Most exercise is safe and beneficial for the majority of pregnant women. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends pregnant women without complications engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. It can be frightening, however, to experience spotting after exercise. Spotting -- a small amount of pink to brown vaginal discharge -- can be harmless after exercise during pregnancy. However, it is important to be aware of possible warning signs that might indicate a problem. And always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
First Trimester Spotting
The many causes of spotting during pregnancy differ depending on the trimester. Approximately 25 percent of women experience spotting or vaginal bleeding in their first trimester, according to a June 2009 "American Family Physician" article. A common cause is implantation, when the pregnancy is attaching to the uterine wall. This type of spotting is normal and occurs about 4 weeks after the last menstrual period. Ongoing spotting or bleeding, however, could indicate a threatened miscarriage or another potential problem with the pregnancy, so it's always best to check with your doctor.
When spotting occurs after exercise, it could be a sign of overexertion. The Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding activity that involves repetitive hopping, jumping or bouncing. Lower-impact exercise, like brisk walking or swimming, might be a better alternative.
Second and Third Trimester Spotting
Spotting or vaginal bleeding in the second and third trimesters is less common and should be monitored closely. Pregnant women who experience recurrent bleeding or spotting, or bleeding associated with exercise, should talk with their healthcare provider as this could indicate a potentially serious problem with the pregnancy.
While most problems can be safely managed, exercise may need to be limited or avoided. The healthcare provider will perform an examination and testing to determine whether the bleeding is harmless spotting or a sign of something more serious, such as abnormal placement of the placenta in the uterus or an early indication of preterm labor.
Because spotting can be a sign of overexertion, it is important to listen to your body and stop activity if you are not feeling well. It's best to avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion. Breathlessness, such that you cannot carry on a conversation, is a sign you might be overexerting yourself. Taking time for a long warm-up and cool-down, and pacing yourself can help you avoid overexertion.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends avoiding any activity that could result in falling, like horseback riding or skiing. Participation in contact sports, like basketball or soccer, is also discouraged because of the risk of injury to the abdomen.
Next Steps, Warnings and Precautions
Although spotting after exercise might not indicate a problem with the pregnancy, any bleeding during pregnancy is potentially serious and should be discussed with your healthcare provider right away. Your doctor or midwife will likely want to examine you. A pelvic exam and ultrasound are commonly used to detect pregnancy-related problems and evaluate the health of the baby. Depending on the findings, your healthcare provider can advise you about safe exercise for the remainder of your pregnancy.
Call your doctor immediately if you notice heavy bleeding similar to a menstrual cycle, as this could be a sign of complications, miscarriage or early labor. If you are unable to reach your doctor, seek care at your local emergency room.
- International Journal of Childbirth Education: Land-Based Exercise During Pregnancy
- Bleeding During Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide; Eyal K. Sheiner, M.D., Ph.D.
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
- Cleveland Clinic: Exercise During Pregnancy
- American Family Physician: First Trimester Bleeding