It might seem counterintuitive that excessive exercising could impact the fertility of a young healthy woman but according to experts, it’s a pretty common occurrence.
The clue to overexercising can usually be found in your periods, says the ABC. Overexercising coupled with not eating enough food can lead to losing your period for at least three months or experiencing irregular periods.
According to Better Health Channel, these irregular and heavy periods will usually only happen four or so times per year. This is known as athletic amenorrhoea.
The most common causes of athletic amenorrhea in women include low levels of body fat (the body can’t menstruate below a certain body fat percentage) as well as the increase in exercise-related hormones, like beta-endorphins which can affect how oestrogen and progesterone function.
Emotional stress and disordered eating, including crash dieting and skipping meals can also play a part.
If you’re not experiencing a regular period every month — and haven’t looked into why this may be — it might be time to look at how much you’re exercising and the amount of food you consume.
“What perturbs me is that these women are not really freaked out by the thought of not having regular cycles … of course, until the time comes when they actually need to have regular cycles to fall pregnant,” fertility specialist, Dr Natasha Andreadis, told the ABC.
According to Dr Andreadis, the combination of too little food and too much exercise is the most common cause of amenorrhoea.
“To match the exercise, they’re not eating enough,” she said. “So it’s usually because they’re not actually getting enough fuel and as a consequence are not sufficient in their fat mass, which is really important.”
The good news is that athletic amenorrhea doesn’t have a long term affect for women’s fertility once regular menstruation resumes. But, you do have to strike a better balance with food and movement in order to get your period back to a healthy point.
A loss of menstruation isn’t just a concern for those you want to have children, but, according to the ABC, amenorrhea can also cause high cholesterol, premature ageing and a loss of bone density, which increases your risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
For more information, make an appointment to discuss with your GP.