What causes light periods?
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There’s a lot of talk in the menstrual wellness world about heavy periods. From period product companies to books & blogs on hormonal health, it can seem like everyone is talking about how to manage a heavy flow. But what about the babes out there who are having really light periods?
Yeah, that can be an issue too.
That’s why today we’re going to talk all about what it could mean for your menstrual cycle, hormonal health, & fertility if you’re having light periods.
(But, before we jump to that I just need to say… If your period is so heavy that you have to wear a menstrual cup and a maxi pad or change a super tampon every 2 hours, it’s time to look at WHY your periods are so heavy and the underlying imbalances that could be impacting your cycle. I don’t care what the fancy period product company says, it’s not about getting the right, super absorbent new period product. It’s about healing your hormones and responding to your body’s call for help. Here is a great post for you on how to eat for better periods.)
Okay, heavy period rant over, let’s talk about the reasons why you might be having light periods.
Reason #1 - You’re having a perfectly healthy, normal period.
This is probably the case for about 90% of my clients who tell me that they’re having light periods. They’re just having normal, healthy periods, but because we live in a society where we’ve normalized heavy periods (& the imbalances that cause them) it can feel like our periods are unhealthily light when we have normal period bleeds.
In my experience and training, a normal, healthy period is 3 to 5 days in length including all spotting. Day 1 or 2 is likely more of a flow, changing a pad or tampon every 3-4 hours, when there’s a gush, or seeing/feeling a release of blood with each trip to the bathroom. Days 3 to 5 are usually just light spotting, ideally red in color, changing a pad or tampon because it’s time, not necessarily because it’s full.
For example, my current, healthy, normal period looks like 1 day of moderate flow, usually changing my pad with a gush which happens every 3 hours or so. I probably use 3 pads on my “heavy” day. Then 2 days of bright red, but light spotting and bleeding during which I change my pad when it’s time - after about 4-6 hours. Then one day of wearing black panties & black leggings when I don’t wear any period product at all but will likely have some very light spotting.
When I first started sharing what my normal, healthy period is like I got SO many comments that my period was *too* light. False. This is my period HEALED. This is my bleed after intentional menstrual cycle healing and hormone balancing practices.
My prior, unhealthy, totally out of balance period is what people considered normal - 7 days of bleeding, 2 days of really heavy flow when I would change my pad every 1-2 hours & work really hard not to bleed through my pants, then 2 days of consistent bleeding that was a little lighter, then 2-3 days of spotting. Hi, yeah, that’s a lot of bleeding. I was exhausted. My period would wipe me out. That’s not normal.
Our periods are allowed to be short, like 3 days. Our periods are allowed to be light (within reason, keep reading). Our periods are allowed to not really disrupt our lives much at all. We’re allowed to feel good, like ourselves, when we’re on our periods.
Feeling like a hormone monster who is trying to keep from bleeding out is not what our periods need to be like. That’s got hormone imbalance written all over it.
Okay, so then if normal periods are, in fact, shorter & lighter than we thought… What exactly is a light period?
A light period, as I’ve come to know them, are period bleeds that are 1 to 2 days in length or any period bleed during which we don’t have to wear a period product or more than a pantyliner, as well as a bleed that is only ever pink or brown in color and never achieves a bright or deep red color.
If this sounds like you, keep on reading…
Reason #2 - The uterine lining is not thickening as it should.
The heaviness of a period has everything to do with the thickness of the uterine lining. For those that don’t know - our period bleed is made up of blood, cervical fluid, and the shedding of the uterine lining that has accumulated over the past menstrual cycle. That’s right, your period bleed is not you bleeding out the egg that was released during ovulation. It’s you releasing your monthly uterine lining build up. And, generally speaking, the thicker the uterine lining, the heavier the period bleed.
This means if we’re having really heavy periods the uterine lining is likely getting *too* thick. And, if we’re having really light periods, the uterine lining is likely not getting thick enough.
