Stress Could Be Behind Your Light Period
Stress is known to be a major factor in most health problems, so naturally, stress can also mess with your periods. Itâs quite common when youâre under a lot of stress to have lighter than usual periods or skip a period entirely.
âMissing a period entirely can be a quite natural way the body deals with stress,â Natasha Richardson, a medical herbalist specializing in menstrual health with Forage Botanicals, tells O.school. She adds, âThis doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It is an invitation from the body to up the self-care ante.â â
What Does A Period Thats Very Light Mean
There are a number of things a light can period mean. Some are serious problems, while others are not.
As you can see from the list above, some of the reasons why your period may be lighter than usual range from a hormonal imbalance to pregnancy. Check in with your doctor to find out what it means in your specific situation.
The Source Of The Issue
Long periods can be the result of a variety of factors such as health conditions, your age and your lifestyle.
Underlying health conditions that can cause long periods include uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, adenomyosis, or more rarely, a precancerous or cancerous lesion of the uterus. A long period can also result from hormonal imbalances or a bleeding disorder.
Many women struggle with long and heavy periods for years without knowing there are ways to manage and improve their symptoms. I encourage all patients to seek out medical care if they have questions about their menstrual cycle or other gynecologic issues.
The first step to managing long periods due to a specific condition is to treat it. This can include things like removing an endometrial polyp or correcting hypothyroidism. Hormonal contraceptives are commonly used to help regulate abnormal cycles resulting from a wide variety of causes. Most of these methods take three to six months before youll notice some improvement.
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Youve Lost Or Gained A Ton Of Weight
Fluctuating weight can mess with your menstrual cycle, making your periods a lot shorter or lighter. Thats because when you gain weight, storing more fat in your body can affect your hormone levels and throw them out of balance. In a similar way, losing weight from restricting calories can put your body into stress mode and create an imbalance of hormones. Dr. Akopians notes that your body needs a healthy balance between protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins, to keep operating normally.
What Are Light Periods
Light periods are menstrual periods that have an unusually light flow or a very short duration of blood loss. Although the menstrual cycle varies from person to person, most women have a normal period approximately every 28 days. Each period typically lasts from four to seven days. The amount of blood lost during a menstrual period ranges from 20 to 80 milliliters . Blood loss of less than 20 mL may be considered a light period.
A shift or imbalance in hormone levels is the main cause of light periods. Light periods most commonly affect women who are approaching menopause because at that time in their lives women produce less estrogen, one of the hormones that regulates menstrual periods. Light periods can also occur in girls who have just begun to menstruate. An eating disorder, excessive exercise, or a thyroid condition can also cause a woman to have light periods. Women who use hormonal contraceptives, including oral contraceptives, may also experience lighter periods.
Light periods are not the same as the complete absence of menstrual periods, medically known as .
Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, are pregnant and experience . If you are not pregnant, your health care provider will determine the cause of your light periods through a pelvic examination and other tests. If your light periods are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.
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Periods And Pregnancy: An Odd Couple
You might be pregnant if you experience these symptoms:
- extreme tiredness
- weight gain or loss
It can be pretty confusing if you have those pregnancy signs and a little bit of bleeding.
If youre pregnant, the bleeding isnt actually a period. It may be implantation bleeding. When a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, slight bleeding and cramping can occur.
If you suspect pregnancy and your regular period is a no-show, take a home pregnancy test. If its negative but you still have weird symptoms and no flow, test again or follow up with your doctor.
When Should You See A Doctor
As outlined, a light period can occur for various reasons, most of which wont necessarily require a trip to the doctor. It all depends on risk factors and other symptoms. For example, someone who just started taking birth control pills is unlikely to require an evaluation for a light period because it is expected, says Twogood.
On the other hand, there are a few red flags to look out for, such as increasing or persistent pain, which should never be ignored. Most of the time a light period is not an emergency, but if your light period is ongoing, its safer to check in with your doctor to relieve any worry,” says Twogood.
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When To Call Your Doctor Or Midwife
If your period seems weird or off in any way, the first thing to do is take a pregnancy test. If it is negative, wait to see how your next period goes. If you have another period that feels or seems off, it might be time to make an appointment with your doctor or midwife.
They can perform an exam to figure out what is causing the irregularities in your cycle and answer any questions you have about your menstrual cycle.
There are certain situations where it can be especially helpful to seek the advice of your doctor or midwife, such as:
- The length of your menstrual cycles is erratic
- You are trying to get pregnant and you notice that your cycle length is shorter than 25 days
- You are under 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for over a year OR you are over 35 and have not conceived in six months
Youre Really Stressed Out
Stress can screw with just about everything in your life, so its hardly shocking that it can mess with your cycle, too. High levels of stress can cause an increase in the production of cortisol which in turn can cause a disruption in the way our bodies function normally, Dr. Wider says.
Under normal times, your brains hypothalamus produces chemicals that trigger your pituitary gland to signal your ovaries to release estrogen and progesterone, she explains. With an increase in cortisol from stress, that axis can get messed up and the menstrual cycle can become irregular, Dr. Wider says.
The less estrogen, the less stimulation of the lining of the uterus, so less bleeding, Dr. Minkin adds.
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You Were Born This Way
Some people just naturally have super light periods. Seriously, it can run in your family. If thatâs the case, you donât have to worry â itâs just how you are naturally. Thereâs also a chance that your uterine lining could be malformed, because of how your uterus grew when you were becoming a full human. This is something your doctor would have to check.
