Elia explains everything about light periods, light flows and why we are not all equal when it comes to our blood loss!
What is a light period?
On average, menstruation lasts from 3 to 6 days with a blood flow volume of 40ml during each menstrual cycle. When you have a light period, it means that the discharge is lighter, less than 30ml per cycle: it can be spread out over a period similar to "normal" menstruation or over a shorter period (less than 3 days). These light periods usually only stain one tampon per day.
Light periods: oligomenorrhea or hypomenorrhea?
Two menstrual disorders correspond to light periods, but in a slightly different way:
- Oligomenorrhea corresponds to abnormally long (35 days or more) and irregular cycles with low blood flow. It should not be confused with spotting, which is light blood loss outside of menstruation.
- Hypomenorrhea is a weak blood flow over a relatively short period of time, but with a 'classic' cycle length.
Its opposite, heavy menstruation, is called menorrhagia.
Low menstrual flow during puberty
Duringadolescence and the first menstrual periods, it is normal for cycles to be irregular. This can result in a light period while the menstrual cycle is being regularized at the beginning of your life as a woman. You may also notice the same phenomenon just before menopause, without any need to worry.
What are the other causes of light periods?
If your periods have always been light, this means that they have been physiological since adolescence. If it is an isolated phenomenon and you are not pregnant (do a test to make sure that a baby is not the culprit!), it may be due to a change in diet, simple fatigue or major stress, jet lag... Ask yourself what has changed recently in your daily life! On the other hand, if your blood loss has been more sporadic recently and for a few cycles, other causes may be responsible for a less abundant blood flow than usual.
A hormonal imbalance
Hormones play a crucial role in the menstrual cycle, especiallyestrogen. Low levels of estrogen produce a thinner uterine lining, so there is less discharge at the end of the cycle (menstruation). Low estrogen production is perfectly natural for some women, so as long as menstruation is regular and without other particular symptoms, there is no need to worry. However, other symptoms apart from light periods can mean something other than a variation in hormones, so in this case it is necessary to contact your doctor to have a hormonal check-up.
Genetic and physiological factors
Low menstrual flow is likely to be due to genetic factors. They could be linked to pathologies or diseases in women such as
- a particularity of the uterine mucous membrane
- polycystic ovaries
- uterine polyps
- thyroid dysfunction
- very low body fat...
It may be worthwhile to have a check-up with your gynecologist if these genetic factors are predominant in the family and you observe disturbed menstrual phases or a marked premenstrual syndrome.
An eating disorder
Eating disorders, and in particularanorexia nervosa, are known to disrupt the proper functioning of the hormonal machine and have consequences on the blood flow of menstruation. During a significant weight loss or undernourishment, the body under diet will then privilege the good functioning of its vital functions, forsaking those of the reproductive system. It is therefore possible to suffer from oligomenorrhea, hypomenorrhea or even amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation). It is important to take care of your mental health!
The use of a contraceptive method
The contraceptive pill has the effect of stoppingovulation and therefore menstruation, by influencing the quantity ofestrogen. Blood loss on the pill is in fact "artificial" withdrawal bleeding, but it is not a real menstruation. Taking a contraceptive for several years can reduce the volume of blood lost during each cycle and thus give you a less abundant blood flow.
High intensity sports
High-intensity sports require a lot of resources for the body: the body can then become a problem by pausing the menstrual and hormonal cycle and thus reduce the blood loss to concentrate on the physical stress imposed on it. It is therefore not uncommon to observe scanty periods or even very light discharge in professional or high-level athletes.
Certain pathologies or medications
Light periods can also be caused by certain medications. Antipsychotic and antiepileptic drugs are known to affect blood loss each cycle.
When should you consult a doctor about a light period?
A sudden onset of light or very light menstrual bleeding should alert you! This is true of any sudden change in your menstrual cycle. Light periods can be a symptom of a hormone disorder, an illness or a menstrual disorder, so it is essential to find the cause for better management.
Other symptoms can be added to periods that are less abundant than usual, such as pain in the breasts or in the lower abdomen, notably linked to premenstrual syndrome. If these pains persist or if there is an absence of menstruation for a prolonged period, it is also recommended to consult your referral practitioner for a health check-up. A clinical examination of the vagina, cervix and even an ultrasound of the uterus will allow your doctor to determine the disorder you are suffering from.
FAQs on light periods
Why are my periods getting lighter and lighter?
Hormonal imbalances, genetic or psychological factors, or the use of medication or contraceptives can influence the amount of blood loss and reduce its frequency orintensity. Too much weight loss, anorexia nervosa or an eating disorder, or even high-level sports, also have an impact and can lead to lighter periods than usual.
Why are my periods light?
Light or sparse periods can occur when blood loss is less than 30 ml per menstrual cycle and cycles are long or irregular. Several factors can cause this, so it's important to be aware of sudden and unusual symptoms!
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