Therefore, the trick to having more substantial period bleeds is to grow a thicker uterine lining in each cycle. Check out reason #3 to learn how!
Reason #3 - Estrogen is lower than desired.
Estrogen is in charge of thickening the uterine lining. Therefore, if the uterine lining is thinner than desired, it likely means there isn’t enough estrogen being produced to create a thicker lining. The key to achieving a heavier period bleed is making more estrogen so that the uterine lining can thicken appropriately. This also means that if a period is ragingly heavy, it’s probably time to explore ways to decrease estrogen because there’s an overabundance of it which is leading to an overly thick uterine lining.
So how do we increase estrogen? Read reason #4 to learn how!
Reason #4 - There is an issue with the ovarian follicles.
Guess who makes your estrogen? Your ovarian follicles, the very same ones that house your eggs! So, if you’re looking to make more estrogen to support uterine lining growth, you’ve got to support your ovarian follicles.
During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle the brain tells the ovaries to start maturing ovarian follicles for that new menstrual cycle in preparation for ovulation. Those maturing (read: growing) ovarian follicles produce estrogen as they grow and swell. If, for some reason, the ovarian follicles don’t grow robustly they may not make enough estrogen to create a thick & juicy uterine lining. Therefore, nourishing the ovarian follicles can be hugely helpful when it comes to making more estrogen, thickening the uterine lining, and having more substantial period bleeds.
Curious about how to nourish the ovarian follicles? Supporting ovulation is a great place to start! Check out these food-based strategies for supporting ovulation, the ovarian follicles, and healthier periods.
Reason #5 - There is an issue with the brain-ovary communication pathway.
This one plays a BIG role in cycles after coming off of hormonal birth control methods that prevent ovulation by disrupting the brain-ovary communication pathway - methods like the pill, the ring, the implant, the shot, and in some cases even the hormonal IUD.
The brain-ovary communication pathway is called the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian pathway and it’s crucial to ovulation & ovarian follicle development.
Ovulation starts in your brain. This means that your period, therefore, starts in your brain too because you only bleed because you ovulate. The naturally low levels of estrogen and progesterone during your period tell your brain that a new menstrual cycle is beginning and it’s time to start maturing some ovarian follicles for this new cycle. As a result the hypothalamus in your brain tells your pituitary gland (at the base of your brain) to make follicle stimulating hormone, also known as FSH. This hormone tells your ovaries to start maturing some ovarian follicles for the new cycle. As those follicles mature, they make estrogen. Eventually, they make enough estrogen to signal to the pituitary gland that it’s time to release luteinizing hormone (aka LH). The release of LH by the pituitary gland then tells the ovaries that it’s time for ovulation and to release the most mature ovarian follicle.
If there is an issue in this pathway, called the HPO pathway, several different issues can arise including - lack of ovulation, missed period, irregular cycles, and low estrogen levels.
Therefore, if you want to have healthy, happy periods, you want to nourish your brain and your ovaries.
Some of my favorite ways to do this include eating a nutrient-dense diet full of healthy protein & fats, avoiding over exercising & intense cardio, finding healthy ways to destress, living in alignment with the phases of our menstrual cycles, and learning how to love our cycles & periods rather than curse them.
The good news? I help my clients do all this and more!
If you’re curious about working with me to track your cycle, use cycle tracking to spot potential imbalances that could be impacting your periods, and learn how to nourish your body for better periods & fertility - then I 100% want to meet you!
((And, you can learn all about working with me here.))
**IMPORTANT - Also, to be clear, this is not an exhaustive list of reasons why light period bleeds can happen. This is also not intended to serve as medical advice or take the place of adequate medical support from qualified health providers. As a fertility awareness educator, I provide EDUCATION and resources to help you equip yourself with knowledge, tools, & support as you work with your health care providers to navigate the health & healing protocols that are best for you.
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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