periods what are the causes and solutions?

Written by Marion Goilav Professional proofreading
Reviewed by Charline midwife Professional proofreading


Elia tells you all about periods , light flows and why we're not all equal when it comes to blood loss!

What is periods ?

On average, periods lasts from 3 to 6 days, with a blood flow volume of 40ml per menstrual cycle. A lightperiods means that discharge is lighter, less than 30ml per cycle: it can sbe spread over a period similar to "normal" menstruation, or over a shorter period (less than 3 days). These periods light discharges generally barely stain a tampon a day.

periods scanty: oligomenorrhea or hypomenorrhea?

Two periods disorders correspond to periods , but in slightly different ways:

  • Oligomenorrhea refers to abnormally long (35 days or more), irregular cycles with low blood flow. It should not be confused with spotting, which is light blood loss outside menstruation.
  • Hypomenorrhea, on the other hand, is a low blood flow over a relatively short period, but with a 'classic' cycle length.

Its opposite, periods abundant, s'is called menorrhagia.

The periods not very abundant during puberty

Duringadolescence and the first periods, irregular cycles are normal. As a result, you may find that your periods periods are less abundant, until your menstrual cycles become more regular at the beginning of your life as a woman. It's also possible to experience less abundant periods before the onset of the menopause, as a result of reduced ovarian hormone secretion.

What are the other causes of scanty periods ?

If periods have always been scarce, this means they've been physiological since adolescence. SIf it's an isolated phenomenon and you're not pregnant (get tested to make sure a baby isn't the culprit!), it could 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 at the root of a less abundant blood flow than usual.

Hormonal imbalance

Hormones play a crucial role in the menstrual cycle, particularlyestrogen. Low levels of estrogen result in a thinner uterine lining, so less is shed at the end of the cycle (menstruation). Low estrogen production is perfectly natural in some women, so as long as menstruation is regular and there are no other particular symptoms, there's nothing to worry about. On the other hand, other symptoms apart from periods may indicate something other than a change in hormones, so it's best to contact your GP, gynaecologist or midwife for a hormone check-up.

Genetic and physiological factors

Scanty periods are likely to be caused by a number of disorders, including genetic factors. They could be linked to pathologies or illnesses in women such as :
  • a peculiarity of the uterine mucosa
  • diabetes
  • polycystic ovaries
  • uterine polyps
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • very low body fat...
It may be worthwhile to carry out an assessment with your gynecologist if these genetic factors are predominant in the family and there is evidence of disturbed menstrual phases or severe premenstrual syndrome. That's why, if you notice that your periods are less and less abundant, it's a good idea to talk to your healthcare professional.

An eating disorder

Eating disorders, and in particularanorexia nervosa, are known to disrupt the proper functioning of the hormonal machine, with consequences for blood flow to periods. In the event of major weight loss or undernourishment, the body on a diet will prioritize the proper functioning of its vital functions, neglecting those of the reproductive system. What's more, a certain level of body fat is needed to produce sex hormones, in other words, to ensure an optimal hormonal cycle. It is therefore possible to suffer from oligomenorrhea, hypomenorrhea or even amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). If you're suffering from an eating disorder and it's now causing cycle problems, your body is sending you a message. We encourage you not to be alone, but to talk about it with those close to you, and ideally even with a health professional.

Taking contraception

The contraceptive pill has the effect of stoppingovulation and therefore periods, by influencing the quantity ofestrogen. Blood loss on the pill is in fact "artificial" withdrawal bleeding, but does not constitute a real menstrual period. Taking a contraceptive for several years can gradually reduce the volume of blood lost in each cycle, giving you less blood flow. With progestin-only contraception (progestin-only pill, implant, hormonal IUD), you may even experience amenorrhea.

High-intensity sports

High-intensity sport is very demanding on the body's resources: the stress caused by intense physical activity and the significant reduction in body fat can have an impact on the menstrual cycle, leading to hypomenorrhea or even amenorrhea. It is therefore not uncommon for professional or top-level sportswomen to experience scanty or even light discharge at periods .

Certain pathologies or medications

Some medications are also responsible for low periods levels. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out if your treatment can affect blood loss each cycle.

When to consult a doctor about periods

If you notice that periods is less abundant than usual, there's generally no need to seek urgent medical attention. If this is the result of starting hormonal contraception, then it's perfectly normal. If you observe this phenomenon in another context, then wait and see if it persists. And if it persists for more than 3 cycles, you should make an appointment to see your health care professional.

In addition to periods , you may also experience other symptoms such as breast or lower abdominal pain, particularly in connection with premenstrual syndrome. If these pains persist, or if there is an absence of periods for a prolonged period, it is also advisable to consult your referral practitioner for a check-up. A clinical examination of the vagina and cervix, and even an ultrasound of the uterus, will enable your doctor to determine the disorder from which you are suffering.


FAQ for periods

Why is periods becoming less and less abundant?

Hormonal imbalances, genetic, physical or psychological factors, or the use of medication or contraceptives, can influence the abundance of blood loss and reduce its frequency orintensity. Excessive weight loss, anorexia nervosa or eating disorders, or even high-level sport, also have an impact and can lead to periods less abundant bleeding than usual.

Why are my periods light?

Light or scanty periods can occur when blood loss is less than 30 ml per menstrual cycle, and cycles are prolonged or irregular. There are many possible causes, and it's important to remain vigilant in the face of sudden and unusual symptoms!

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