The menstrual cycle can be regular or irregular. In most women, it lasts between 28 and 35 days. The color, texture, thickness and amount of blood in your flow can mean different things.
- Some women experience a heavy flow accompanied by big clots and severe cramps.
- In others, the period is normal with mild cramps.
- It is also possible to experience a very scanty and short period (lasting shorter than usual).
The latter may not be a normal circumstance and should be investigated to determine the reasons behind it.
The causes could be stress, your birth control or other factors discussed below.
The monthly period comes about when the uterus lining is shed through the cervix, and out through the vagina. Generally, the period should be consistent in terms of the level of flow, as well as the number of days that it gets to last.
Naturally, women will get their periods after every twenty-one to thirty-five days, with the menstrual flow ranging for between 2 and 7 days. But, it is possible for your cycle to change with time, mainly because of a number of factors. For instance, a pregnant woman will not experience any period as the uterine lining will not be able to detach.
You should understand that every period and woman tend to be very different. As such, the period may come like clockwork, or it could end-up being unpredictable. When it comes to a very short, thin period, there are a few important key points that you should understand:
- Having a thin flow does not always indicate that something has gone wrong in your body.
- Menopausal women and teenagers are more likely to experience short light periods.
Keep in mind that there is always a chance that you could get a light period, or an unusual period for no reason whatsoever.
What is a very light period?
A light period is scanty period blood. It is also a short menstrual period, lasting just one or two days. A very scanty flow should always be a source of concern, as in many cases, there will be a serious health issue that has brought it about.
However, this should not be taken to imply that a scanty menstruation all of a sudden is always a pathology. For instance, it could mean that you are in fact pregnant.
It has also been established that a scanty period is one of the side-effects that come with using hormonal contraception. Normal menstrual bleeding should last for between three and seven days. Within this period, you will excrete between 50 and a 150 milliliters of blood [Source—Women’s Health Magazine].
At times, certain disorders could develop during your menstrual cycle. Scanty menstruation happens to be one of the most widespread disorders that have been known to occur. When this happens, the blood loss is reduced to between 30 and 50 milliliters.
Typically, a thin flow is characterized by a reduced amount of period discharge. This appears more like spotting, as opposed to normal bleeding. In such instances, the discharge color could be light or in contrast, it could be brown.
Often, no symptoms accompany this type of period, but depending on what has triggered the appearance of the light period and no cramps, you could experience:
- Pelvic pain
Spotting vs. light period
The main difference between a scanty period and spotting is seen in the total volume of blood that gets discharged via the vagina. In spotting, vaginal bleeding tends to be minimal, and is in many cases deemed to be insignificant.
On the other hand, bleeding occasioned by menstrual periods could last for between three and five days on average with a notable amount of blood filling the pad.
On average, the menstrual cycle should last for around twenty-eight days. But for some women, it could be shorter, and only last for twenty-one days, while others may experience a longer cycle lasting for thirty-five days.
- The period marks the starting date of a menstrual cycle, and after menstruation has occurred, the uterine lining will start to thicken, in readiness for a possible pregnancy.
When the cycle comes to an end, and no fertilization has taken place, your uterus will shed its lining, together with the blood. This is what will constitute your period. In each cycle, the total amount of blood that is lost when measured can be between 4 and 12 tablespoons. Spotting may be much less than one tablespoon of blood. This is a major marker of the difference between your period and spotting.
Some of the symptoms that are experienced before, during, or after menstruation include:
- Cramps or pain in the abdominal region
- Migraines or headaches
- Food cravings
- Breast swelling
- Emotional disturbances e.g. fatigue and irritability
On the other hand, vaginal spotting can take place in the middle of your monthly periods (spotting after ovulation). The fluids or blood that gets discharged from your body through the vagina will in many cases be quite minimal. At times, only a few blood droplets are discharged during spotting.
When spotting, the blood often appears as light pink or dark brown in color. Even though spotting is considered to be harmless, it is always recommended that you consult your gynecologist. There may be underlying factors causing spotting, that may require immediate medical attention.
Based on the above, light periods and spotting are two conditions that are very different. In both, the underlying difference can be seen in the total amount of blood that gets discharged from the body through the vagina opening. [source-NHS]
- A light or scanty period is a flow of reduced blood. It may last for a period shorter than normal, like 2 days.
