Why do you have short menstrual cycles and what to do?
For centuries, the female menstrual cycle has been considered aligned with the lunar cycle: 28 days of cycle. However, many of us do not adhere to this ideal. While the average length of the menstrual cycle is between 24 and 34 days, many menstruating people see their menstrual cycles be shorter or longer. But is it normal to have short menstrual cycles? What are the consequences for health? In this article, we tell you everything about short menstrual cycles !
What is a short menstrual cycle?
A short menstrual cycle is a menstrual cycle whose duration is less than 24 days . We speak of polymenorrhea when it is less than 21 days old.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no healthy or normal length of a menstrual cycle . A majority of women have a menstrual cycle between 24 and 32 days, with an average of 28 days. But it can happen that the cycles have very different durations, which can be much shorter or much longer.
The menstrual cycle is a natural process that occurs every month in menstruating people. It is broken down into four phases. Within the framework of a short menstrual cycle of 21 days, the duration of the phases which compose it is distributed approximately as follows:
- 6 days for the follicular phase: the menstrual phase (periods) begins at the same time as the follicular phase. It is not because the menstrual cycle is short that the periods necessarily are;
- 1 day for ovulation
- 14 days for the luteal phase : this last phase is incompressible, whatever the length of your menstrual cycle, it lasts 14 days.
⚡The length of the menstrual cycle is not, in itself, synonymous with poor health or infertility. Many menstruating people have short cycles without this being a problem for them! Beyond the length of your menstrual cycle, it is interesting and important to take an interest in its sudden variations. The disruption of your menstrual cycle is a subject to be particularly monitored.
Why is my menstrual cycle short?
There are several possible reasons for a short menstrual cycle . As you will see, they can be completely benign (as linked to genetics or age) or more serious and require a gynecological consultation. In general, if your menstrual cycle is less than 21 days or if you notice a sudden change that shortens it, we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional .
The menstrual cycle can naturally vary. This is due to genetics, but also to the different periods of women's lives.
Heredity and genetics play a big role in the menstrual cycle. If your mother (your aunts, your grandmothers and/or your sisters) have very short cycles, it is not illogical that you too have short cycles. If you're comfortable with these issues in your family, don't hesitate to talk about it; you might be surprised to discover similarities in your PMS symptoms and the length of your menstrual cycles.
Whether at puberty, just after pregnancy or even before menopause, the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle are disrupted. The cycles surrounding these periods can thus be very short without being synonymous with poor health or infertility.
Hormonal imbalances, such as high levels of estrogen and progesterone, can lead to shorter menstrual cycles. These can be caused by different factors.
In stressful situations, the body generates different hormones to protect itself and better respond to the dangers posed to it. The result is a production of various hormones which necessarily influences the sexual hormones at the origin of the precise organization of menstrual cycles . Bereavement, moving, break-up, new encounter: if your cycles are shortened during these periods of life, it may be totally normal! Finding a peaceful daily life at these times can be difficult, if this is your case, help yourself with a few helping hands: relaxing CBD oils, anti-stress infusion from the super brand Mijane , comforting balm or directly our anti-stress routine who accompanies you through complicated days .
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder. It is quite common among menstruating people of childbearing age: 1 in 10 women suffer from it, with very different symptoms.
It is characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in the ovaries and can have other consequences such as very short cycles and hormonal imbalances leading to acne, increased hair growth (hirsutism) and hair loss.
If you are concerned by these pains, do not hesitate to take a look at our collection of products adapted to SPOK . You will find a soothing anti-pain body serum from Miyé , a soothing balm for period pain and oil from Nidéco, Not my problem.
Prolactin is a hormone which has the role of stimulating the mammary glands in order to enable breastfeeding following pregnancy. It has the particularity of slowing down the menstrual cycle in order to naturally prevent the brand new breastfeeding mother from becoming pregnant too quickly. However, if it is produced in too large quantities by the body outside of breastfeeding, it can cause cycle disruption and lead to short menstrual cycles .
