Short periods can occur for a variety of reasons. There may not be a specific cause, but it could signal that a person needs to see a doctor.

A typical period lasts anywhere from 2–7 days. Periods that are shorter than this may signal a health issue.

Sometimes, a short period is not a period at all, but brief spotting. This may be a sign of pregnancy, a cycle during which the person did not ovulate, or other issues.

In this article, we look at the potential causes of a short period, and when a person should see a doctor.

a woman looking pensive as she is wondering who she is having a short periodShare on Pinterest
A person may mistake a short period for brief spotting.

Each period can vary in length. A person’s period may be shorter or longer than that of their friends or relatives.

If a period lasts around 2 days, doctors consider it normal.

However, if a person’s period stops suddenly, or they experience intense pain, they may need to see a doctor.

Many women bleed during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 15–25% of pregnant women bleed during the first trimester. Spotting can also occur 1–2 weeks after fertilization has occurred.

Shorter bleeding may be a sign of pregnancy if:

  • It occurs midway between ovulation and when a person expects their period. This may signal implantation bleeding.
  • It occurs around the time a person expects their period. This could be early pregnancy spotting or delayed implantation bleeding.
  • It occurs after a delayed or missed period. This may be early pregnancy spotting or an early pregnancy loss.

Although bleeding can be normal during pregnancy, it can also be a sign of pregnancy loss.

If a person feels that they may be pregnant or experiencing a pregnancy loss, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.

When a person reaches the age of 30–50 years old, they may start to experience perimenopause.

In these years before menopause, many people notice that their periods change.

They might have shorter or less frequent cycles. They may also skip periods.

Other symptoms may include:

An anovulatory cycle is when the ovaries do not release an egg. Anovulation typically occurs among those who are approaching menopause.

When a person does not ovulate, their period can become irregular.

Other symptoms may include:

According to the Office on Women’s Health, PCOS is a hormone imbalance that 1 in 10 women of childbearing age will experience. It is also a common cause of infertility.

It can stop ovulation or change the length of a female’s periods.

Symptoms may include:

  • irregular menstrual periods
  • infertility
  • excess hair growth
  • obesity
  • oily skin
  • fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries

To treat PCOS, a person can take medications, including hormonal birth control, anti-androgen medicines, and metformin.

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to the tissue that grows inside the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus.

The tissue typically grows on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, or the tissues that hold the uterus in place. It can also grow in the vagina, bowels, bladder, rectum, and cervix.

Rarely, this tissue can also grow in the lungs, skin, and brain.

Endometriosis often causes bleeding or spotting between periods, so some people may think they are experiencing a short period.

Other symptoms include:

  • digestive problems
  • pain
  • infertility

Treatment typically includes surgery or hormonal birth control.

If a person is experiencing vaginal bleeding that is abnormal for them, they should see a doctor.

A person should also see a doctor if:

  • their cycle suddenly becomes much shorter
  • they experience other symptoms, such as painful bleeding
  • they suspect that they are infertile
  • they believe that they are not ovulating
  • they experience bleeding after a positive pregnancy test
  • they want to get pregnant but have irregular periods or symptoms of PCOS.

Many factors can affect the length of a person’s period.

A short period may be an anomaly. However, for women who are trying to get pregnant, changes in the menstrual cycle may be a sign of fertility issues.

Short periods can be normal. However, if a person is concerned, they should see a doctor who can help with identifying why a person’s period is short, and whether they need additional treatment.