Six possible reasons why your menstrual cycle is getting shorter

Some people have a menstrual cycle of 28 days, while others, have a cycle of 35 days. There is no ‘normal’; each body is unique and has its own menstrual cycle. However, it is noteworthy your cycle can suddenly become shorter than usual. How can this happen?

Possible reasons why your menstruation is shorter

Your menstrual cycle consists of four phases. Firstly, there’s the menstrual phase, the time of the month when you bleed. Then there’s the follicular phase, which starts during your menstruation (so there’s an overlap) and lasts about two weeks until your ovaries release a new egg. In the follicular phase, your brain produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which causes the egg-containing follicles in the ovaries to mature. Next is the ovulatory phase, where ovulation, or the release of the egg, takes place. Finally, there’s the luteal phase, during which oestrogen and testosterone levels in your body begin to decrease, while progesterone levels rise.

We often learn that a menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but this is not the case for everyone. A typical cycle can range between 21 and 45 days. If your cycle is consistently 21 days, there’s nothing to worry about. But if your cycle normally lasts 40 days and has suddenly become 25 days or you usually bleed for five days and suddenly only for two, that is quite noticeable. According to gynaecologists, this can have various causes.

You exercise a lot:

In most cases, exercise has ‘no significant impact on the menstrual cycle,’ says gynaecologist Jennifer Lew. However, if you engage in a lot of intense exercise, it can indeed disrupt your menstrual cycle. This can result in shorter or even absent menstruation. Intensive exercise affects your hypothalamus-pituitary axis, a hormone feedback system involving your brain and ovaries. “The hypothalamus regulates your cycle. When you train at a very intense level, your body may think it’s not a good time for reproduction and disturb your ovulation,” explains gynaecologist Christine Greves.

As a result, you might ‘build up uterine lining but not get the signal to shed it due to a lack of conception,’ says gynaecologist Wendie Trubow. Additionally, intense exercise can also suppress oestrogen levels. “This can lead to shorter menstruations because a woman doesn’t build up enough uterine lining and therefore bleeds less, and often for a shorter duration.”

You are under a lot of stress:

Several studies have shown that stress can affect the menstrual cycle. “Extreme stress can affect the cycle by interrupting ovulation or delaying ovulation,” explains Lew. This is largely related to the hormone cortisol. “When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol. Depending on how your body handles stress, cortisol can result in lighter or shorter menstruation—or sometimes no menstruation at all,” says gynaecologist Swapna Kollikonda at Cleveland Clinic.

You are breastfeeding:

It can take weeks or even months for your menstruation to resume after giving birth, says Greves. Breastfeeding can also play a role. “Breastfeeding affects your hormones and ovulation—your hormones are not entirely normal during this time,” explains the gynaecologist. She mentions that the hormone prolactin instructs the glands in your breasts to produce milk. However, this hormone can also lead to shorter and lighter menstruations or even completely suppress them.

You are taking new medication:

Medications naturally have various side effects. Some medications, such as hormonal contraceptives, hormonal intrauterine devices, thyroid medications, antidepressants, and medications for epilepsy, may cause a shorter menstruation, says Greves. However, not everyone experiences these side effects. “A lot depends on how your body reacts to the medication,” she says.

You are in perimenopause:

Perimenopause simply means the years leading up to menopause. If you’re in your forties, your ovaries begin to slow down their production of oestrogen, explains Greves. This can result in a shorter and lighter menstruation. According to Lew, it can also lead to longer intervals between your menstruations.

No proper ovulation

According to Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Mary Jane Minkin, the primary reason for a shorter cycle is poor ovulation. “When we ovulate—around the middle of the menstrual cycle—the ovary transforms the follicle (the area from which we ovulate) into a producer of progesterone. Progesterone transforms the lining of the uterus into an area where a fertilised egg would want to implant,” she explains.

If there’s no fertilised egg, the follicle that produces progesterone dies. Then, progesterone levels drop, and you get your period. “Anything that leads to poor ovulation leads to less progesterone and, therefore, a shorter menstrual cycle,” says Minkin. Just like with shorter menstruations, this can happen with age, after having a baby, and/or while breastfeeding, Minkin points out.

“If you have a short cycle once, I would ignore it,” says the professor. “But if it keeps happening, a check-in with your general practitioner or gynaecologist might be worth it.”


This article was syndicated from Marie Claire Netherlands

Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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