Birth Control and Cycling: Making Choices

Just saw this great piece on Outside Magazine about how different medications may impact your athletic endeavors. It has a big section on birth control that cites studies that show that estrogen (as found in The Pill) may increase your endurance, but will also slightly decrease your strength training abilities. Check out the full article here.

For another look at birth control and sport, there’s a really interesting podcast with Dr. Tamsin Lewis where she talks about the problems with oral contraception and hormones.

Personally, I’ve struggled to find a birth control method that doesn’t bother my stomach or impact my performance. Additionally, with how much I travel (and shift time zones), The Pill isn’t great since it needs to be taken at the same time every day—plus filling prescriptions while on on the road is a nightmare! After a lot of trial and error in the past few years, I came to find that an IUD (specifically, the Mirena one) works really well for me, and I know a few other cyclists that swear by it.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your options… and tell your coach about any issues that may effect your training, i.e heavy flow, cramps, et cetera. (Want to talk to a woman coach about shifting your training to work with your cycle? Book a call with “Saddle, Sore” author and cycling coach Molly Hurford here!)

Other books that you may find interesting / helpful:

For more resources for happy riding, check out author and cycling coach Molly Hurford’s site at for articles, podcasts, coaching, and tons more!

5 thoughts on “Birth Control and Cycling: Making Choices

  1. I love my IUD! I have the para guard, which is hormone free, and it’s great. I’ve had it for 5 years now, and it’s good for another 5 more. I struggled with hormonal birth control for years and I’m so glad I finally have something that works for me. Thanks Molly for starting these important conversations! 🙂

  2. Absolutely the Mirena IUD! extra bag bonus that periods tail off to nothing for many women. Not the painful and heavy bleeding IUD of decades past. My super athletic MD even has one, and i’ve recommended it to many happy athletic friends. A quick twinge as it goes in and a few days of minor discomfort, then good for 3 years!!

    • Exactly! I recently swapped out to Skyla now that it’s available as a slightly lower-dose hormone option, and I love that one as well! Recommend either to pretty much everyone I know.

  3. Hey Girls, this site was a good find, since i was scary to changes my birth controll pills to mirena, but the doctor said to use mirena to increase my performance and stop the periods. Usually I did MTB Trails around 200 km (125 miles +/-) and i was afraid about this distance vs mirena, but really, you all helped me! i’ll give an try and start to use mirena instead pills

    • I really liked it. Obv. everyone is different, but I think exploring different options is SO good. (PS: I need to write an update to this at some point, but when my 5 years on the first Mirena IUD I had was up, I swapped over to the smaller version of Mirena, the Skyla, and like it just as much.) Let me know how it goes!!! (And esp. if you’re having any issues getting used to it—I know some people take a couple months to adjust, so don’t freak if it’s a little cramp-y/spotty for the first few weeks! I didn’t have any problems but I know a couple of people who had minor stuff like that that did go away.)

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