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What Does a Light Menstrual Period Mean?

by
author image Leigh A. Zaykoski
Leigh Zaykoski has been a writer and editor for six years. Her medical writing has appeared on dozens of websites. Zaykoski attended the University of Pittsburgh and Keystone College, studying microbiology and business administration. She is currently pursuing a medical writing certification.
What Does a Light Menstrual Period Mean?
Stress is one factor in lighter menstrual periods. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Light menstrual periods, sometimes referred to as oligomenorrhea, can be normal, but they can also mean that a woman is experiencing hormonal changes or the effects of medical conditions, poor nutrition or stress on the body. Determining the cause of light menstrual periods can help doctors develop successful treatment plans for women with this condition.

Hormonal Changes

Light menstruation can signal hormonal changes that affect a woman's reproductive tract. According to physicians from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, a light menstrual period can indicate that a woman is entering perimenopause or menopause. During perimenopause, the intervals between menstrual periods increase in length, and menstrual flow may be light. When menopause first begins, women may be without periods for several months or have light periods until menstruation stops completely. Doctors from the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois indicate that a light menstrual period can also mean that hormonal birth control methods are causing decreased menstrual flow. Birth control pills can result in reduced blood loss and lighter periods each month.

Medical Conditions

Lighter periods can be a symptom of several health conditions. According to endocrinologists from University of Virginia Health System, thyroid disorders can cause abnormally light menstrual periods and even cause menopause to occur early. Physicians from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago indicate that autoimmune disorders can also be signaled by a light menstrual period. Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to produce excess thyroid hormone, resulting in light periods and symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, muscular weakness and changes in vision. Information from New York University's Langone Medical Center indicates that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Asherman's syndrome can also cause light periods.

Eating Disorders

One symptom of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa is lighter periods or the absence of periods. According to physicians from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, poor nutrition and eating disorders can lead to a decrease in menstrual flow. Female athletes are particularly at risk for developing light menstrual periods, especially if they use anabolic steroids to enhance their performance. Physicians from the Mayo Clinic explain that low body weight interferes with the production of hormones, which can lead to lighter menstrual periods.

Stress

Light menstrual periods may mean that a woman has high levels of physical or emotional stress in her life. Physicians from Penn State Milton St. Hershey Medical Center indicate that both types of stress can block the release of hormones that are necessary for normal menstrual periods. When this hormone is blocked, light menstrual periods can occur. The physical stress of athletic training can also lead to light menstrual periods, because excessive exercise can cause increased production of stress hormones that block the release of the luteinizing hormone that is needed for regular menstruation.

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