Why Some Exercises Cause Missed Periods

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Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday September 18, 2020

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Everyone’s heard that you need to have a proper diet and routine exercise regimen to lead a healthy life. You may eat fruits and veggies while avoiding sugary foods, but you’ll notice a few different ways exercise affects your life once you do it regularly. The first change may be a few delayed or missed periods.

When women begin exercising, they may not see immediate changes in their menstrual cycles. Anything from a daily jog to intense weight lifting could impact your period differently than the women you know. It’s natural to wonder why you’re missing periods while you complete workouts you enjoy.

Read on to learn why some exercises cause missed periods so you don’t need to worry the next time your menstrual cycle is supposed to start. You may miss it because of one of these reasons, but it’s always good to talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your health.

1. It Causes Early Spotting

During the week before your period, you may complete a workout and notice some spotting afterward. Spotting is also known as breakthrough bleeding. It can look bright or dark red and become a light flow that happens off and on. 

There’s no currently known direct cause of exercise and spotting. As far as experts know, it could be the result of a few different conditions. You may be more prone to structural changes in your uterine lining because of its shape or your DNA. It may also indicate a disordered endometrium, which up to a third of women experience in their lifetimes. 

If you experience a week of early spotting, you may slowly shed your uterine lining and not experience your regular period. 

2. It Results in Physiological Stress

Even if you enjoy every workout you complete, rigorous exercise can result in physiologic stress. This kind of stress affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis and disrupts its hormonal cycle. When this axis can’t produce hormones regularly, it sends broken messages to your ovaries and can keep your body from ovulating.

This is also known as exercise-induced amenorrhea and could be a condition you have if you miss periods regularly while you have a strict exercise schedule.

3. You’re Not Eating Enough

Athletes with severe exercise routines may restrict their caloric intake to reduce their muscle mass. If a trainer or a nutritionist doesn’t guide this decision, it could result in missed periods.

Not eating enough and exercising too hard might cause you a female athlete triad diagnosis. It’s a condition usually seen in young women and leads to low energy levels, making it difficult for the body to function. Your body may conserve energy by reducing hormonal production, delaying or stopping ovulation completely.

4. It Increases Stress Hormone Production

Everyone naturally produces cortisol, whether they exercise or not. It’s a stress hormone that regulates normal bodily functions like blood sugar levels, sleep cycles and memories. Intense exercise can make your body think you’re in a fight-or-flight situation, so it increases your cortisol levels to protect you.

Part of protecting you is directing hormones and energy towards crucial things like your digestive and venous systems. Exercise and increased stress drain your energy, leaving little left for the menstrual cycle. Adding less intense workouts in between the tough ones leading up to your period may help your body ovulate on schedule because it gets a bit of a rest.

5. You’ve Dropped Weight Quickly

If you’ve kept up your challenging workouts for some time, you may have dropped weight quickly. Even if this was your goal, your body might balance it with late or missed periods.

Exercising increases your metabolism, which directly relates to the hypothalamus and its production of hormones. When your metabolism uses more energy to shed weight, your hypothalamus translates that activity as another physiological stressor. Early, irregular and missed ovulation can be a direct symptom of exercise-induced stress.

Talk With Your Doctor

These are some of the most common reasons why exercise causes missed periods, but it’s always smart to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns. They may recommend a change in your diet or routine so that you experience regular menstruation while you achieve your health and fitness goals. 

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