Is your period just light this month? Or could you be pregnant?
This is an extremely common misconception. A light period can mean that you are pregnant, but that is not the only reason your period may be light. Many factors could play a role as to why you are experiencing a ‘trickle’ when you normally experience a ‘flow’. Factors such as diet, vitamin deficiency, poor sleeping habits, illness, and even stress! Each of these can affect your period and cause it to be lighter, or heavier, than usual.
Here we will explore some of the most common reasons for spotting and changes in your menstrual cycle.
The Difference Between Spotting and Light Bleeding
Mistaking spotting and light bleeding is quite common, so it’s essential to be aware of the key difference between them.
- Spotting is usually pink to brown in color and as the name suggests is a very small volume of blood.
- Bleeding is darker and redder in color, and enough to saturate a sanitary pad.
While spotting can be an indication of pregnancy, it can also signify that you normal period may be starting. There are numerous reasons that can lead to a light period.
Is a Light Period a Sign of Pregnancy?
Of course, there is a chance that your light period could signify ‘implantation bleeding’, which means that the egg has made its way down the fallopian tubes and is connecting itself to your uterus. If you notice your period is later than usual and you typically have a regular menstrual cycle, light bleeding may be a sign that you are pregnant.
If you think that you may be experiencing implantation bleeding, get a pregnancy test and wait 3-5 days (if you take it too soon, you may not get accurate results).
What Causes a Light Period? And Changes in your Menstrual Cycle?
There are a number of factors that can affect your menstrual cycle; some of the most common include the following:
1) Irregular Sleeping Patterns
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, Up to 7-10 women claim that their sleep patterns change along with their period (especially close to menstruation). Your body has a natural rhythm, a sleep-wake cycle. If that cycle is disrupted by bad sleeping patterns (eg. waking up multiple times a night), it disrupts your body’s natural flow of hormones. This ‘body clock’ controls how much of certain hormones are released at certain times. While asleep, these hormones are low. However, if you wake up multiple times a night, or don’t go to bed at all, these hormones are released in spurts at random. It throws your clock off-balance. One such hormone affected by irregular sleeping patterns is called melatonin, which has been shown to impact the menstrual cycle in animals.
Ensuring to get 6-8 hours of sleep a night is essential to physical health as well as menstrual health. If you are having trouble sleeping, this may be the cause of your spotting. Try getting on a better sleep schedule or, if you feel like you can’t sleep, see a doctor about insomnia.
2) Health Conditions
Interestingly enough, when you get sick right around the time Aunt Flow is supposed to come by, she’s suddenly nowhere to be found. In layman’s terms, this is because your body doesn’t think that you’re healthy enough for pregnancy. The hormones that assist in pregnancy are greatly lowered by your body when you get ill.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that every time you catch a cold right before your period, it won’t come. But if you have a chronic illness such as a heart disease, the reproductive system may become a low priority for the body, while it concentrates on more vital organs.
Stress plays many factors in the human body. It can do any number of things to a once healthy person if it goes on for too long. Now, it’s not fully understood just how stress negatively impacts our bodies natural function. However, studies show that stress does, in fact, have an impact. One particular theory is that when we are stressed we release a hormone called cortisol that can suppress the release of sex hormones. Estrogen builds the uterus up to bear a child. If there is a lack of Estrogen, there is less of a need to shed uterine lining. Coupled with the lack of other needed hormones for reproduction, this can cause light or irregular periods, and in severe cases amenorrhea (no period at all). Keeping your stress levels low can keep your periods regular and less painful.
4) Diet and Exercise
I’m sure that you’ve heard that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can cause the menstrual cycle to stop. This is because your diet and exercise both play an important role in the composition of hormones, so a restrictive diet can cause issues with hormone levels.
Equally, eating a vast amount of sugar and diets high in saturated fat coupled with limited physical activity can impact the menstrual cycle and cause more severe period symptoms such as heavy cramping. Eating too little can cause symptoms like dizziness, bloating, headaches, and even breast tenderness before the start of your period.
Eating balanced meals and healthy snacks throughout the day can help you to keep your menstrual cycle healthy and your symptoms less severe.
5) Vitamin E Deficiency
If you have a Vitamin E deficiency, you may experience more painful cramps while menstruating. Vitamin E produces chemicals which, in turn, reduce the levels of prolactin (the protein that assists in milk production for reproduction purposes). This makes the breasts less swollen and tender during menstruation. A deficiency in this vitamin could potentially cause painful periods, low blood-count, and impact your body’s ability to release certain hormones involved in the reproductive system.
If this might be the case, try taking Vitamin E supplements daily and eating foods rich in Vitamin E.
What Causes Spotting or Light Bleeding During a Pregnancy?
It is possible for some women to experience spotting during pregnancy, and this issue can be the result of various different things, which include:
Infection – Spotting can be one of the signs that you may have contracted a STD (sexually transmitted disease), which can result in inflammation and lead to minor bleeding.
Miscarriage – Spotting can be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. This is typically occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s essential to consult a medical professional immediately to get these conditions ruled out.
Sexual Intercourse – During intercourse there is increased blood flow to the cervix, which can result in light spotting for a short time afterwards.
Smears – Similar to intercourse, during as pap smear or similar vaginal examinations there is increased blood flow that can result in spotting.
More Serious issues – If spotting occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, it could indicate a more serious problem. This includes a miscarriage, placenta previa or a premature labor. Spotting or bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy, which can be a sign of placental issues is often associated with issues in later pregnancy.
Labor – When labor is fast approaching, the cervix naturally begins to dilate to prepare for the delivery. During this time its common for a mucus plug to be released that can be mistaken for blood. Typically, this is no reason to be alarmed; however, if you see more than a small amount of blood, you should seek medical help without hesitation.
To conclude, spotting can certainly be an indication that you may be pregnant, or it could well be a sign of an underlying health condition. If you are worried about your period then you should consult your doctor for medical advice.