Exercise is no longer blamed for causing longer periods, increasing blood clots or increasing the risk of cramping. In fact, exercise is now understood to be the perfect antidote to each of these common complaints during menstruation. If you have severe cramping, heavy bleeding, periods which last longer than seven days or large blood clots, consult with your doctor for evaluation as these symptoms may be a sign of more serious health problems.
Exercise helps promote uterine contractions during normal menstruation. Uterine contractions are the body's way of expelling unwanted tissue each month so that the body can create a fresh lining for a fertilized egg to implant in during the next menstrual cycle. Heavy bleeding during a menstrual cycle is most common in women who have had a previous pregnancy due to additional folds in the uterus. For women with heavy cycles, they may find that their bleeding increases during strenuous exercise. These women may wish to reduce their exercise to lighter forms of physical activity, such as swimming or yoga, during their heaviest days. There is no need to stop exercise completely simply due to a heavy flow.
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for menstrual cramps which cause dull throbbing pain in the lower back and abdomen 1. Discomfort from dysmenorrhea can range from slightly annoying to severely painful. Exercising during your period can greatly reduce cramping and pain caused by dysmenorrhea. Gentle stretches, such as those utilized in yoga and Pilates can provide much relief from this type of menstrual pain. This symptom may be caused by endometriosis or uterine fibroids, so consult with your doctor for proper evaluation.
Exercise not only has the ability to reduce cramping, but it can also reduce the amount of time typically experienced during menstruation. Because exercise increases uterine contractions, it helps the body to rid itself of unwanted menstrual lining more quickly. While this may initially increase the amount of blood on the heavy days of your flow, regular exercise during your period can shave off the total duration of your period 3.
Exercise which calls for straining or squatting may increase sudden gushing as blood is expelled during your period. Take precautions with appropriate levels of protection in your sanitary care to avoid embarrassing stains and change tampons or pads frequently during exercise for peace of mind.
Post natal bleeding, the period after giving birth, is different than the phase experienced during a typical period. Post natal bleeding occurs at the site where your placenta was located in the uterus during pregnancy. As this wound heals after birth, sudden gushing, extended bleeding times or large blood clots are an indication that you are over-doing your activity and should slow down your physical pace until completely healed from the birthing process. Consult with your midwife or OBGYN for instructions about exercise in the postnatal period.
- The American Holistic Medical Association Guide to Holistic Health: Healing Therapies for Optimal Wellness; Larry Trivieri Jr.
- The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines; Matthew Wood
- The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair; Steve Vickery and Marilyn Moffat
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