The average menstrual cycle lasts between two and seven days. A cycle that lasts at least two days is considered medically normal and each person’s cycle is unique. There are times that brief spotting can occur, which isn’t an actual period and can reveal that ovulation didn’t happen. If the length of your period changes to a shorter duration, there are a variety of reasons including:
Perimenopause: Usually occurring in women in the decade prior to menopause, women can notice changes in their cycles, especially shorter or less frequent cycles. Other symptoms include skipping periods, night sweats, vaginal dryness, interrupted sleep and hot flashes.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This hormone imbalance impacts almost 10% of women who are of childbearing years. PCOS can stop a woman’s ovulation or alter the duration of a menstrual cycle. Symptoms of this condition can include infertility, excess hair growth, irregular periods and oily skin. There are treatments that include taking hormonal birth control.
Breastfeeding: Delaying ovulation for as long as 18 months while breastfeeding, the body suppresses ovulation hormones by producing alpha-lactalbumin, lactose synthesis and prolactin. Generally, a normal cycle returns when breastfeeding stops, but it may be shorter than normal due to fluctuating hormones.
Endometriosis: This occurs when tissue that is like the uterine tissue grows on the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, vagina, bowels, bladder and beyond. It often causes spotting or bleeding between periods, so it is often thought of as a short period. Digestive problems, pain and infertility can be other symptoms of endometriosis.
Birth Control Changes: If you have switched methods of birth control, it could impact your cycle. Hormonal differences in types of birth control could impact the length of a period, like when you take the pill. If you’re using the hormonal IUD, it may lighten the flow or stop a period completely.
Uterine Scarring: A rare condition known as Asherman syndrome can result in shorter cycles. Scarring in the uterus due to multiple dilation and curettage procedures results in short cycles because only the non-scarred areas of the uterus will be capable of bleeding. This condition is diagnosed by hysteroscopy and the scars could be removed surgically to return the flow to normal and improve conception.
Thyroid Disorder: Regulated in the pituitary-hypothalamus axis of the brain, the thyroid gland is in the area that regulates menstruation and ovulation. If one area of the axis is impacted, the others may be as well. Overactive and underactive thyroid issues are easily diagnosed via testing and impact both your overall health and fertility.
Pregnancy: Bleeding during the first trimester is not uncommon, although should be checked out. It could be mistaken for a shorter cycle if it occurs midway between ovulation and when a period is expected, otherwise known as implantation bleeding.
Anovulatory Cycle: Simply known as when the ovaries do not release an egg. It most usually happens in women approaching menopause. If you do not ovulate, your period can become irregular. Symptoms include fever, chills, pelvic pain and bladder dysfunction.
Call (631) 638-4600 to make an appointment if you have pain, if your cycle suddenly becomes shorter, or if you are trying to get pregnant as changes in the menstrual cycle can be a sign of fertility issues.