What Is Vaginal Spotting: Understanding Bleeding That Occurs Outside The Menstrual Cycle
Vaginal spotting is any bleeding outside of the period window, also called metrorrhagia or abnormal uterine/vaginal bleeding in medical terms.
Vaginal spotting is any bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle amongst people in the reproductive age group. Menstruation or periods occur every 24-38 days when the uterus sheds its lining. Period bleeding lasts for a few days or up to a week. But any bleeding outside of the period window is popularly known as vaginal spotting. In medical terms, vaginal spotting is also called metrorrhagia falling under the category of abnormal vaginal/ uterine bleeding.
Studies have shown that up to one-third of women experience abnormal uterine bleeding in their life, with such deviations most commonly occurring at menarche and perimenopause . Abnormal vaginal bleeding can sometimes be acute or chronic in nature.
Rather than a medical concern in itself, vaginal spotting may also be a symptom with various possible causes. The amount of blood and the type depends on the condition and age of the person. For some, it may be a few droplets while for some others, it may be a little heavier.
Causes of vaginal spotting
Premenarchal age: Some spotting may be seen before the first menstruation, which is common and harmless. Other causes may be foreign body induced irritability, infection, sexual abuse, precocious puberty, trauma, neoplasm, etc.
You Have A Decline In Estrogen
One out of ten women experience light spotting during ovulation in their menstrual cycle because of a brief that happens when an egg is released from an ovary. This type of spotting usually occurs about ten to fourteen days before your next period. Spotting can also occur due to reduction of the level of estrogen which usually precedes ovulation. This type of spotting occurs due to alteration of the amount of estrogen that is stimulating the endometrium. The decline in estrogen causes women to experience brown vaginal discharge, or spotting. They can also experience cramping and slight pain.
Infections And Vaginal Bleeding
Spotting can be caused by an infection in the reproductive organs. If this is the cause of your spotting between periods, it will likely be accompanied by a fever, pelvic pain which gets worse during sex, and foul-smelling vaginal discharge. This type of infection is caused when bacteria makes its way up the vagina and into the uterus or fallopian tubes. This usually occurs during menstruation, but it can also happen at other times during the month. If you suspect that you have any sort of infection, you should consult with a doctor for treatment.
The following types of infections can also cause spotting:
There are four key signals to differentiate between implantation bleeding and your period:
- Color: Implantation bleeding tends to range from light pink to dark brown, as compared to the bright red of a period.
- Clotting: There are no clots with implantation bleeding, while menstrual blood may contain clots in a variety of sizes.
- Time: Implantation bleeding can last anywhere from a few hours to three days, unlike a period which typically lasts from 3-7 days.
- Amount: Implantation bleeding is a very small amount that does not require a tampon or pad. It can be intermittent or a constant flow, but it will be very light and not easily mistaken for the flow of a menstrual cycle.
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You Recently Started A New Birth Control Pill
Spotting during the first three months after going on a new birth control pill is considered fairly normal, Dr. Moritz says. It may take three months for your body to get used to the medicine and the lining of your uterus to adjust to it.
Spotting can also occur when you switch from a brand name to a generic, Dr. Moritz says. Some gynecologists think that generics may not perfectly match brand-name formulations and that the slight difference may be enough to cause breakthrough bleeding. The United States Food and Drug Administration says all generic drugs work the same as their brand-name counterparts but allow for a slight, natural variability that wont change the main function of the drug. If after three months on a new pill youre still spotting, or you suddenly start spotting on a pill youve taken for longer than that, ask your ob-gyn about switching medications if its really bothering you.
Diagnosis Of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
To discover why you are spotting, your medical personnel may conduct a number of tests which includes the following:
- General examination
- Examination of your medical history
- Examination of your menstrual history
- Physical examination
- Carrying out Pap test and blood tests
- Vaginal ultrasound
- Endometrial biopsy.
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Youre Pregnant And Have A Subchorionic Hematoma
A subchorionic hematoma is essentially a blood clot that can occur when the outermost membrane surrounding the embryo separates a little from the uterine wall, allowing some blood to pool in that space between the two. Sometimes that blood flows out of the vagina, but sometimes it doesnt. In any case, its painless and very common, Dr. Moritz says. These usually arent a major cause for concern, and research isnt really conclusive about whether or not subchorionic hematomas definitively increase a persons risk of miscarriage or how factors like the size of the hematoma and when it occurs may influence that risk.
When To See A Doctor
You should see your doctor if you have unexplained spotting between your periods. Although it may be nothing to worry about or go away on its own, it could also be a sign of something more serious. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you dont already have a doctor.
Try to record exactly when your spotting occurs and any other symptoms you have so you can share this information with your doctor.
You should see your doctor right away if the spotting is accompanied by:
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You’re Dealing With Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are benign growths that appear in or close to the uterus, as Women’s Health reported previously. When women visit their gyno and end up discovering they have fibroids, it often has to do with the fact that they were experiencing abnormal bleeding and heavy periods that last longer than a week.
Fibroids tend to bring on other symptoms in addition to abnormal bleeding. Those may include pelvic pain or pressure, constipation, the need to pee frequently, and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. So if you have bleeding when your period should not be happening, not to mention any of these other symptoms, see your MD. You can get diagnosed via an ultrasound and lab tests.
