Not every woman is created equal when it comes to periods. While some breeze through the time of the month with no issues whatsoever, others have to deal with crippling cramps, extreme mood swings or an extremely heavy flow (and embarrassing stains, yikes!).
But what is a 'normal' period? It's when your bleeding lasts between three to seven days. If Aunt Flo only visits you for two days a month or you're bleeding over five days but only need to change your pad/tampon, say, twice a day, this could mean you have a light period.
Of course, just because your period is light doesn't mean you have a problem. Some women are just made that way so take that as a part of being uniquely you. However, it might be a cause for worry if your period suddenly changes. Here are seven reasons why this could happen and how to handle the issues that you have control over.
A change in your weight
Whether you've lost or gained weight, if this has happened to you all of a sudden – and in a substantial amount – it could affect the flow of your period too. This is due to the link between your body fat percentage and your period. And, in the case of being underweight, your hormones are usually affected too, which then leads to your period issues. Your body needs a particular level of body fat for your cycle to happen as usual and being underweight could stop your period altogether too. Of course, things like having an eating disorder could also affect your menstrual cycle.
Doing too much exercise could also cause havoc with your flow. Once again, this is related to your body fat, as your body needs a certain amount of it for your menstrual cycle to function properly. Putting a lot of physical stress on your body is also an issue your body could do without so go easy on your exercise regime.
It's normal for the length of your period and the amount of flow to change as you get older. Generally, your flow gets lighter in the few years leading to menopause – known as the pre-menopausal phase – after which your period stops totally when you hit menopause. But having lighter periods isn't something that just happens to older women. Both the length of your period and your flow will also change after the first few years of having your period, as your body (and cycle) eventually settles after your teenage years. So while your period could last seven days initially, this could go down to five with a lighter flow after a few years and this is nothing to be alarmed about.
Using birth control
Birth control affects your hormones and this, in turn, could mess with your cycle too. Many women on hormonal birth control get lighter periods or even stop having periods altogether. Generally, birth control treatments stop your body from releasing an egg so that you can't get pregnant. And, because your uterus isn't preparing itself for a possible pregnancy, it doesn't create a thick lining. Your period is essentially the shedding of this lining each month, so if you have a thin uterine lining, there won't be much of it to be expelled from your body, therefore leading to light periods. Switch to non-hormonal birth control methods if this bothers you, such as condoms or non-hormonal IUDs.
Oestrogen and progesterone are the two hormones responsible for your menstrual cycle and if your body doesn't have the right amount of either of them, it will definitely affect your period. For example, oestrogen is the hormone responsible for determining the lining of your uterus so if your levels of this hormone are low, it means you won't have a thick enough lining to have a heavy (or even a proper) period. If your flow is light after a few months and no other factors in your life have changed, visit your doctor and he might get you to do a hormone test.
Ah, that word that seems to define 21st century living...stress causes a lot of issues with our health and, for us women, it could also affect our period. Cortisol is a hormone that's released when you're stressed and if you have too much of it, it affects your body's production of oestrogen and progesterone, which will then affect your period. If it's just a stressful time in your life for whatever reason, see if your period goes back to normal once it's over. But if you're suffering from chronic stress, this problem might not go away so easily so try to relax more often or speak to your doctor about your issues.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Known as PCOS, this condition leads to cysts on your ovaries, which will then affect your hormone levels and could lead to lighter periods. The symptoms you need to look out for include acne, obesity and excess facial hair. It sounds scary but see your doctor as soon as you notice any of this because, if left untreated, it could affect your fertility.