- Spotting is just droplets of blood. Spotting may not occur during your menstruation time. You can spot after period, before, during or after ovulation as well, or during implantation.
When you start experiencing a menstrual flow that is extremely light, or a flow where the duration is greatly reduced, chances are that you are having a light or scanty period.
Even though it is considered normal for the flow and color of your menses to vary from time to time, when they are accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headache, and severe pain in the abdominal area, there will be a need for you to consult your gynecologist. Here are the causes of a light or short period.
1. Birth control like plan B
Extremely scanty periods can be caused by continued use of hormonal birth control. There are birth control methods that have been known to prevent the release of an egg in your body. Birth control methods often come in varying forms that include:
- Shots or injections
According to the Plan B website, you may experience lighter menses as a side effect if you recently started taking the pill, or have taken it more than once in the same cycle. “When plan B® is used repeatedly (more than once in a menstrual cycle, or more than occasional once-a-month use), menstrual changes may occur, including a shorter or longer cycle and a heavier or lighter period than normal.”
When the body is unable to release any egg, it means that the uterus will not create any thick lining in preparation for a fertilized egg. As a result, you will end up experiencing really scanty periods. You may also find yourself dealing with skipped periods as well.
Additionally, there is a possibility that you could experience irregular periods in the event that you have recently started or stopped taking these birth control methods.
Can stress make your flow super light all of a sudden?
High emotional or physical stress may lead to a woman experiencing disturbed periods. When you are in extreme stress conditions, the body tends to produce high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
The increased levels of cortisol will affect production of the LH (luteinizing hormone). The LH hormone is responsible for ensuring that you get a regular monthly period. As such, when your stress levels rise to a considerable level, it may lead to a late period or even a stopped period. It then leads to the development of a condition that is referred to as secondary amenorrhea.
Stress factors that may cause a short period include:
- Lack of sleep
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Being sick or illness and
- Poor diet
3. Genetic causes
Though in rare cases, a very light flow may be caused by abnormal genes. If your sister, mother, or any other female relative encounters it at least once in their lives, you too may experience the same. Just because you are experience scanty periods does not imply that you are in fact infertile.
Actually, many women who have experienced scanty menstrual flows have been able to conceive and have normal deliveries. It is however recommended that you consult your physician before attempting to conceive.
4. Hormonal changes
Certain hormonal changes occurring in your reproductive system can lead to you experiencing a light menstrual discharge. The leading hormonal changes contributing to this kind of discharge being during:
For the case of the perimenopause phase, the duration between two periods will increase significantly. Your bleeding will also become light. When in the menopause phase, the menses could become delayed, and you could go for many months before getting a single period. Additionally, you may notice some light spotting instead of period, before your period eventually disappears for good.
5. Eating disorders
In case you are suffering from any eating disorder e.g. anorexia nervosa, there is a big chance that you will start noticing scanty periods. Given the fact that you are not consuming enough food, the body will try to compensate for your loss of nutrients. In the process it will reduce the amount of blood that is shed as menstruation.
In the woman’s body, a majority of the hormones tend to be derivatives of sterols—which are a form of fat. Therefore, the presence of less body fat will mean that hormonal production will become decreased.
This may in turn have an impact on your monthly periods. For instance, athletes tend to be at a higher risk, more so, if they are using anabolic steroids in a bid to boost their field performance.
6. Hypo menorrhea
A shorter than normal period could be because you are suffering from a condition known as hypo menorrhea.
Hypo-menorrhea could be causing your menstrual bleeding to be below average in amount of flow. Although it may not be a cause for concern, it may be an indication that there are underlying causes that should be addressed promptly. Some of its causes are:
- Inflammatory diseases
- Certain hormonal disorders
- Genetic predisposition
7. PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Polycystic ovary syndrome comes about when small cysts are formed in your ovaries. After formation, the small cysts become filled with fluids, and will generally tend to be harmless. But, the cysts can contribute to a hormonal imbalance in the body. As a result, PCOS may reduce the amount of discharge or completely stop your menstrual flow.
For a woman with this condition, she will not experience ovulation in the same manner that a normal woman would do, and higher levels of testosterone (the male hormone) could end up being noticed. In addition to scanty periods, the condition also leads to thicker body and facial hair, as well as acne.
For many women having a period tends to be a monthly challenge, which can be in the form of managing the PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or the out of sorts feeling experienced at this time of the month.
