Periods are rarely discussed and are often a taboo subject, but they can indicate a lot of different aspects about a woman’s health. Whether you learned about menstruation in biology or sex education class, it’s important to know how your periods are linked with your hormonal health. Look at the toilet prior to flushing, not just to check your urine or poop, but also your menstrual blood. Your period can tell you all about your health, so here’s a breakdown of what’s normal and what’s not at each age.

Why Is My Period Lighter Than Usual?

Many women have consistent periods that have the same duration and follow a similar pattern each month. For other women, menstruation is highly variable, with each period having a different duration, flow and pattern. They may ask themselves, ‘Why is my period so light?’ and question ‘What does a light period mean?’ However, a light period doesn’t necessarily indicate there is anything wrong; it may just signify that your uterine lining was a bit thinner that month. Plan for your usual menstruation duration each month, but bear in mind that periods may be a day or two longer or shorter than normal occasionally, so be ready for this possibility.

If you find yourself wondering “Why is my period lighter than usual?” remember that there are numerous causes of light menstruation, including pregnancy. For example, light brown/red dots of blood, known as spotting, can occur after the implantation of an embryo in the womb and may cause a woman to think she has started her period when she hasn’t. To know for sure if you are pregnant or not, it’s best to take a pregnancy test, although you will usually need to wait until you’ve missed your next period for the most accurate results.

Why Is My Period Heavier Than Usual?

After answering ‘Why is my period so light?’ or ‘What does a light period mean?’ some may also wonder why the period is heavier. Remember that every woman is different and some may have lighter or heavier periods than others. However, if you think your periods are too heavy, a condition known as menorrhagia, look out for the following signs:

  • Using a lot more tampons or pads than usual.
  • Needing to use tampons and pads together.
  • Leaking of blood through to clothing or bedding.

There is usually no identifiable cause of menorrhagia. However, heavy periods have been associated with intrauterine contraceptive devices, anticoagulant medications, and certain health conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome and uterine fibroids.

If you are worried about heavy periods, it’s best to see your doctor. You may not need any treatment as your symptoms could just be a natural variation of your regular pattern. However, if you do require treatment, various drugs can be prescribed, some of which also act as contraceptives. In case the medication doesn’t work, surgery may be considered.

Other Menstruation Problems

In addition to heavy and light menstruation, women may also suffer from irregular periods. This may include variation in the time between periods or changes in menstruation length.

Irregular periods have many causes. The hormones estrogen and progesterone regulate the menstrual cycle, and changes in the levels of these hormones can affect the usual pattern of your periods. This is why young girls undergoing puberty and older menopausal women often have irregular periods.

Other frequent cause of irregular menstruation include:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Thickening of the uterine lining or the presence of polyps
  • Stress
  • Over-exercising
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Certain medications, including the contraceptive pill
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Asherman syndrome – severe scarring of the uterine lining

How to Deal with It

Pubertal or menopausal irregular periods generally do not need to be treated. However, if the irregularity has another cause, the underlying condition will need to be dealt with. You may also consider changing contraceptive method, lifestyle modifications (e.g. gaining or losing weight, cutting back on exercise, or reducing stress), hormonal therapy or surgery to correct any structural problems. Treatment choice may depend on whether you plan on having any children in the future.

You need to call a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Continuous bleeding for more than 7 days.
  • Bleeding that is heavier than usual during your period.
  • Increased pain during menstruation.
  • Missing more than three periods a year.
  • Periods more frequent than every 21 days.
  • Periods less frequent than every 35 days.

Your doctor may conduct a physical examination and will test to see if health conditions and pregnancy can be ruled out.

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