Increasingly, researchers have attended to the experiences of female athletes and the specific biological, sociocultural, and environmental considerations that could impact their sport participation experiences (Moore et al., 2023). Recently, researchers have called for the need to understand how the menstrual cycle is perceived to impact training and competition (Brown et al., 2020). The aim of this study was to summarize the existing literature on female athletes’ psychosocial experiences of menstruation and the menstrual cycle. A scoping review was conducted across five databases (PsychInfo, Scopus, Medline, and ProQuest Theses and Dissertations), and hand-searching of journals produced 6,749 abstracts were screened for inclusion in the review (inclusion criteria: full text empirical articles, English language, research on perceptions or experiences related to menstruation among female athletes).
Researchers have mainly investigated the physical impacts of the menstrual cycle on female athletes’ participation in sport. Existing research demonstrates a) the negative psychosocial effects associated with menstrual irregularities in female athletes, b) widespread miscommunication between athletes and coaches regarding menstrual symptoms and dysregulation, and c) a lack of necessary adjustment of training schedules based on menstrual cycles, further perpetuating negative impacts on female athletes.
There was limited research examining stress appraisals and coping across different phases of the menstrual cycle. Areas for future research include the influence of menstruation-related symptoms on stress and coping throughout the phases of the menstrual cycle. There is a need to explore how communication in the sport environment can be improved to better support female athletes’ psychosocial well-being.