However, there are other women who are likely to have fewer symptoms, primarily because their natural monthly periods come in the form of a light, short monthly flow.
Experiencing a short cycle could look like a gift, however, an irregular or light menses could be an indication of menopause, pregnancy, or a serious underlying medical condition. Some of the reasons why a woman could experience a short period include:
- Low estrogen levels—this is common in young women who are entering the puberty stage, as well as in older women who are approaching the menopause phase
- Ectopic pregnancy—if you are a woman of child bearing age, and who happens to be experience irregular light periods, the first thing that your physician will check for is whether you have an ectopic pregnancy.
- Use of birth control methods—certain contemporary birth control techniques e.g. use of hormonal intrauterine devices may lead to scanty periods being experienced. They are designed to suppress uterine lining development, and as such, tend to reduce the monthly period flow.
When it lasts 2 weeks
During the cycle, the period could be light or heavy, regular or irregular, long or short, pain-free or extremely painful, but it will still be considered to be normal.
However, you may need to become concerned if your period is lasting a longer duration than normal. Some of the reasons that can lead to a lighter period lasting 2 weeks include:
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Birth control pills
- Thyroid disease
- Hormonal imbalance
In case you notice an abnormality in your monthly period, it is recommended that you do not make any assumptions, but instead, visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. After diagnosis, the doctor will recommend a few treatment options depending on what is causing the problem. Common treatment options may include: medication, hysterectomy, endometrial ablation.
Negative pregnancy test
It is common to have what seems like a period, even though you are pregnant. Additionally, you can still have a negative pregnancy test, while you are in fact pregnant. In case you think that you could be pregnant, although you may be having vaginal bleeding and getting negative home pregnancy test results, you should talk to your medical practitioner.
While you could be experiencing implantation bleeding or testing yourself too early, there is also a chance that you could be dealing with a pregnancy related complication e.g. a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
You are advised to seek medical attention in case you have a lot of bleeding, or experience additional symptoms like severe abdominal pain or dizziness.
Twenty-five percent of all women experience some bleeding during their early pregnancy days, which is referred to as implantation bleeding. It occurs around the time they miss their first period, and will take place even though they are pregnant at the time. [The American Family Physician, June, 2009 publication]
Scanty period then heavy flow one week later
In the initial two to three years after starting menstruating, a teenager may experience irregular periods. You could have two periods in one month, with one being light, and the other one being heavy.
Irregular periods amongst teenagers is considered to be normal, and is often attributed to the presence of fluctuating hormones. For most young girls, their periods will even out at some point.
Heavy periods can be caused by conditions that include:
- Early miscarriage
- Uterine fibroids
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Uterine cancer
- Change in birth control methods
- Clotting disorders (See also clots during period)
- Benign tumors in the uterus
- Use of blood thinners
If you notice that you are going through more than a single tampon or pad after every few hours, it is an indication that your period is heavier than it normally is, and as such, you should not ignore it, but should instead seek medical attention.
What to do at home
When you are not sure whether you are experiencing light menses, you can check for the following symptoms:
- You may miss your periods once, twice, or even more
- Period bleeding will last for only two days, maybe less
- Bleeding tends to be light, and is more like spotting than normal period bleeding
If this is you, consider using the following home remedies, which will assist you deal with the light period, while relieving some of the symptoms accompanying the bleeding.
Of all the natural remedies that can be used to deal with scanty periods, ginger is one of the easiest to find and use at home. The home remedy has been used by many women over the years to deal with the menstrual pain.
When you have light periods accompanied by pain, ginger effects will assist in treating and relieving the symptoms associated with these irregular periods.
- Obtain a fresh ginger and split it into thin slices
- Take some of the slices and place them in a boiling pan
- Boil the pieces for about five minutes
- Ensure you take the ginger tea a few times each day
If you prefer taking sweet ginger tea, consider adding some honey to your tea. However, you should not add processed sugar to your ginger tea.
2. Sesame seeds
They are some of the best home remedies that can be relied upon when a woman is dealing with a light period. Sesame seeds can be used in a number of ways, though they will all achieve the same effect.
- Prepare your dry sesame seeds and grind them to come up with a fine powder. Take the powder and combine it with some water. You should have enough to drink at least three times each day
- Alternatively, take the sesame seeds powder and pour it into your bath water. Soak the lower part of your body into the bath, and let it stay in place for between fifteen and twenty minutes.