Periods and pregnancy still taboo in women’s football, research finds

Sport and exercise experts are calling for better education around periods and pregnancy in women’s football.

New research carried out at women’s football clubs across six European countries shows that education around the menstrual cycle, hormonal contraception and pregnancy is severely lacking.

The study, led by academics from Staffordshire University, involved more than 1,100 players, coaches and managers from grassroots to elite level clubs in Bulgaria, England, Finland, France, Poland and Spain. It investigated policies, perceptions and understanding through an online survey and a series of focus groups.

Dr Jacky Forsyth, Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology, explained: “The topic of ovarian hormones and their effects on training and performance, in addition to pregnancy and postpartum, seems to have received scant consideration within any formal coach education courses.

“In sport, these topics also come with varying degrees of stigma and silence, as well as being a barrier to gender equality. To address this, we wanted to collect best practice across Europe to learn what clubs are doing well, what is effective and what can be improved.

“Despite some good practices in individual clubs across different countries, there was limited knowledge and understanding of how training, performance and health are affected. Knowledge was generally left up to the individual without support from governing bodies or coach education providers.”

69% of all participants said that educational provision on menstrual cycle was ‘not at all’ provided at their clubs and while some clubs tracked players’ menstrual cycle this was varied and inconsistent.

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