What Is Considered a Light Period?

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A light period is a menstrual cycle that is shorter and/or lighter than a woman's regular period. Women should familiarize themselves with their menstrual cycle, how many pads or tampons they use, and how long their periods last to quickly detect any changes in their periods. Changes to a women's normal period may indicate a health problem, and women should consulte their physician if their periods are abnormal.

A Normal Menstrual Cycle

A normal menstrual cycle, and the amount of blood loss a woman experiences, can vary widely among individual women. Normal menstrual periods last between two and eight days with an average time period of four to six days for most women. The amount of flow a woman experiences can depend on diet, genetics and if she is taking birth control pills.

A Light Period

A light period is not a normal menstrual cycle. A light period occurs when a woman has a period that is shorter than her regular period or if her period does not exhibit as much blood flow as her normal period; in some cases a woman may experience a light period which is both shorter and with less blood flow. A light period may also occur with less cramping and PMS than women normally exeperience with their period.

Light Period Examples

Due to the differences in women's menstrual cycles, there is no one definiation of what a light period is. What is important to remember is that a light period occurs when there is a change in the normal menstrual cycle (see the examples below).

Example 1: A woman usually has a period that lasts 6 days and she normally uses 20 menstrual pads and then she has a period that lasts 4 days and only uses 10 menstrual pads; this would be considered, for her, a light period.

Example 2: A woman who usually has a period that lasts 3 days and uses 10 menstrual pads during her period is not experiencing a light period; for her, this is a normal period cycle. However, if she then had a period that lasted 3 days and she used only 5 pads than this would be, for her, a light period.

The Difference between a Light Period and Spotting

tSpotting is not the same thing as a light period. Spotting is light on again/off again vaginal bleeding that may occur in between a woman’s menstrual period or which may replace her normal period. A light period is lighter than usual but still has a characteristic steady flow of blood.

When to Talk with Your Doctor

Light periods, unusual periods or spotting all warrant a consultation with a gynecologist. Abnormal periods may indicate a pregnancy, hormonal upset or may be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome; light periods may also be an indication of impending menopause.

Women should be especially concerned if a light period appears when a period is not due, if they experience unusual pain with their period or if they experience light periods followed by missed period cycles.

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References

  • United Health Care
  • Our Bodies Ourselves; The Boston Women's Health Book Collective; 1998
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