Paralympic cyclist Hannah Dines says she thought her persistent saddle injury was a “sacrifice” for being an elite athlete.
Dines required surgery after a saddle on her trike bike caused damage and swelling to her vulva.
The 25-year-old has now called for more research into saddle design for women.
“I had to go through several surgeries to try and alleviate the pain,” she said on Emma Barnett’s BBC Radio 5 Live show.
“It’s pretty frightening but at the same time I was having the time of my life and I thought maybe this is the sacrifice for sport that everyone talks about.
“The saying ‘shut up legs’ turned into ‘shut up vulva’ and I just thought that’s how it was meant to be.
“Push through the pain to be stronger and fitter – but it’s not good to ignore in this case.”
Dines, who has cerebral palsy, struggled through the persistent pain for five years until it became unbearable and she was forced to undergo surgery.
“I was a beginner cyclist way back then trying to get on to the British squad and going out on really long rides. None of us knew what was going on,” the Great Britain rider said.
Although she describes her doctors as “brilliant” Dines admits her condition “flummoxed” her GP and that other medical professionals “didn’t have a clue”.
She would now like to see how science and collecting data from female cyclists can change the problem.
Scot Dines, who hopes to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, said: “There have been efforts to start designing seats better for women but there needs to be data from actual women – the way women [compared to men] sit when you go fast or when you’re a racer, when you want to get aero and you’re rotating really far down and holding on to handle bars really low…
“Get women in and create something brand new. I think that has to happen.”
Dines, who expects to make a full recovery, remains in a “bit of pain” but is back training with Storey Racing Cycling Team ahead of her first race of the season in May.