Period flow often varies from month to month, some cycles can be really heavy and others quite light, so usually it’s not a cause for concern. But it can still be quite confusing to look inside your pants and see only light spotting, especially if you’re used to a steady or even heavy flow.
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 don’t worry, there’s probably a reason behind it and once you get to the root of the problem, you can work on solving it.
If you have a light period, could you be pregnant?
This should be the first thing you rule out. During pregnancy, periods will usually stop completely, but in the early stages, you may experience implantation bleeding, which means you’ll still get a little bit of blood. “Implantation bleeding can be an early sign of pregnancy” fertility expert Dr. Larissa Corda tells O.school. Dr. Corda adds, “however many may mistake it for a light period”.
A lighter period could depend on your age.
If you’re quite young, your periods might not have evened out yet, Dr. Corda says “ periods [at a younger age] are usually lighter and may only involve spotting and become more regular when a person is in their 20s.” When you reach your 30s and 40s, periods can naturally lessen and become a lot lighter. This is all part of your body slowing down in preparation for the menopause and is totally normal.
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. It’s quite common when you’re under a lot of stress to have lighter than usual periods or skip a period entirely.
“Missing a period entirely can be a quite natural way the body deals with stress,” Natasha Richardson, a medical herbalist specializing in menstrual health with Forage Botanicals, tells O.school. She adds, “This doesn't mean it should be ignored. It is an invitation from the body to up the self-care ante.”
Are you underweight? That could affect your period.
If you are underweight you may find that your period becomes lighter or stops altogether. Your body needs to maintain a certain weight threshold in order to have the energy to deal with losing so much blood every month. Natasha explains “If the diet has too few calories this can stop the body ovulating.”
Exercising like a machine or on the new trendy diet? This could mean lighter periods.
If you’ve recently taken up exercise or started a new diet which has suddenly caused you to lose a substantial amount of fat, you may see your period become lighter or even stop. This is because your body is trying to keep up. Dr. Corda explains, “this change happens because the levels of the fat drop so low that you cannot ovulate regularly.” To help your periods return, be sure to get all the nutrients your body needs and maybe a less intense workout plan.
Are you on new birth control? Switching up contraceptives can affect your menstrual flow.
Certain contraceptive methods are designed to stop your periods altogether, but before this happens they have to slow them down and make the uterine lining (what is shed during a period) thinner. If they don’t stop completely, your period may be lighter. As Dr. Corda explains “The hormone dosages in birth control pills are low and do not stimulate the uterus to build up a thick lining. As a result, a woman may have a light period because there is minimal uterine lining to shed.”
Is a light period an indication of a different health problem?
Sometimes, a lighter period can indicate a bigger problem. Lighter periods, especially if painful, can be a sign of endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). As Dr. Corda says “Our menstrual health is one of the main indicators of our overall general health.”
As you can see, it’s can be pretty normal to have a light period throughout your life and lots of things can cause a lighter flow. Hopefully, this has put your worries about light periods at ease. If your periods do not return to normal, if they become even more irregular or you’re experiencing more pain — especially during sex, please contact your doctor.