You Have A 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 remaining tissue finally expels, it leaves behind a brownish or pinkish color, or spotting. Again, while you may be alarmed and confused, this type of spotting is normal.
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You Are Taking Certain Drugs Such As Anticoagulants
Anticoagulants 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.
Also medications like phenothiazides, which are antipsychotic tranquilizers and tricyclic antidepressants which affect serotonin uptake can as well result to spotting. Spotting is also common in women who are taking corticosteroids medications. Taking blood thinning medications like Heparin, Warfarin or Aspirin also result to spotting.
Spotting More Than A Week Before Your Period
If spotting occurs more than a week before your period is due to arrive, it is unlikely to mean that your period has arrived early . Unless it happens regularly during each cycle, spotting in the middle of your cycle may indicate an abnormal cause. This type of spotting can be caused by ovulation, which is more likely if it occurs at the same point during each cycle hormonal birth control or, less likely, another more serious health condition.
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Should You See A Doctor
Although most people with menstrual cycles spot at some point in their lives, there are instances when you should see your healthcare provider about spotting. Ask yourself these questions, and if the answer is yes, make an appointment to see your gynecologist or other healthcare professional:
- Am I having vaginal bleeding when I don’t expect it? Although spotting can be normal, it’s important to have any unusual bleeding checked out by a physician.
- Have I been skipping periods or bleeding less than usual?
- Am I or could I be pregnant? Spotting can be normal early in pregnancy, but it should be checked.
- Am I having spotting or bleeding after menopause? Menopausal women should not have vaginal bleeding.
- Am I noticing spotting or bleeding after sex? It may be an infection, which needs medical treatment.
In general, anything out of the ordinary with your vaginal spotting or bleeding means it’s worth contacting your healthcare provider.
Is Spotting Before Your Period Normal
Although spotting is a very common occurrence, it can still be worrying for many people. Particularly if youre used to having a regular period, it can be a bit of a shock to find a small amount of blood in your underwear.
But before you start to worry, just remember that most cases of spotting are completely normal, harmless, and wont require any further investigations or treatment. If you do need to visit a health care provider, seeking expert advice as soon as possible will make sure you get to the bottom of the issue and receive treatment if necessary.
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Why Am I Spotting Before My Period
Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test the first and only FDA-cleared test to check for successful ovulation at home.
While spotting before a period is common, it may actually be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or other condition.
Ah, periods. We all get them and, for some of us, theyre no big deal. But others may experience unwanted symptoms, such as premenstrual syndrome , cramping, and spotting.
While spotting before a period is common , it may actually be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or other condition. Ever wonder why youre spotting before your period? Keep reading to learn more!
What Is Normal Discharge
It is normal for the body to begin producing discharge at puberty. Discharge plays a role in keeping the genitals clean and healthy by removing dead skin cells found in the lining of the vagina. It is made up mostly of water but also contains microorganisms.
Discharge will change throughout the menstrual cycle. It can vary based on ovulation, sexual activity, menstrual flow, and the use of birth control.
Normal discharge is typically:
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Changes In Hormone Levels
A common cause of spotting before or between periods is changes in hormone levels. Womens cycles are ruled by hormones and any sudden fluctuations in those hormone levels can cause unexpected bleeding or spotting.
Among the reasons for hormonal changesmany of which are entirely benignis the use of hormonal birth control. If you have recently started a new birth control pill or other hormonal birth control it may take a few months for your body to adjust. The changing levels of hormones can cause spotting for a week or a few days. Failing to take your pill at the same time every day may also lead to spotting.
Many women report spotting during ovulation, which is attributable to the changes in estrogen levels at that time of the month. Just before ovulation , levels of estrogen rise. Once the egg is released, estrogen decreases as progesterone increases. It is this shift in balance between the two hormones that can cause ovulation spotting. For some women who are trying to conceive, this can be a useful sign to help them know when ovulation is occurring.
A Condition Could Be Messing With Your Hormones
A stressful week at work, or gaining or losing a few pounds, could disrupt your hormone levels enough to cause spotting. But there are also underlying health issues that can mess with your cycle, says Dr. Andrews, including thyroid disorders and polycystic ovary syndrome . Both conditions can cause irregular periods and spotting.
Thyroid disorders can be treated with synthetic hormones. If youre diagnosed with PCOS, your doc may prescribe lifestyle changes and hormone-regulating medications to help reduce symptoms and prevent complications.
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You Changed Your Birth Control
Quick refresher: Your menstrual cycle is driven by fluctuating hormone levels. A rise in progesterone helps thicken the lining of your uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg. If you dont conceive, your progesterone levels drop, and your uterus sheds its lining .
Changing the type of hormonal birth control you use can temporarily alter your progesterone levels, says Dr. Andrews, which could lead to spotting. As your system gets used to your new contraception, the spotting should stop. Your body is readjusting and re-acclimating, she says.
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You May Have A Malignant Cancer
Spotting can be a sign of malignant cancers, such as endometrial, ovarian, and cervical cancers. Endometrial cancer is the most common of the gynecological malignancies, 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 report 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 smears 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. Routinely go in for frequent checks and talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms.
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