The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that produces hormones essential for regulating metabolism, growth and development. It also influences sex hormones. Thyroid dysfunction can lead to very short menstrual cycles .
Other health issues
Apart from hormonal imbalances, other health problems can cause shortened menstrual cycles.
Endometriosis is a disease that affects around 10% of women. It is characterized by dysfunction of the endometrium, also called uterine lining. Due to endometriosis, the latter does not develop only in the uterus, during the luteal phase, but is exported outside the uterus to agglomerate in the organs all around, causing lesions. In addition to significant menstrual pain , endometriosis causes abnormalities in the menstrual cycle, which are often illustrated by short cycles or bleeding between periods.
Fibroids are benign tumors that occur on the uterus and female genitalia. They can be painful to the touch and, depending on their location, impact your menstrual cycle by making it longer or shorter. Surgery is required to remove them.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two sexually transmitted diseases that have the effect of shortening the length of menstrual cycles. They can also cause unusual bleeding between periods.
Why are my menstrual cycles getting shorter and shorter?
An increasingly shorter menstrual cycle may be due to a shortening of the follicular (pre-ovulatory) phase or a shortening of the luteal (post-ovulatory) phase.
Shortening of the follicular period
In the menstrual cycle, the follicular phase corresponds to the phase during which the egg matures in the ovaries before being released (this is ovulation). In an average 28-day cycle, this phase usually lasts 14 days. In a short 21-day cycle, the follicular phase lasts only 6 days .
If the cycle is accompanied by ovulation , a shortening of the follicular phase may be natural and does not require treatment. In this case, you can calculate your fertile window by subtracting 14 days, the length of the luteal phase, from the number of days in your cycle. For a 22-day cycle, your ovulation will occur 8 days after the appearance of your period: 22 days (cycle length) – 14 days (luteal phase length) = 8 days.
However, greater follicular shortening (if your cycle is less than 21 days) can be a sign of a health problem or absence of ovulation . The latter is the most common cause of female infertility and requires medical consultation – especially if you plan to give birth. Your gynecologist will prescribe additional examinations. The causes can be diverse and multiple (PCOS, endometriosis, hyperprolactinemia, etc.). If no medical problem is detected, the ovulation disorder can be treated by administering hormones.
Shortening of the post-ovulatory period
In the menstrual cycle, the post-ovulatory phase, also called the luteal phase, corresponds to the phase during which the body prepares to welcome the fertilized egg for pregnancy. Whether the cycle is long or short, the luteal phase lasts 14 days. It's not supposed to be any shorter, even if your cycle is only 21 days long.
Also, a shortening of the luteal phase shows that the body is not in the best conditions to accommodate a pregnancy and thus reflects a lack of progesterone production by the ovary. Furthermore, implantation of the fertilized egg takes place between the sixth day and the tenth day following fertilization, a luteal phase that is too short can cause it to fail: the egg does not have time to migrate until the uterus and implant on the uterine wall before the arrival of a new cycle. In other words, if you are planning to have a child, you should consult a gynecologist. If no medical problems are detected, progesterone deficiency can be treated by administering hormones.
How to know which period is shortened within the framework of a short cycle?
Is it your follicular period that is shortened or your luteal period in your short menstrual cycle? To find out, there are two solutions:
- Follow the signs of your ovulation: all women are different but some may feel a little pinch (like a mini menstrual cramp) at the time of ovulation. Even more, you can observe your vaginal discharge, the appearance of which changes during ovulation (it becomes more slippery and translucent to encourage the movement of sperm to the egg). You can use a menstrual cycle tracker app to record the signs and your ovulation .
- Follow the basal temperature curve : if it is difficult for you to follow the signs of your ovulation, you can also measure your body's basal temperature. During ovulation, the body temperature increases by a few degrees, allowing it to loosen. This method will also allow you to know if your cycles are ovulatory or anovulatory. You will need a basal thermometer to accomplish this monitoring.
