Why You Might Be Spotting Between Your Menstrual Periods
What is Spotting Between Periods?
I know that you are nervous about the spotting you are seeing before or between your menstrual periods. Let’s just jump into discussing why this might be happening. Look through the list below to see what your problem might be.
A normal menstrual cycle occurs every 24 to 33 days. They usually last between about 2 – 7 days. Spotting is mild vaginal bleeding that occurs between your normal periods. It can be a pink or brown spot on your underwear or you might only see it on the toilet paper while wiping. Spotting can be a blood spot or two, or more, and can even sometimes look like a normal.
28 Reasons Spotting Between Periods Can Occur
1. Just started getting your period as a teenager
Irregular periods and even spotting are common occurrences when girls start their period. It can take a few years for your period to regulate into its normal rhythm. This is nothing to worry about but you should mention it to your gynecologist at your yearly visit.
2. Started or changed your birth control medicines
Spotting is a common side effect when women start or stop or switch birth control pills. Contraception drugs change the Estrogen levels in the body which could lead to spotting in between periods. It usually stops in 1 to 3 months as your body gets used to the new estrogen levels from the pills.
Spotting can also occur when women use an intrauterine device (IUD) as a birth control device. The IUD slowly releases hormones which will control your reproductive cycle. Spotting can occur for the first three to six months but it should stop after this.
3. The “morning after pill”
The morning after pill can be used if you had unprotected sex during your ovulation time but do not want to get pregnant. You must take it within 24 hours before a pregnancy can start. Sometimes it causes a light spotting. This type of spotting is completely normal. However, it is important to note that this spotting does not indicate that you are having your period. You can’t use this spotting to signify you are not pregnant.
4. Implantation Spotting
Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of your uterus. Tiny blood vessels can erupt and cause the woman to spot, The blood is usually pink or brown in color. Implantation spotting usually occurs between 5 to 10 days after ovulation. There could be mild cramping with this spotting. It is too early to check for pregnancy. You should wait until you miss your period before you use a pregnancy test
5. Ovulation Spotting
Some women spot at each time or nearly every time they ovulate. This is nothing to worry about. The blood is usually a pale pink color. The spotting can occur when the follicle matures and bursts out of the ovary which happens at ovulation. Some women will feel a mild pain at the same time. This is nothing to become alarmed by.
As you approach menopause, you may start to see pink or brown spotting or even light bleeding before your period. During this transitional time, your periods may be more irregular, sometimes heavier, and sometimes you may have occasional see spotting about a week before your period starts.
Ovulation occurs halfway between the first day of one period and the first day of the next period. When you are in perimenopause, your hormone levels may start to become irregular. This is completely normal. Once your periods have stopped for a full year you will be fully in menopause and you should not see another period.
If you do see bleeding after this time you must see your doctor immediately as this is not normal and can be a sign of a serious problem.
7. Vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness is a common cause of spotting between periods. It occurs when vaginal tissue is no longer moist and elastic and becomes irritated due to a decrease in estrogen. Women who are in perimenopause and menopause tend to experience vaginal dryness more often than women who are not. The ovaries are producing less estrogen during this time, which leads to a thinner vaginal tissue layer and less lubricating glands.
Younger women can also experience vaginal dryness that leads to spotting between periods after having a baby, or due to friction during sexual intercourse, hormone treatments, contraceptives and as a side effect from taking antidepressants medication. Alcohol can trigger vaginal dryness, too.
Stress can cause many imbalances in your body including spotting between period. Emotional stress (depression, anxiety, worry, insomnia) and physical stress (weight loss or gain, illness, poor diet, over exercising) can affect your menstrual cycle. This is because extreme stress can cause your body to release more of the hormone cortisol. This causes your body to release less estrogen and progesterone. This hormonal imbalance can change up your menstrual cycle. It can make them irregular or late, and cause spotting in between. While exercising is a good reliever of stress, over-exercising can also cause the period to stop or cause you to spot between periods.
9. Decline in Estrogen
1 out of 10 women experiences light spotting during ovulation because of a brief decline in their estrogen levels that happens when an egg is released from an ovary. This type of spotting usually occurs about 11 to 14 days before your next period. The decrease in estrogen causes women to see brown vaginal discharge or spotting. You can also have mild cramping and slight pain at this time.
10. Delayed Ovulation
If you ovulate later in your cycle, you may feel what is called mittelschmerz. Mittelschmerz is one-sided, lower abdominal pain that is associated with ovulation. The pain lasts from a few minutes to hours but can continue on-and-off for a few days. Aside from mild pain, mittelschmerz can cause mild vaginal bleeding, or spotting. Delayed ovulation can also mean you have a small cyst on the surface of your ovary. The egg must break through this cyst. The egg breaking through can cause a little vaginal spotting.
