Lady problems...


I am a 26 year old female who runs an average 35 miles per week over 5-6 days. I just wanted to get some advice from any other females out there who may share my problem or know what I'm on about!

To cut a long story short - my periods stopped around 2 and a half years ago. I've played the 'I've no idea why?!' card for long enough - it's because I cut calories and increased running. Originally it was a good thing - ate healthier and got fitter but soon my reduced food intake and increased exercising crossed paths to become extreme.

Last year the doctor gave me a bone scan and I was found to have low bone density (osteopenia and points of osteoperosis). I'm not detailing any weight/heights on here as I know I always compare myself to other females when they've posted similar things. But basically my BMI was still technically 'healthy' but low. 

My doctor said my symptoms are of the 'female athlete triad'. I don't miss not having periods (it's great to be honest) but I'm getting married next year and don't want any long-term damage kids-wise. Also my bones are a serious issue as I could ironically stop myself from running as I get old if they get weaker. The doctor has put me on a high calcium dosage to prevent further damage to my bones. She also said I had 2 options to try and get my periods back: put on weight or go on the pill. We decided on the pill.

I am wary about the pill as I took it when I was younger and I HATED it - my moods were erratic and I just cried all the time. I swore off hormonal contraception and haven't touched it since. I also don't really like putting hormones into my body as it just feels off-kilter to me.

I've been taking the pill for 2 weeks now and it's awful. I am completely bloated, my running feels sluggish, I've put on weight (I stopped weighing myself a few months ago to try and stop obsessing over it so not sure what's pill related or otherwise... equally since going on the pill I now feel fat and so have started weighing myself religiously again), I can't concentrate very well and I'm really upset. I have just started training for my first ever marathon and I am completely freaked out as I have lost all my confidence as I just can't seem to run anymore. I also just feel fat - I keep pinching my hips and tummy all the time as I just feel horrible and I'm worried it'll kick me off into a worse spiral than before. My partner is so supportive and I really think my eating had improved over the last few months but now I feel like I've just ballooned and don't know whether it's due to the pill or if I really am just eating to excess.

I'm not sure whether to stop taking the pill. I was supposed to give it 3 months but after the extreme reaction I had last time maybe I just don't mix well with it. I just feel wrong. But equally I don't want any long-term health damage... and because I have put a few pounds on (can you gain weight through bloating alone?!) I no longer feel like I have enough of a 'problem' to ask my doctor for help with my eating. Although equally food and exercise are completely dominating my thoughts and I can't get any work done (I'm also in the final year of my PhD so quite a bit of stress).

Sorry this really isn't like me to post on forums - I'm just really stressing out over this. Have any other female runners had negative side effects from the pill? Or any general advise on what I should do?

Sorry for going off on one and thanks in advance! x


  • Hello PhDrunner, you poor little thing. My heart really goes out to you. I really sympathise with you.   

    My first concern for you is that your body is not menstruating, which sounds like it’s because you are underweight.  I would say this is your number one priority, if you want to have children.  I have two children and I used to take the pill.   Yes the pill bloated me too, but having children is the best sacrifice I have ever made.  I know this is not going to help you with your body image.   It does sound like some counselling may help you here.   It would be so tragic if being slim prevented you from falling pregnant.  Believe me, when you have that pregnant bump, that’s the time when you are allowed to feel fat and moan about it!  I feel you need to relax a little and embrace the change.

    I too can be obsessed about my weight...I go up and down, I hover between a size 6 and a fat size 10. I have always managed my weight by either diet or excessive exercise, however when you train for a marathon, it's a whole new spectrum on nutrition.  If you get it right, you can lose weight, maintain being slim and have enough fuel for your long runs....however, it takes practice. I used to eat hardly any or little carbs for my evening meal, go to bed feeling a little hungry and train the next day. Now I am running (same as you, 35 miles a week and marathon training). If I was to go to bed hungry, I would feel panicky that I've not fuelled properly for my training. You need to be strong enough to accept that you can eat more and that you will burn it off, when you are training. Now is definitely not the time to be obsessed about weight.    By training for a marathon you can naturally lose weight, but you still need to eat well to do this.    I’ve also found that training for a marathon is an emotional roller coaster and you need to be in a positive frame of mind.   My journey has been frustrating because I got shin splints in January and I had this stupid idea that my training would go perfectly.  You need to remain focussed and not let every blip get you down.  I’ve also put on a little bit of weight (too much wine) but I’m still very slim.  I think what I’m trying to say is, you need to focus on being fit and healthy to train for a marathon.   Taking the pill is only temporary, children are forever, your health is most important.    I wish you the best of luck in your training.


  • I think your GP needs to refer you for some specialist help with your eating and body image issues. Continuing as you are is only going to do more damage to your body.
    I also think that prescribing the pill to attempt to re-start your periods was a bad decision because it's not tackling the root cause of the problem.  You say yourself that you "just feel fat" and "just feel horrible" and that you worry that "it'll kick me off into a worse spiral than before".  The pill isn't helping you to eat healthily and balance your diet and exercise, nor is it helping you to develop a positive body image.  
    Please go back to your GP and ask for a specialist referral.  

  • I completely agree with Nurse Ratched. 

    The pill is not the problem and prescribing it to you to restart your periods "artificially" instead of by gaining weight was, in my opinion, wrong.

    The long and short of it is that you need to eat more and need help to get to to a place where you are comfortable enough to do that.

  • I'd agree with the advice you've been given.  It sounds like you need to get some help to enable you to feel comfortable with allowing yourself to eat more and put on a little bit of weight so that your periods can re-start and your bone density can improve.  You're clearly a bright, successful person and I'm sure that on an intellectual level you understand this is necessary, but something is making it difficult for you to accept this on an emotional level.  It's great that your fiance is supportive, but I suspect only a specialist can help you dissect these problems and help you find a solution.  Good luck.

  • Thanks so much for your responses - they're really nice to hear.

    I also completely agree with your points. I didn't really understand why I was told to take the pill - as you've said they will only artificially re-start my periods and that doesn't tackle the root cause of the issue. And it's not like I'm looking to start a family any time soon but being on the pill won't exactly make that any easier!!

    I think I've reached a point where I can make some significant changes to my general attitude to weight and training - I wouldn't normally seek advise on a  forum so that's a step in the right direction!

    I'm a bit of a control freak so I need to understand what my body needs and work with it rather than against it - I feel like taking the pill removes some of that control. I actually do love food and have a very healthy (if not a little carb light...image) diet and love cooking new recipes so I need to get back into that and understand it a little more about what I need to help my training.

    I think I will take your advise and go and see my GP about it and come off the pill. Even if it is partly psychosomatic I know I'll feel more positive about my runs if I do!

    Thanks again everyone - feels good to share a load image x

  • I had very similar when I was 19. Mine was due to what they would now call disordered eating and my weight dropped to below 6 stone. I was never diagnosed as anorexic but I probably was. I was put on the Pill as my periods stopped. It is partly to due with kick starting hormone levels to protect bones etc.

    I was also concerned that it would have impacted on my fertility. I was very surprised to discover I was pregnant after only two weeks of 'trying'. My daughter is now a very bouncy 15 year old!




  • "FAT size 10" Pipski?!  I hope this was simply a poor choice of words.  I hope you meant you were at the top end of size 10.  I think it's shame you didn't follow PhD's example and not mention sizes etc.  I'm a size 11 (I wish there was such a size) and have been for many years.  Thankfully I know that I am NOT fat but others stumbling across this thread may be suffering from those disorders of body image and food restriction which lead them to believe that if they should ever become a size 10, they will then be fat.  Your comment will simply enforce this opinion.

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