Scanty Periods (Lighter Periods) – Causes and Risk Factors
Scanty periods or having lighter periods may come as a relief to you but if you see that your cycle is lighter for several months, you will need to see your gynecologist to figure out if there is a problem with your menstrual cycle or hormone levels in your body. There are several reasons that can make your periods scanty/lighter or even reduce to the level of just spotting including your age, body weight, contraceptives being used, current medications if any etc.
Symptoms of lighter cycle
Usually, a woman on an average loses 2-3 tablespoons of blood during her menstruation. For some it may be little higher and in some, the blood loss may be a little less. Symptoms of scanty periods may include:
- The need to change pads or tampons may reduce significantly
- Periods may not last for full 5 days, they may be shorter
- Instead of heavy flow during the first two days, blood loss may be very light
- Periods may be as lighter as spotting during all 5 days.
- Lesser abdominal cramps, less abdominal and lower back pain and lighter mood swings.
What causes scanty periods in a woman?
A girl may have very lighter periods, similar to spotting when she starts menstruating. As she ages, the periods become normal until the age of 40s. As she enters the perimenopause period, the periods become irregular and lighter. This indicates that her periods are soon going to stop completely as she reaches the menopause period. Such a time will also be accompanied by other symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats etc.
Irregular or No ovulation
Periods are a result of building up of uterus lining that will hold the fertilized egg. When the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus is shed and this stage is called ‘menstruation or periods’. When the ovulation is not regular, the release of egg becomes irregular or sometimes, there may not be any egg released (called anovulation). This can result in irregular and scanty periods.
PCOS and Thyroid related medical problems
Certain medical conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and thyroid related problems can also disrupt the regular menstrual cycle as the hormone levels become imbalanced. This can lead to irregular periods that may be very light.
The most powerful condition that can show up any symptom in the body is stress. Whether it is related to personal relationship or finance related or work related, stress can take a toll on your body in thousand different forms. Stress can easily disrupt the hormonal balance in the body which in turn can disturb the menstrual cycle in a woman.
Birth control methods
Taking birth control pills can make a woman’s periods lighter and lighter. Some pills stop the body from building the inner lining of the uterus. Consequently, there will be very lighter lining to shed during menstruation resulting in scanty periods. Some birth control methods alter the hormones in the body that can disturb the menstrual cycle.
If you are underweight and have very little fat in your body, your periods may become lighter and lighter and in some cases, they may stop totally. As the fat levels drop in the body, regular ovulation may not occur. Similarly with women, who workout too much and shed more fat, periods may get lighter.
When a woman gets pregnant after unprotected sex with her fertile male partner, she may not have periods at all. But few women do have very light periods which may look like spotting. You are advised to go for a pregnancy test, if you are sexually active and not having a normal period after an episode of unprotected sex.
Risk factors for scanty periods
- Age – younger women may have lighter periods. Similarly, women who are in their perimenopause state can have scanty periods.
- Postpartum stage and during breastfeeding – After child delivery, women usually don’t have periods for at least a couple of months. Before the commencement of normal periods, they may few months of lighter periods.
- Stress – Women living in a stressful relationship or having a stressful life can expect scanty periods.
- PCOS – A very common lifelong condition that can disrupt the normal ovulation cycle and cause irregular periods that can be very light or heavier.
Having lighter periods for a couple of times and then if your periods return to normal, that’s perfectly fine. But, if the scanty periods continue for months, you need to see your gynecologist as soon as you can. If you are on birth control pills and if you have noticed that your periods have become lighter or if you don’t get periods at all, talk to your doctor if you need to continue the pills or if you should go for a different contraceptive option. Don’t ignore lighter periods especially if you are in ‘child-bearing’ age and expect to become pregnant in future.