11. Delayed or Partial Period
During a normal period, the blood coming from the vagina consists of old blood, endometrial lining, and dead tissue. When you have a delayed or partial period, your monthly flushing does not complete and leaves a small amount of lining behind. This lining is left in the uterus for up to a month. When this tissue finally expels, it can leave behind a brownish or pinkish color spots of blood. This type of spotting is normal.
12. Inserted an object into your vagina
If you have just inserted something into your vagina (tampon, penis, etc), you could cause spotting. If you just had sex and your vagina isn’t lubricated enough, the friction can cause you to spot. You can also spot from having sex with a partner that has a large or thick penis, or if you have a small vaginal opening. Cervical bleeding can occur if you have deep penetration during sex. Inserting a tampon when you are too dry or too forcefully can also cause spotting.
In the first few months of your pregnancy, it is normal to experience spotting due to all the hormonal changes. If you think that you may be pregnant be sure to take a pregnancy test and consult your doctor. Your doctor can confirm the spotting is normal and not caused by an ectopic pregnancy.
14. Low Thyroid Levels
Hormonal imbalances are one of the primary reasons for vaginal spotting before your period. A slow thyroid (hypothyroidism) can create changes and imbalances in your metabolism and irregular periods but is rarely life threatening. Low thyroid hormones can also cause constant fatigue, irregular body temperature, significant weight gain, hair loss, and neck pain.
Your doctor should be consulted if you are experiencing these symptoms. This condition is treatable with medications.
15. After Pregnancy (including after an abortion)
Light spotting to heavy bleeding can occur for the first few weeks after childbirth or abortion. This happens because your uterus has not contracted to the pre-pregnancy size or because there is still remaining fetal tissue in your uterus. While this spotting can be normal, you should check with your doctor.
16. Drugs, such as anticoagulants
Anticoagulants (or “blood thinners”) are drugs that help prevent your blood from clotting or prevent existing clots from growing. These drugs help keep clots from forming in your heart, veins, or arteries. These drugs should only be taken if advised by your doctor. While anticoagulants help with clotting, one side effect is spotting before your period or bleeding more than normal on your period.
17. Cervical Erosion
Cervical erosion is when the cells from inside your cervical canal, or glandular cells, are present on the outer surface of your cervix. This is easily found if you get a cervical screening test, called a PAP smear test. The area appears red because glandular cells are red. You can be born with cervical erosion or develop it through hormonal changes. For many women, there are no problems associated with cervical erosion. However, for some, it can cause spotting as glandular cells bleed more easily and can create more cervical mucus.
18. Impending miscarriage
In the unfortunate case of an impending miscarriage, you might experience abdominal cramping and spotting. In many cases, spotting is the first sign of a miscarriage. This often occurs in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. You should see your OB/GYN.
19. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that interferes with normal ovulation and can cause abnormal bleeding, or spotting between periods. One out of every 10 women has PCOS. If you have PCOS, your ovaries are not getting the right hormonal signals from your pituitary gland and your androgen hormones are too high. You do not ovulate every month, which means you will not have a regular period each month. Spotting is common for women with PCOS. Ask your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms such as irregular periods, extra hair on your face and other parts of your body, acne, weight gain, and patches of dark skin on the back of your neck and other areas.
20. Inflammation or infection in your cervix (Cervicitis)
The symptoms are very similar to vaginitis, such as vaginal discharge, itching, pain with intercourse, and spotting. You can feel pain and burning when you urinate. Cervicitis can be caused by trauma, frequent douching, or exposure to chemical irritants. Cervicitis can also be caused by infections, such as certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The most common reason for cervicitis are sexually transmitted diseases. The best prevention method is using a condom during intercourse.
21. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
Most common types of STD’s that cause spotting are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Chlamydia, if not treated, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, and cause scar tissue to form in the Fallopian tubes which will cause infertility.
Chlamydia does not often cause symptoms so it is important to get tested every year if you are sexually active. Besides spotting between periods, chlamydia can also cause unusual vaginal discharge, burning while urinating, pain in your stomach, back pain, nausea, and pain during sex.
Gonorrhea is another common STD that can cause spotting between periods. If untreated it can lead to infertility and can spread to other parts of the body such as the blood, joints, heart, or even the brain.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea include yellow or vaginal discharge that may smell bad, a burning sensation while urinating, pain during sex, and spotting between periods. Gonorrhea can also be in other parts of your body, such as the throat and anus. Trichomoniasis and genital herpes can also cause cervicitis. To prevent any types of STDs, get regularly tested at your doctor or local clinic.