Whatever your situation, if your cycles seem short and this worries you, you can speak to your healthcare practitioner. He will carry out additional examinations if necessary and, in the context of a baby project, he will be able to offer you solutions to give you more chances of carrying out your project.
Let’s lift the veil on the myths around short cycles
What if we started by reassuring you? Short cycles (like long menstrual cycles ) are surrounded by myths and beliefs that we believe are important to debunk. The goal ? Reassure you and help you better understand your body!
Myth #1: Short cycles are abnormal
No, short cycles are not abnormal.
If the average length of menstrual cycles is 28 days, it is important to remember that this is... an average. Some women report cycles lasting 17 to 39 days without this being problematic from a health or fertility point of view!
In general, we recommend that you consult if your cycles are:
- Less than 21 days: below this duration, we speak of polymenorrhea and this can be an indicator of a health problem.
- Handicapping: very short cycles, associated with very long periods (these two elements are not linked), can be disabling. You can lengthen your cycles artificially by using, for example, hormonal contraception to avoid suffering from them on a daily basis.
Myth #2: Short cycles mean early menopause
It seems that this myth is true.
American researchers published, in 2022, a study carried out on 634 women (link in English), showing that women with cycles of less than 25 days would have a greater chance of developing early menopause (i.e. from the age of 40 years).
This can be explained by the fact that the number of eggs would be limited and that women with a shorter menstrual cycle deliver, over a shorter period, more eggs than women with a longer menstrual cycle.
However, it is not the only cause of early menopause. Thus, a study published in March 2022 in the same journal (link in English) showed that exposure to sexual abuse during childhood was associated with an earlier menopausal transition.
Myth #3: Women who have short cycles cannot get pregnant
False: women who have short cycles can totally get pregnant.
We saw it a little further in this article: the causes of short cycles are numerous. Some are completely benign (heredity or age) and do not hinder fertility in any way while others are linked to health problems and can lead to infertility (anovulation, progesterone deficiency, etc.).
Myth #4: Short cycles are always linked to health problems
False: short cycles are not always linked to health problems.
Again, we mentioned this a little earlier in this article. While health conditions can indeed cause short cycles (PCOS, STDs, endometriosis), it is totally possible to have a naturally short cycle. Because the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, many women have a cycle shorter than this length!
Unless your cycle is shorter than 21 days, the length of the menstrual cycle is not the only indicator you should use to judge your health. The regularity of your cycles and even more so their sudden changes are also important to follow.
Do they have an impact on my fertility and my health?
Having short cycles does not necessarily impact your fertility or health. As we mentioned previously: everything will depend on the reasons why you have short cycles.
If health conditions can indeed lead to short cycles (PCOS, STDs, endometriosis) and have an impact on your fertility in the long term (PCOS and endometriosis are thus causes of infertility), it is possible that your cycle is naturally short. This, without it having an impact on your fertility and your health.
In general, we can only recommend that you follow your menstrual cycles over a few months and talk to a health professional to get their feedback and answers. You will also find, a little later in this article, our recommendations!
Is it possible to return to a “normal” cycle?
When it comes to the menstrual cycle, there is no such thing as a normal cycle. While the average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, many women have shorter and longer cycles without impacting their fertility and health. It is therefore not necessarily necessary or desirable to find a “normal”, longer cycle.
That being said, it is possible to regain a longer cycle, either completely naturally, artificially, or by treating the condition that causes short cycles.
Finding a “normal” cycle naturally
Menstrual cycles can regularly change, as can menstruation. In duration, frequency, associated symptoms. Life events and hormones play a huge role in these fluctuations. This is why it is completely possible to regain a longer menstrual cycle naturally:
- After puberty
- After taking hormonal contraception
- Following a pregnancy
Finding a “normal” cycle artificially
You have had short cycles for a long time and the doctors you consult agree that this is your natural cycle and that everything is fine.
While this is great news, it can also be heavy. A short cycle, especially if it is accompanied by long periods, can be complicated to live with: perhaps you have the feeling of “having your period all the time”. And it's even more difficult if you suffer from a bit of nasty PMS...
