Mirena Confusion: Running and Birth Control

from Aspirations of a BA Steeplechaser

Heyyo, I have not written a blog in a long, long time since I have been far too busy with classes, my internship, running, and a little bit of working.  I suddenly have a lot more time now that classes finished up this past Friday.  With this sudden free time, I want to talk a bit about IUDs.  I thought the Mirena was my BFF, but it turns out, it was probably more like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, feeding me Kalteen bars while telling me they will help me lose weight.

I have been frustrated with my fitness so far this year.  While I have been running pretty well, I am far from feeling like the finally tuned machine of last year.  Of course, some of this is easily explained by a move, new coach, and grad school, but as of a couple months ago, I felt like there was still a big piece missing from the equation.  I have been about 10 pounds over race weight (and 5-8 pounds off my usual training weight) this entire school year.  Usually my body gets down there naturally, but I have had a hard time the last three years.  It made sense to me coming off surgery, but this spring I started to get really irritated.  No matter what I did, my body was stuck at a weight that felt much too heavy for racing fast.  I checked in with our team nutritionist, badass steeplechase Olympian Rasa Troup.  We added more protein to my diet, had me start eating more frequently, and made sure I was getting the right balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.  While my energy felt evenly distributed, I still wasn’t shifting to my usual racing body.

Which is when we talked about birth control.  In the past, I have taken low hormone birth control pills, but around the time I had hip surgery 3ish years ago, I had a Mirena IUD put in.  The doctor told me weight gain was not one of the side effects, and it would probably work well for my sensitivity to hormones because the Mirena hormones are localized.  However, Rasa said that despite what doctors report, she has seen large increases in weight in some people.  While a 1 or 2% weight change may not be statistically valid in medical trials, it can represent a large impact on women who are trying to compete at an elite level.  I did a little more research into the Mirena, and found that some of the great side effects, like no period, happen because the device is tricking your body into thinking its pregnant.  Unlike pills, the hormones are constant.

My IUD keeping me at my current weight makes so much sense.  Even last year, when I had no stress and enough time to pay attention to all the details, I couldn’t get more than 5 pounds off my usual race weight.  When I took two recovery weeks at the end of the season, my weight bounced back to my current weight after only a couple days.

I want to feel comfortable running fast, so I got my IUD taken out six weeks ago.  I didn’t feel much difference until this past weekend when I got my period.  Now that my body realizes it’s not pregnant, I’m hoping it feels okay getting ready to race.  It’s still too early to tell, but I will update with any further conclusions.

A few more thoughts on birth control: If you are using birth control, and it’s working well for you, awesome.  I think the world is a lot better place now that women can have more control over when they get pregnant.  I also think when women are using their bodies for something that require a low percentage of body fat, they should be given full information about their birth control options.  We do not have a lot of information about the exact consequences of birth control on, say, high level athletes (cause why would anyone want to study that?), but, at the very least, I should not have been told with such certainty my body weight would not be affected.

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One comment

  1. 1

    Hi Jamie,
    I’m an Olympic athlete and I was doing a little research on my IUD when I came across your blog post. I’ve had my IUD for about 2 years now, and I think I’ve been experiencing similar symptoms to you. I find it incredibly difficult to reach race weight, even with extensive help from nutritionist and dietitians. I also bounce back extremely fast in the offseason… all new things for me. What was the outcome of removing your IUD? Has it helped with sport-body specific goals?
    A fellow curious IUD athlete,

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