Inappropriate exercise schedules and workout routines are often to blame for exercise-induced spotting, or bleeding in between periods. Because this condition, also called exercise-induced amenorrhea, can be dangerous, it's essential to understand why it occurs and how you can treat it. As always, see your doctor to rule out any other serious conditions related to spotting in between periods.
Heavy or strenuous exercise, including intense sports such as ballet dancing, gymnastics, Olympic-length triathlons and long-distance running, can trigger spotting in between periods. Strenuous exercise can slow or prevent the release of GnRH, which is a type of hormone that tells the body when to start its menstrual period. The combination of extreme exercise and low body weight can cause the body to go into a "starvation mode," in which it starts to shut down organ systems, including the reproductive system.
Help is Here
See a doctor for a definitive diagnosis if you experience exercise-induced spotting. A doctor can rule out any other medical conditions and complications. In the meantime, listen to your body while you are exercising. Slow down if you feel you are pushing yourself too hard. Reduce your exercise levels to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, such as a 30-minute bike ride five days a week. Or you can do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, such as jogging for 35 minutes three days per week. Perform exercises that reduce stress such as yoga, Pilates or martial arts at least twice a week. If your spotting does not respond to a reduction in exercise, your doctor may prescribe supplemental hormones to keep your body functioning normally. Stay within your daily caloric requirements every day. Use the USDA's Daily Super Tracker to determine how many calories you should be eating per day based on your activity level, sex and age.
Things to Consider
Although spotting in between periods might not be that bothersome to some women, exercise-induced amenorrhea can have dangerous long-term effects. The alteration in GnRH can reduce your levels of the female hormone estrogen, which can make you more susceptible to atrophy of the breast or vagina, osteoporosis and infertility. Prolonged exercise-induced amenorrhea can even lead to a heart attack. Spotting in between periods is not always because of exercise-induced amenorrhea -- contraceptives, stress and pregnancy are also common causes.
When It’s Dangerous
Call your doctor right away if you suspect you might be pregnant, your spotting lasts for more than a week, you experience severe pain when you are not menstruating or your spotting is so intense that you soak through a tampon or pad every hour for two hours. These could be signs of a more serious condition such as a tumor, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer or infection.
Is This an Emergency?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- The Boston Globe: How Much Exercise is Too Much?
- USC Fertility: 5 Things You Need to Know About Exercise-Induced Amenorrhea
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Exercise Induced Amenorrhea
- UpToDate: Patient Information: Absent Or Irregular Periods (Beyond the Basics)
- FitSugar: DrSugar Answers: Spotting During Exercise
- MedlinePlus National Library of Medicine: Vaginal Bleeding
- United States Department of Agriculture: SuperTracker
- Fitness: 20-Minute Workout for Stress Relief
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight