Changes in menstrual blood flow occurs from time to time and should not be an immediate cause for concern if it is temporary. Some periods may be lighter than others. But a missed periods may be more troubling, especially if it does not come a few days later or if a second and third periods is also missed. However, these changes are not always due to any disease. Sometimes the body responds to changes in diet and lifestyle which may cause alterations in the periods.
The question that many women have is when they should seek medical treatment. As a general rule, if you are in doubt then see your doctor immediately. However, you can wait till the next period if you have experienced one lighter than normal period provided that there are no other symptoms like severe pain, nausea and vomiting or dizziness.
A missed period can be slightly more tricky. A single missed period could be a sign of pregnancy even if no other symptoms like morning sickness are present. It can also be due to certain diseases which require immediate medical intervention. Remember that the problem may not always lie with the female reproductive organs. Sometimes a problem with the pituitary gland can lead to an missed period.
The medical terms for a very light period is oligomenorrhea. It is also the term used to described infrequent periods. A missed period is known as amenorrhea. Both can be symptoms of various diseases. Should your doctor adopt a wait and watch approach then there may be simple diet and lifestyle measures that could help in restoring a normal menstrual cycle. Some of these measures may require months to achieve but even in the early stages it can have some benefit.
Rule Out Pregnancy
This is the first and most important consideration when facing absent periods. But you can still have light vaginal bleeding and be pregnant. An implantation bleed is common in most women but regular spotting or light bleeding is a sign of a threatened abortion. A miscarriage if possible. Your doctor may then prescribe medication to help treat it and assist with a viable pregnancy.
Never take any medication, even home or herbal remedies, to initiate a period or increase menstrual flow until you first rule out pregnancy. You could harm the fetus and jeopardize the pregnancy. Many women are not aware of a pregnancy until they see a change in menstrual flow or other overt symptoms that can occur weeks or even a month or two after conception.
Get Regular Exercise
It may be surprising to discover that exercise can be beneficial for menstrual disturbances as well. But it can help to regulate and even restore ovulatory cycles. In fact in obese women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), exercise is among the lifestyle measures advised as a first line treatment even before medication is commenced. However, it is important to moderate your exercise regimen.
Firstly you need a clean bill from your doctor to commence with an exercise program, and step up the workouts gradually. Secondly you should be aware that very rigorous exercise can disturb your menstrual cycles and even cause it to stop. Get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, preferably in 5 sessions lasting 30 minutes each.
Eat Balanced Meals
Malnutrition is known to cause menstrual disturbances and it usually presents as very light periods or even missed periods. While starvation may not occur from economic issues in most developed nations, it can still occur with extreme dieting, eating disorders and strict fasting. In fact a low body weight for any reason can cause menstrual disturbances.
The key is to eat balanced meals. It is better to distribute your calorie intake throughout the waking day to minimize weight gain and keep your energy levels up. Your meals should contain appropriate portion sizes since eating too much can be just as detrimental as eating too little. A serving size guide can help you make the right decisions in foods and portions.
Take Nutritional Supplements
Nutritional supplements may be helpful in correcting or preventing deficiencies. These vitamin and mineral supplements need to be carefully selected for your specific needs. Ideally you should consult with a dietitian or nutritionist to discuss a balanced eating plan that can ensure sufficient micronutrients. Supplements are an adjunct to healthy eating habits.
Using multivitamin supplements when you are acquiring sufficient nutrition from food is a waste as the body excretes most of these excess micronutrients. A single vitamin or mineral can often be more useful. Some nutritional deficiencies like iron-deficiency anemia can lead to scanty menses despite being often caused by heavy periods. It requires higher dose iron supplements and vitamin C rather than a multivitamin alone.
Manage Stresses In Life
Both physical and psychological stress can affect the body in many ways and the menstrual cycles can also become disrupted. The modern life is often filled with psychological stresses in particular and most of us have accepted it as the norm. However, the effects on the body are ongoing and may not be initially noticed. But in time it has an accumulative effect.
Stress management is not always a simple process that can be done alone. It may often requires the assistance of trained professionals who can help you learn good coping skills to managed the stresses and strains of everyday life. Where possible these stresses should be removed or at the very least minimized. Relaxation techniques may also help in reducing some of the physiological effects of stress.
Reassess Your Medication
Certain medication can alter the menstrual blood flow. Oral contraceptives are known to change the menstrual cycle but it can be disrupted by other drugs as well. Cancer fighting agents, blood pressure medication, antidepressants and certain antipsychotics may also cause a light flow or missed period.
However, you should not stop any of these drugs unless your doctor says so. Speak to your doctor about any menstrual changes that may be a concern. If your light period or lack of a period is presenting with other symptoms like irritability, depression, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or breast tenderness then your doctor may change your medication rather than stopping it immediately.