11 common causes of light periods

Are you experiencing a light menstrual flow? If so, know these 11 causes of light period and what you can do about it.

Your menstrual cycle can vary significantly, from heavy to missed, light and irregular to even spotting, due to various underlying causes. Known as hypomenorrhea in medical terms, light periods involve less bleeding or a shorter duration of bleeding during a menstrual cycle. A woman typically sheds 20-90 ml of blood during each period. But this menstrual flow can vary as it may be influenced by numerous factors – from hormonal imbalances to stress. Know the different causes of light periods.

Symptoms of light periods

Symptoms of a light period, or hypomenorrhea, may include:

  • Lighter flow than usual
  • You bleed for fewer than two days
  • Spotting instead of a regular flow
  • You miss your period cycle
  • Light period symptoms such as cramping, bloating, or breast tenderness
  • Absence of clots or heavy bleeding.

11 causes of light periods

1. Age

When girls first begin menstruating, their menstrual cycles can be irregular and vary in flow. Initially, their bodies are still adjusting to the new hormonal changes, which can lead to lighter periods. Apart from this, as women approach menopause, typically in their late 40s to early 50s, they often experience hormonal fluctuations that can cause periods to be lighter.

2. Weight gain

Gaining and losing weight can cause an irregular period cycle. A study published by Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care found that weight gain or obesity can increase the risk of several menstrual problems, including early onset of puberty, premenstrual disorders, dysmenorrhea, heavy menstruation, etc.

While some women may experience heavy flow, some may also experience lighter flow. It completely depends on how your body is reacting to the hormonal changes caused by weight changes in your body. “Fat cells produce estrogen, and an excess can lead to lighter periods or even missed periods,” says Dr Rohan Palshetkar, Obstetrician, Infertility Specialist and Gynecologist.

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3. Eating disorders

Disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition, disrupting menstrual flow. “Starvation or extreme dieting can decrease body fat significantly, often resulting in lighter periods or amenorrhea,” explains Dr Palshetkar.

4. Pregnancy

“During pregnancy, monthly bleeding stops until delivery of the baby. However, light bleeding or spotting is common in the early stages of pregnancy, often mistaken for a light period,” suggests Dr Palshetkar. This is typically due to implantation bleeding ( Early pregnancy bleeding typically occurs within days of conception) when the fertilised egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.

5. Breastfeeding

Nursing (lactation) may lead to amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation). However, some might notice light bleeding or spotting, as lactation affects hormone levels that regulate menstruation.

6. Stress

Psychological stress can affect the part of the brain responsible for hormone regulation (the hypothalamus), which can disrupt menstrual cycles. This disruption can cause periods to be lighter or irregular. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care reveals a significant increase in irregular menstrual cycles in young girls with health problems such as insomnia, stress, and depression.

7. Birth control

Hormonal birth control methods (such as pills, injections, or IUDs) can lead to lighter periods. These contraceptives work by regulating or suppressing ovulation and altering the uterine lining, which can decrease menstrual flow.

8. Over-exercising

An intense physical workout can change the hormonal balance responsible for the menstrual cycle. It can cause breakthrough bleeding when you are not on your period. The bleeding can be light.

9. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition marked by hormonal imbalances that can affect menstrual cycles. Although PCOS is more commonly associated with heavier or irregular periods, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some women may experience lighter periods depending on individual hormonal responses.

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10. Thyroid dysfunction

Both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle. “While hypothyroidism can cause heavy period flow, hyperthyroidism may cause lighter periods,” says Dr Palshetkar.

11. Perimenopause

The transitional period before menopause, called perimenopause, involves hormonal shifts that can result in lighter periods. The bleeding will stop completely when you are in full menopause.

Complications of light periods

While a light period once in a while is not a cause for worry, it can sometimes indicate underlying health issues or lead to complications such as fertility problems, hormonal imbalances in the body, nutrient deficiencies, and undiagnosed medical conditions such as PCOS or thyroid dysfunction.

When to see a doctor for a light periods?

It is advised to see a doctor if you experience persistent and significant menstrual changes, including light period, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Severe pain
  • Miss three straight periods and are not pregnant
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Have irregular period
  • Bleeding between period
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Symptoms suggesting PCOS

Always consult your doctor whenever you find yourself in doubt!