England netballer Geva Mentor calls for more transparency surrounding sportswomen's fertility and menstrual cycles
England netballer Geva Mentor has called for more openness surrounding female athletes’ fertility and menstrual cycles in order to help them balance their sporting career with the prospects of having children.
The 35-year-old, who has played in five World Cups, spoke to The Telegraph about the difficulties female sportswomen face when talking about and planning their future and also how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this.
She urged that concepts such as delaying menstruation by back-to-backing on contraceptive pills and regular fertility checks should be discussed more openly and referred to her own experience to highlight this.
Mentor underwent IVF egg-freezing treatment in January and said that, despite feeling alone afterwards, she also felt more secure and wanted others to understand the possibilities this treatment could allow.
She described the ’agonising’ stomach cramps and ’heavy bleeding’ but hoped that her openness and reassurance of the positive benefits of the treatment would stop others who have undergone the same from feeling they have to ’keep the process private’.
The Commonwealth Gold Medallist also highlighted the coronavirus pandemic as a major factor influencing a female athletes’ parental planning.
Where they can often target a post-tournament period in order to take time to have children and recover, this has now become much more difficult.
“There are more sportswomen who are starting to struggle,” she said, referring to the impact of the postponement of major events such as the Tokyo Olympics.
She acknowledged how it is particularly troublesome for England’s footballers who might not be able to have children without missing a major event until 2024.
“They’ve realised that actually, they can’t just be like, ‘Here’s my gap, in 2023, or in two years’ time," she added.
She also pointed to the physical difficulties that a woman can face during and after having a child and the prolonged effect this might have on their performance in training and competition.
“You don’t realise that you need to get your body right for it,” she said.
"You may even have complications.
"One of the girls in my team had to spend 10-11 months getting her body right.”
With menstrual cycles becoming more of a talking point in regard to training, the tide is evidently changing on female reproductive matters in sport and Mentor is hopeful her speaking out can help further break any stigma.