22. Ovarian Cyst
Spotting between periods can also be caused by ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are small sacs that develop in your ovaries and are filled with fluid. You may not know you have ovarian cysts until one ruptures. If one ruptures, you can experience lower pelvic pain, spotting, and severe discomfort. It is important to go immediately to the doctor if you are in extreme pain. Normally, doctors will wait and see if the cysts go away on their own. If they don’t, they can be surgically removed.
23. Uterine Fibroids
Uterine Fibroids are noncancerous growths in or on the uterus that can occur during your childbearing years. They can range in size from tiny growths that are almost undetectable to the human eye, to large growths that can alter and enlarge your uterus. You can also have more than just one fibroid at a time. It is common for women to have fibroids at some point in their life. As a matter of fact, 80% of women have fibroids.
Some women who experience uterine fibroids have symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, and constipation. Although uterine fibroids are not usually dangerous, they can cause pain and discomfort and can lead to anemia from heavy blood loss.
Uterine Polyps, or Endometrial Polyps, are noncancerous growths that are attached to the inner wall of the uterus that extend into the uterine cavity. Polyps form when there is an overgrowth of cells in the lining of the uterus. They are mainly found in women who are going through or have finished menopause, but it is possible for younger women to get polyps too.
They are usually noncancerous. However, some can be cancerous or turn into cancer. While polyps usually stay in the uterus, some can travel through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into the vagina. Symptoms for polyps include irregular menstrual bleeding, spotting before periods, vaginal bleeding after menopause, and infertility.
See your doctor if you have these symptoms.
Adenomyosis is a noncancerous growth that occurs when endometrial tissue exists within and grows into the muscular walls of your uterus. The endometrial tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds like it should in a normal menstrual cycle. However, an enlarged uterus can be painful and cause you to spot between periods and/or have heavy periods. We are not sure what causes Adenomyosis. It usually occurs after menopause.
26. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection in a woman’s reproductive organs. It is often caused by infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Sometimes IUDs and douches can cause it too. You are more likely to get PID if you have an STD and do not get treated, if you have more than one sex partner, if you have had PID before, or if you douche, or use an IUD.
PID is a serious concern that can affect the fertility in women. In fact, one out of eight women with PID have trouble getting pregnant. There are no tests for PID, and it might be hard to detect if you have it since the symptoms are mild.
The symptoms of PID include pain in lower abdomen, fever, unusual discharge and bad odor from your vagina, spotting between periods, bleeding during sex, and burning sensation when you urinate.
Please see a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Untreated PID can lead to the formation of scar tissue inside and outside the fallopian tubes leading to tubal blockage, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
27. Ectopic Pregnancy
In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg starts to grow in one of the tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy cannot end normally. The fertilized egg has no chance for survival, and the growing tissues might destroy the tube it is growing in. You can lose a lot of blood and it could be life-threatening for the mother.
In the beginning, an ectopic pregnancy might not show any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they are usually the same as any normal pregnancy, such as missed period, tenderness in the breasts, and nausea.
Spotting, light vaginal bleeding, and pain in your pelvis and abdomen are the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy.
See a doctor immediately if you are pregnant and experiencing severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis, vaginal bleeding, extreme lightheadedness, fainting, and shoulder pain.
Ectopic pregnancies can occur for a few reasons, including inflammation, infection, fertility issues, structural concerns in your body, contraceptives, and smoking.
28. Malignant Cancer
Spotting between periods can be a sign of malignant cancers, such as endometrial, ovarian, and cervical cancers.
Endometrial cancer is the most common of the gynecological cancers, and the most curable. It arises from the glandular tissue within the uterine lining. Unfortunately, most patients do not experience symptoms until the cancer has widely metastasized. Symptoms include fatigue, bloating, abdominal swelling, gastrointestinal issues such as gas, nausea, and indigestion, change in bowel movements, and vaginal spotting.
Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begin in the ovaries. Women with ovarian cancer have symptoms that are persistent and are abnormal for their bodies. Symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, abnormal spotting, or urinary symptoms.
Cervical cancer is detected through pap smear screenings and pelvic examinations. Vaginal spotting is the first type of symptom of the disease. Heavier vaginal bleeding, heavy vaginal discharge, and lower abdominal pain are other symptoms that occur.
For all of these cancers, early detection is key.
Patricia the Chinese fertility herbalist at Fertility Formulas will ask you to see your doctor before offering to address your health problems with Chinese herbs.
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Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician and that it should not be used for personal medical decision making