The effect of the menstrual cycle and oral contraception on performance
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a monophasic oral contraceptive cycle on aerobic and anaerobic performance, and compare these results with the effects of the natural menstrual cycle on performance as reported in available literature. Seven female subjects, with a mean age and height of 20.7 ±0.76 years and 170.7 ±6.9 cm respectively took part in the study, all of whom had been using a low dose, combined, monophasic oral contraceptive (Microgynon 30) for at least three months prior to the commencement of the investigation. During the non-pill and pill phases of the cycle, the body mass of each subject was recorded, and anaerobic and aerobic performance was assessed using a Wingate anaerobic test (WAnT), and a VO2max cycle test. The results of these tests were analysed using a paired sample t-test, which showed whether or not a significant difference occurred in performance variables between the pill phase, and non pill phase of the oral contraceptive cycle. Body mass was found to remain constant throughout the cycle (p=0.81). The results of the WAnT showed no significant difference between the two phases of the oral contraceptive cycle in peak power (p=0.82), mean power (p=0.4), relative peak power (p=0.19) or anaerobic fatigue (p=0.5). The sub maximal results from the VO2max tests showed no significant difference in heart rate (p=0.39), breathing rate (p=0.31), minute ventilation (p=0.53), VO2 (p=0.1) or the respiratory exchange ratio (p=0.95) between the two phases of the oral contraceptive cycle. Maximal values from the VO2max test showed that, of the variables measured only minute ventilation was significantly higher (p=0.016) during the pill phase. The other variables increased during the pill phase, however the results of the paired t-test showed that increases were not significant in, breathing rate (p=0.67), VO2max (p=0.47), RER (p=0.064) and time to exhaustion (p=0.36). In conclusion it can be suggested that performance is unaffected by the use of an oral contraceptive such as Microgynon 30, which may even alleviate symptoms caused by the true menstrual cycle which may inhibit performance.
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