual cycle is not enough. Supporting your female athletes means finding quality health information, understanding it, critically analyzing it, and applying it when needed. This blog gives you the tools to educate yourself, improve your communication, and find an appropriate time to strike up a conversation.

Improve Your Understanding of Female Health

The changing concentrations of female reproductive hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) not only support fertility but also affect the respiratory, metabolic, neuromuscular, and cardiovascular systems. Because of the influence these reproductive hormones have on so many body systems, understanding the menstrual cycle provides key insights into female health and exercise performance (both physiological and psychological). 

According to one study, most male coaches feel that a major barrier to having this discussion is not having enough research, educational resources, or support to guide them. This isn’t surprising, as research found that female participants make up only 39% of studies, and only 4-13% of studies focus on female-specific outcomes. It’s worth noting that sports scientists are aware of this deficit and are actively seeking more inclusive and female-specific studies.

Men aren’t alone in these sentiments. Some female coaches also feel they don’t have access to the information they need. However, studies show that female coaches seem to be more aware of the negative consequences of athletes losing their menstrual cycle compared to their male counterparts.

If you’re struggling to find resources, you’re not alone. Here’s a list of science-backed articles to enhance your knowledge of the menstrual cycle and its impact on training:

Remember: Every Athlete Is Different

All coaches should keep in mind that no two females have the same menstrual symptoms or length of cycle, and many will be on various types of hormonal contraception. 

So, female coaches, be wary of using your own experience as a guide. How your body feels and performs throughout your menstrual cycle is likely different from your athletes.

Break the Communication Barrier 

Communication is key to understanding how menstrual cycles impact your athlete’s training and performance; yet we’re constantly reading about how this is a taboo topic and that athletes are hesitant to discuss it with their coaches. 

Interestingly, a couple of research studies found that ~54% of female athletes would be happy to discuss their menstrual cycle with their coach. However, only 45% thought this conversation would be useful, and only 8% could remember being asked by their coach about their menstrual cycle. 

Why Some Athletes Don’t Bring It Up

While knowledge and access to good information are very minimal, there are other barriers that prevent athletes from talking openly to coaches. Some of these include not talking about it often or not feeling like they have any issues that need to be talked about. Athletes might also feel that their hormonal cycles don’t affect their sports performance, training, or health, so having a chat with Coach isn’t a top priority. 

If the conversation on menstrual cycles and contraception is not a conversation that happens frequently in your coaching, then you may feel that raising it with your athlete would be an invasion of their privacy or well out of your comfort zone. 

If this is the case for you, you might need to spend more time developing the athlete-coach relationship. Check out this article Revealing What Male Coaches Should Know About Guiding Female Athletes, for a few tips to improve communication with your female athletes.

Initiate the Conversation 

Finding an appropriate time to bring up this discussion isn’t easy. Menstrual health isn’t usually a topic that gets brought up in everyday training. And there also aren’t really many opportunities for coaches and athletes to sit down in a room together to discuss it.

Consider setting up a time outside of usual training for you and your athlete to talk one on one. This allows you to not only build your relationship and get to know your athlete outside of sport but also gives you an opportunity for both of you to ask questions and normalize the discussion of menstrual health. It’s also a great way to start a conversation without surprising your athletes on a Monday morning at training. This way, you and your athlete can focus solely on training during scheduled workouts.

It’s important to consider how you’re going to include this discussion as part of your coaching with future and current athletes in the long-term. This, of course, will be unique to you, depending on your coaching style and athletes. But just like you have a long-term goal when training, you should also have a long-term goal on how you will continuously educate yourself and communicate with your athletes. 

Although it might seem like a taboo topic or an invasion of privacy, menstruation affects nearly half the population. It’s time to start normalizing the discussion of menstrual health.


Costell, J. et al. (2014, April 25). Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research? Retrieved from

Höök M. et al. (2021, November 17). “Do Elite Sport First, Get Your Period Back Later.” Are Barriers to Communication Hindering Female Athletes? Retrieved from

Kroshus E. et al. (2014, January 23). Gender differences in high school coaches’ knowledge, attitudes, and communication about the female athlete triad. Retrieved from

Laske H. et al. (2022, December 8). Menstruation and training – A quantitative study of (non-)communication about the menstrual cycle in German sports clubs. Retrieved from

Coaching Guide Image Of Noah With A Client At A Table.

How to Be a Successful Endurance Coach

Learn from this guide to help you each step of the way as you build and grow your coaching business.

Image Of Dr. Claire Badenhorst Running
About Claire Badenhorst

Dr. Claire Badenhorst is a Senior Lecturer at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. Her research focuses on female-specific health outcomes which she aims to share with females, their families, and communities. Her current research projects focus on iron deficiency risk and the impact of menstruation, the menstrual cycle as a source of female health monitoring, menstrual cycle health literacy, and how the menstrual cycle may be affected by sport and life stressors. Dr. Badenhorst has always loved sports and completed triathlons (both half and full Ironman distances) for nearly 10 years. She now enjoys running and gym workouts while she focuses on her research and enabling other females to achieve their best health and performance goals.

Related Articles