The acute effect of the menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive cycle on measures of body composition

Belinda M. Thompson, Heidi L. Hillebrandt, Dean V. Sculley, Laura Barba-Mareno, Xanne A. K. Janse de Jonge

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the effect of fluctuating female hormones during the menstrual cycle (MC) and oral contraceptive (OC) cycle on different measures of body composition.

    Methods: Twenty-two women with a natural MC and thirty women currently taking combined monophasic OC were assessed over three phases of the menstrual or oral contraceptive cycle. Body weight, skinfolds, bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA), ultrasound, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) measurements were performed to assess body composition. Urine specific gravity (USG) was measured as an indication of hydration, and serum oestradiol and progesterone were measured to confirm cycle phases.

    Results: Five participants with a natural MC were excluded based on the hormone analysis. For the remaining participants, no significant changes over the MC and OC cycle were found for body weight, USG, skinfolds, BIA, ultrasound and pQCT measures. However, DXA body fat percentage and fat mass were lower in the late follicular phase compared to the mid-luteal phase of the MC, while for the OC cycle, DXA body fat percentage was higher and lean mass lower in the early hormone phase compared with the late hormone phase.

    Conclusion: Our findings suggest that assessment of body fat percentage through BIA and skinfolds may be performed without considering the MC or OC cycle. Body adiposity assessment via DXA, however, may be affected by female hormone fluctuations and therefore, it may be advisable to perform repeat testing using DXA during the same phase of the MC or OC cycle.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3051-3059
    Number of pages9
    JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
    Issue number11
    Early online date22 Jul 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


    • Female hormones
    • Body fat percentage
    • DXA
    • Skinfolds
    • BIA


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