If you’ve ever had a period run a little bit or a lot longer than normal, not only is it an annoyance, but it can also be alarming. Could it be fibroids? Has your work stress finally impacted your cycle? Perhaps it’s a thyroid condition? The questions can create some serious paranoia.
But what about when your period is shorter than usual? At first thought, it sounds like harmless good luck. However, if it continues to happen, it could bring about the same confusion and worry as a longer one would.
For the record, experts say that a change in the length of your bleeding is normal for the most part. While certain noticeable differences can be caused by more serious issues, sometimes it can just be a hormonal issue or a result of one’s diet.
“In general, variations in the length of cycles are common,” shared Lakeisha Richardson, MD, OB/GYN of Greenville, Mississippi via email. “The length of a woman’s cycle is determined by her hormones; however, it can be affected by weight, diet, activity, medications, previous surgeries, or infection.”
In the case of a shortened period, it can be due to your age. Dr. Richardson says you are most likely to experience a much shorter bleeding time than usual when you are younger and also when you’re approaching your menopausal years.
“The menstrual cycle length is determined by the rate and quality of [eggs],” she said. “Changes in the menstrual cycle are common at the extremes of reproductive age including the early teenage years and the per-menopausal years.”
If you’re taking certain medication, it is also common for your cycle to change. For instance, ongoing use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to deal with cramps and other frequently used and seemingly safe pills can cause you to notice a lighter and shortened period.
“NSAIDs have been shown to decrease blood flow during the menstrual cycle and can aid in shortening the period when taken consistently,” she said. “In addition, some forms of birth control can also affect the length of the menstrual cycle.”
All that being said, if you do notice that your cycle has shortened, the good news is that you don’t have to fear the worst. Dr. Richardson says it’s only when your period increases in length and becomes heavier that you need to make an appointment with your gynecologist sooner than later.
“If you notice a change in your menstrual cycle that results in a decreasing number of days, there is no reason to be alarmed,” she said. “You can mention it your health care provider at your next scheduled appointment. However, a woman should be alarmed if the cycle is lasting longer and the bleeding is heavier. If a cycle lasts longer than seven days or if the bleeding requires increasing use of sanitary products, a woman should notify her health care provider as soon as possible.”
Sounds like it’s a shorter period is a blessing after all. If nothing else, it at least could save you some money on your feminine hygiene products.