To have longer cycles, it is for example possible to use hormonal contraception, such as the pill or the hormonal IUD. These will allow you to artificially adjust your body to a 28-day cycle. We recommend that you seek advice from your treating physician to find a solution that will suit you and your problem.
Treat the health problems associated with short cycles
If your short cycles caused you to see a doctor and they diagnosed you with a specific illness or disorder, treating the cause of the short cycles may lead you to return to longer cycles.
Note, however, that this will not necessarily be the case: your body and your hormones, disturbed by what they have experienced, will adapt and establish a new balance. Your menstrual cycle may be longer but may also remain the same length as before. More than the length of your cycle, the main thing is that you are in good health.
6 questions to ask yourself before seeing a gynecologist
Before consulting a specialist for your short cycles, here are 6 questions you should ask yourself. This will allow you to reassure yourself and know what topics to discuss with him, if necessary.
1. Have your cycles always been short?
If your cycles have always been shorter than average, this may just be normal for you. However, if you notice a sudden change in the length of your cycles, it may be a sign of an underlying problem!
2. Do you have any other symptoms?
Severe abdominal pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, sudden weight changes, severe acne, excessive facial or body hair, fatigue, or mood changes may be signs of hormonal imbalance or other health problems.
3. Are you trying to conceive?
If you're trying to conceive and have short menstrual cycles, this can make predicting ovulation more difficult, which can make conception more complex.
4. Are your short menstrual cycles accompanied by stress or discomfort?
If your short cycles are causing you stress or discomfort, it's worth seeing a healthcare professional to discuss your options and see if there are ways to manage these symptoms.
5. Are your periods very close together?
If your periods occur every two weeks or less, it may be a sign of a health problem, such as thyroid disease or a problem with the uterus.
6. Are you over 40?
If you are in perimenopause (the period before menopause), this may cause changes to your menstrual cycle, including shortening.
If the answer to one or more of these questions is "yes", it would be best to see a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms and determine if there is any cause for concern. Remember, although the symptoms can be stressful, there are many treatment and management options to help normalize your cycle and reduce discomfort!
Living well with short cycles, advice from our experts
Questions/answers from our community
Do you still have questions following this article? Do not hesitate to send them to us by email or by private message on Instagram. We in no way wish to replace your doctor but these questions/answers may help other women find solutions and answers to their questions!
Is it serious to have your period early?
Generally, no. The menstrual cycle is a process influenced by many elements and the slightest grain of sand can jam the machine! Having your period early, during a menstrual cycle, is in no way something that should worry you. A bout of stress or a trip alone can explain why your period comes early!
However, you should consider consulting if you notice that your cycles are gradually shortening and particularly if their duration is reduced to less than 21 days. As we mentioned in this article, this can be a sign of an illness or disorder and getting feedback from a doctor will be useful.
Are short cycles a sign of premenopause?
Short cycles can actually be a sign of premenopause. Estrogen decreases in the body and this depletion can lead to difficulty ovulating and shorter cycles. If you notice that your cycles are shortening, even though you are over 40, it is likely that you are in premenopause: consult a healthcare professional to find out more.
Why do I bleed 2 weeks after my period? // Why do I have my period every 15 days?
You have had your period and while you thought you would be “peaceful” for the next three weeks, you find yourself having your period again much sooner than expected…
The first thing to determine is: is it really your period? It can happen to have bleeding between periods – this is called “metrorrhagia”. There are several causes for this bleeding but most often it is due to hormonal contraception, sexually transmitted diseases or hormonal imbalances.
If this is indeed your period, it is possible that your menstrual cycle was particularly short. This can happen occasionally, due to stress, taking medication or even a trip that contributed to triggering your period more quickly. It is also possible that your menstrual cycle has suddenly shortened. In this second case, it may be interesting to follow the evolution of your menstrual cycle over several months to check what is happening. If it turns out that you actually have your period every two weeks, you will need to see a gynecologist for answers.
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