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What are the Common Causes of Light Menstruation?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many things that may cause a woman to have a light menstrual period. Among the most common are hormonal changes. These changes can include those that occur in the years leading up to menopause as well as those related to occasional fluctuations in a woman’s body. In some cases, birth control pills or eating disorders may lead to lighter-than-normal periods as well. Additionally, a woman may have a lighter period because of stress, which may be of a physical or emotional nature.

Hormonal changes are frequent causes of light menstrual periods. For example, a woman may experience significant hormonal changes during perimenopause, which is the stage of a woman's life that leads up to menopause. In many cases, a woman’s periods become irregular during this time and the interval between periods may increase. A lighter flow often accompanies these changes, and eventually, the woman ceases to menstruate altogether. Sometimes, however, hormonal fluctuations that cause a lighter period are temporary in nature.

Birth control pills may also cause light menstruation. The interesting part about birth control use and vaginal bleeding is that many women incorrectly assume they are menstruating while they are taking birth control pills. In reality, however, birth control pills usually prevent ovulation and true menstruation. When women bleed vaginally while taking the inactive pills in a birth control pack, they are usually experiencing withdrawal bleeding as the result of days without the hormones in the birth control pills. This withdrawal bleeding is often lighter than a normal menstrual period and may be shorter in duration as well.

Sometimes eating disorders are at fault when a woman has light menstruation. Poor nutrition and extremely low body weight can interfere with the production of hormones required for a normal menstrual cycle. The result may be a lighter-than-normal menstrual period. In fact, some people who struggle with eating disorders may miss menstrual periods altogether. Athletes who push their bodies to extremes may have menstrual cycle changes as well.

In many cases, stress also contributes to light menstruation. Stress may interfere with the production and release of hormones that are critical for normal menstruation. This may cause a woman to have lighter periods, short periods, or irregular cycles. Both physical and emotional stress may have this effect.

There are also some medical conditions that may cause a woman to have light menstruation. For example, a woman may have a light period in relation to an autoimmune condition or problems with her thyroid gland. Additionally, a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome may cause lighter menstrual periods.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon986202 — On Jan 23, 2015

Can the male doctors prescribe drugs that reduce heavy periods? All the women I have spoken too have taken drugs that increase the flow and this makes it very uncomfortable.

By anon949245 — On May 04, 2014

I don't know, but it happened to me today. I take real good care of my health too. I'm freaking out. I think I have an ovarian cyst or I am pregnant.

By fBoyle — On Jul 10, 2013

@fify- Absolutely. There are many medications that can cause changes in menstruation and hormone treatments are on top of the list.

Even though you're not taking a reproductive hormone, all the hormone in our body interact with one another. So when there is a change in one hormone, the other hormones also change.

As far as I know, light menstruation is a sign of hyperthyroidism, so it's possible that your hormone medication is too much for you. The dose might need to be adjusted, so see your doctor.

By burcinc — On Jul 10, 2013

@Mor-- Really?! The opposite usually happens to me, I get a heavy and painful menstruation cycle when I'm stressed. Otherwise I have light menstruation, I've always been that way. My doctor said that it's just how my system works.

By fify — On Jul 09, 2013

Can certain medications, like thyroid medications, cause menstrual problems?

I'm taking a synthetic thyroid hormone because of hypothyroidism. For the past three months, I've barely had a period. My period only lasted for two days and there was very little bleeding. This is so abnormal for me, I don't know what's wrong.

By KoiwiGal — On Jul 06, 2013

@browncoat - If you've got irregular periods in any way I would try to keep track of them so that you can spot any patterns that might be happening. It can come in handy for doctor's appointments and also later, when you may be trying to have a baby.

I would note down when the period starts, how heavy it is and how long it lasts and then make a comparison over time. There are several websites online that will track this for you and make it easy to see the data.

By browncoat — On Jul 05, 2013

I would often have one heavy menstrual cycle and then one light menstrual cycle, which I didn't really think all that much about.

But I was recently diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome which means that it's likely my ovaries aren't really working properly. I know that they take turns, so I wonder if the heavy or the light periods are a sign that one of them is doing it differently from the other one? My doctor says it's nothing to worry about, and I'm not, to be honest. I'm just curious.

By Mor — On Jul 04, 2013

Stress can definitely affect the menstrual cycle. I've only had that happen a couple of times, but frankly, I was very glad when it did, because the last thing you want to deal with when you're very stressed is a period on top of everything else.

For me, what will happen is that I will start spotting a little bit around the time I would normally start to have my period and then it will just stop or become a very light period.

Then, next month, I'll have one that's heavier than usual and I'll have to deal with it then, but, thankfully, I've always eliminated the source of the stress by then.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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