Slow periods: what are the causes and solutions?

Written by Marion Goilav

Relecture professionnelle

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

What is a light period?

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

Light periods: oligomenorrhea or hypomenorrhea?

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

  • 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 menstruation.
  • Hypomenorrhea, on the other hand, is low blood flow over a relatively short period, but with a 'classic' cycle length.

Its opposite, heavy periods, is called menorrhagia.

Light periods during puberty

Duringadolescence and the onset of menstruation, irregular cycles are normal. As a result, you may experience sparse periods while your menstrual cycles regulate at the beginning of your life as a woman. It's also possible to experience less abundant periods before the onset of menopause, due to the reduction in ovarian hormone secretions.

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's an isolated phenomenon and you're not pregnant (do a test 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 produce a thinner uterine lining, which means less discharge 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, symptoms other than light 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

Poor menstrual flow can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics. They may be linked to pathologies or diseases such as :

  • a particularity of the mucous membrane of the uterus
  • diabetes
  • polycystic ovaries
  • uterine polyps
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • very low body fat...

If these genetic factors are predominant in your family, and you notice disturbed menstrual phases or a marked premenstrual syndrome, it may be worthwhile to consult your gynecologist. That's why, if you notice that your periods are less and less abundant, it's a good idea to talk to your health professional.

An eating disorder

Eating disorders, and in particularanorexia nervosa, are known to interfere with the proper functioning of the hormonal machine, with consequences for menstrual blood flow. In the event of major weight loss or undernourishment, the body undergoing dieting 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 stopsovulation, and therefore menstruation, 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 sport

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's therefore not uncommon for professional or top-level sportswomen to experience light periods or even very light discharge.

Certain pathologies or medications

Scanty periods can also be caused by certain medications. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out whether your treatment may affect blood loss each cycle.

When to seek medical advice for light periods

If you're experiencing lighter-than-usual periods, there's usually 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 with your health care professional.

Other symptoms may be added to less abundant periods than usual, such as pain in the breasts or lower abdomen, notably linked to 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 about light periods

Why are my periods getting lighter and lighter?

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

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. There are many reasons for this, so it's important to be alert to sudden and unusual symptoms!

You may also like