How Long Does A Period Typically Last
There’s a pretty big range of normal when it comes to period length. “Usually, it can last anywhere between five to seven days,” says Jessica Shepherd, MD, a minimally invasive gynecologist in Dallas. “But there are times at which it can be a few days longer or shorter.”
Here’s a little Menstrual Cycle 101: During each cycle, your body’s sending hormones to thicken the lining of the uterus to make it a nice little home for a potentially fertilized egg. About midway through your cycle, one of your ovaries releases an egg, which then travels down the fallopian tubes to this newly plush uterus where, if it’s not fertilized by a sperm, it flows out of the body, along with the uterine lining that built up.
While this process is the same for nearly every woman, the length of their periods might differ depending on their specific hormonal shifts over the course of their cycle, which affects the endometrium development, and in turn, the number of days it takes for it to shed, Dr. Shepherd explains.
So, if your period is a day or two longer or shorter than your usual period length and you don’t notice any other symptoms or issues that seem unusual for you , it’s probably not a reason to be concerned.
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Are There Any Complications From Having A Long Menstrual Period
Often, the biggest problem from having a long menstrual period is the way it impacts your quality of life. If this is the case, dont be shy about exploring ways to change your cycle with your doctor.
Its okay to treat something simply because its a bother. Women dont have to live that way, Thielen says
And since blood is rich in iron, women who bleed a lot are at risk of anemia, she says.
Reasons For Having A Very Light Period
When you have a light period the menstrual flow remains for one or two days and it may be very less than normal flow you have been experiencing. This may make you feel worried as if you have become pregnant, or has some sort of an illness that has caused this very light flow. You dont need to worry, as it is normal in young girls who have attained puberty recently. This may occur even in adult women due to changes in hormone levels in their body. You may consider it normal to have lighter periods for two or three cycles and if this becomes routine after this you have to consult your physician and find what is happening in your body.
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Youre Using Hormonal Birth Control
One of the most common reasons for a lighter period is going on hormonal birth control some doctors even prescribe it to women with very heavy periods for that exact reason. So if youve recently started the pill, are using the patch or the ring, or gotten a hormonal IUD, and your periods have lightened up, its normal to have light cycles, to completely skip cycles, or have small amounts of dark or light blood.
When Should I See A Doctor For Heavy Periods
Many women have come to accept heavy bleeding as a normal part of their cycle. This helps explain why over half of women with menorrhagia dont know they have it, or know that heavy periods are treatable. If left untreated, heavy periods can cause other health concerns like anemia, a red blood cell condition that makes it difficult for your organs to get the oxygen they need.
If your period affects your daily life by causing you to miss work or school, cancel social activities or plan your day around bathroom breaks, you might have menorrhagia. Heavy bleeding can cause other physical symptoms that can make you dread getting your period like extreme fatigue, very painful cramps, lightheadedness, anxiety and depression.
We recommend making an appointment with one of our womens health doctors if you experience any of the above symptoms. A doctor will be able to diagnose whats causing your heavy periods and recommend treatment options. If youre not sure whether your period is normal, just ask!
Our womens health doctors at HealthPartners and Park Nicollet are here to answer your questions. Well help you put an end to planning your life around heavy periods.
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Reasons Your Period Is Heavier Than Usual
From no-biggie birth control changes to serious medical problems.
When it comes to menstruation, not all periods are created equal. Any Mean Girls fan knows that some women just have a heavy flow and wide-set vagina! And while you shouldnt worry if you typically use super tampons while your friends always grabbing the light ones, something might be up if your flow has dramatically changed and is now heavier than it usually is.
Women are definitely aware of whats normal for them, says ob-gyn Jennifer Ashton, M.D. If one of my patients is experiencing something irregular and it happens three months in a row, I like to see her.
From no-biggie birth control changes to serious medical problems, here are seven reasons why you might be bleeding more than usual.
Considering that hormonal birth-control pills often regulate and lessen periodsin fact, some doctors prescribe it specifically to lighten up heavy flowsit makes sense that if you switch to a non-hormonal pill or stop taking oral contraception completely, youre going to be going through your tampons faster. And although IUDs like Mirena also lighten periods, Ashton says that non-hormonal IUDs tend to cause heavier periods in most women. While this is generally normal, see a healthcare professional if your heavy bleeding continues three months after insertion.
What Classifies As A Lighter Period Technically Speaking
A lighter period is usually much shorter than your usual period and you lose a lot less blood, meaning you need to replace or empty your menstrual product of choice fewer times. When your period arrives, it may be very light and then towards the end be barely there, you may also experience spotting or brown-ish discharge.
But donât worry, thereâs probably a reason behind it and once you get to the root of the problem, you can work on solving it.â
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You Lost A Ton Of Blood During Or After Childbirth
This is a very rare condition, says Dr. Akopians. Losing a lot of blood deprives your body of oxygen, which can end up damaging the pituitary gland and cause something called Sheehans syndrome. That, in turn, drastically reduces the glands production of all types of hormones, including those that control your menstrual cycle. This hormone production not only impacts your menstrual cycle, but it can affect other parts of your body, like your thyroid. So if your doctor is concerned about this, they will likely refer you to an endocrinologist for diagnosis and treatment.
The bottom line: While having a lighter period than normal isnt necessarily cause for alarm, dont ignore the change. Track your cycle for a couple of months, and if it doesnt go back to your normal, make an appointment with a gynecologist.
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