Minor bleeding from the vagina is often referred to as spotting. Light bleeding or spotting usually lasts for a day or two. When you experience light spotting before your menstruation you may be ovulating or it may be your fertilized egg being implanted in the uterus. According to experts, this is a normal occurrence. Furthermore, women who use birth control also experience spotting, as well as adolescents who are just beginning to menstruate. However, doctors warn that low hormonal levels, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and cancer may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding that requires medical attention.
What is Spotting?
A normal menstrual cycle occurs every 28 days and menstrual bleeding usually lasts for about 4-7 days. However, it is not unusual to find women whose entire menstrual cycle is longer or shorter than the usual 28 days, and for their period to last eight days.
It may be considered spotting if you experience vaginal bleeding after your menstrual period and before your next period. You may not notice the mild bleeding, which may appear as a pink spot in your underwear or toilet paper. Alternatively, you may notice a blood spot or two; if bleeding is heavier, the flow may resemble your menstrual period.
Types of Vaginal Discharge
Normal vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle. A clear or white discharge is normal on the days before your menstruation and it helps lubricate your tissues. However, changes in your vaginal discharge may be due to a vaginal infection or irritation. These may be yellowish or greenish and may smell unpleasant. If it is blood tinged, it is also considered to be spotting, but the cause is an infection or irritation, not menstrual bleeding.
True spotting between periods may vary widely in nature. Bleeding between menstrual periods is also called breakthrough bleeding. This may be light, but can also be heavy enough to saturate a sanitary pad with blood. Menopausal bleeding between menstruations can be very unpredictable or erratic.
Spotting and Menstrual Cycles
Occasional spotting that occurs before a period or in the middle of a cycle is not a reason to be worried, as it is usually normal. However, make sure that the bleeding is from your vagina and not from your urine or rectum. You could find out by using a tampon.
One out of ten women experience spotting around ovulation due to a temporary decline in estrogen that occurs when an egg is released from the ovary. These women experience vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood. This may be accompanied by mild pain or cramping. You will notice that this happens monthly, about ten to fourteen days after your last period, or a couple of weeks before your next period. It may indicate that you are about to get your period.
If you notice spotting a few days before or after your period it may not mean anything, since various factors like mental or physical stress can affect your menstrual cycle. Sometimes ovulation does not occur and your progesterone hormone levels are insufficient, which, causes spotting during the last half of your cycle. This may just mean that you are having an unusual cycle, but does not necessarily indicate an abnormal condition.
Other Causes of Spotting Before Your Period
Mild vaginal bleeding before your period may also be related to other conditions such as pregnancy or menopause.
Pregnancy. Many women notice some spotting in the first seven to ten days of being pregnant, when they are not yet aware of the pregnancy. This is a normal occurrence. This spotting occurs when the fetus attaches to the wall of the uterus.
Spotting that occurs 2-3 weeks before your due date may mean that the mucus plugging the cervix has loosened in preparation for childbirth. It is often noted as vaginal discharge that is tinged with some blood.
However, heavy bleeding accompanied by cramping early in pregnancy could indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.
Perimenopause. Perimenopause is a transitional phase into menopause when it is possible to experience excessive bleeding or a little spotting in between your periods. If you have entered into menopause, bleeding should cease. Any menopausal bleeding requires immediate attention. Hormonal replacement is one common cause of vaginal bleeding during this stage, but spotting could also be due to cancer or other condition that require medical consultation.
Variations of Color
The color of blood spotting before your period can vary from pink, dark red, brownish to dark brown.
Bright red spots indicate fresh blood, while pink is dilute blood. Brown blood indicates old blood, while black is very old blood.
Spotting may take any color, depending on how rapidly the bleeding occurred. The time that it takes for the blood to pass the cervix mucus influences color, although this does not help in diagnosing the underlying cause.
Amount of Bleeding
It is important for you to note the amount of vaginal bleeding and report it to your doctor. You may not need to call your doctor immediately if you are just experiencing light spotting, but if bleeding in between menstrual periods soaks one or more pads in an hour, you must contact your doctor.
You should consider medical consultation when:
- You experience excessive bleeding that lasts for more than 3 days
- You note light spotting which persists for 3 menstrual cycles
- You note any unusual bleeding unlike your typical pattern
- You experience vaginal bleeding that recurs more than every 3 weeks
- You bleed heavily after sex
- You experience any bleeding after menopause
Other Causes of Bleeding
Abnormal uterine bleeding is abnormal bleeding that occurs between periods; it is is a common reason to consult a doctor. It may be brought about by a variety of factors and conditions, including stress, hormonal imbalance, oral contraceptives or IUD, and medications like blood thinners or corticosteroids.
Abnormalities in the uterus and the reproductive tract can also cause spotting or bleeding, and these include uterine polyps, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, infection, or cancer.
Conditions not related to the uterus or reproductive tract may also cause bleeding, such as thyroid disorders and diabetes.
To find out the cause of your bleeding it is necessary to have a doctor examine you, especially if you are bleeding heavily or frequently between periods.
Management of Spotting Between Periods
You can prevent bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods by employing your doctor's advice and following these practical steps.
First and foremost, if you are on birth control, take them as prescribed. Avoid skipping doses or taking them irregularly, as this can cause spotting between periods.
Ask your doctor if you can limit your intake of blood thinners like aspirin.
Get a pap smear annually to screen for cervical cancer. This is a highly treatable condition that can cause vaginal bleeding.
Avoid uterine cancer by maintaining the right body weight. Obesity increases your risk for uterine cancer, which is especially common after menopause.
Avoid using intrauterine devices, which can cause spotting.
Manage your emotional stress, as it can cause spotting between periods. Try different techniques like meditation and exercise.
Keep a diary to record your cycles and the details regarding your bleeding. This can assist you in describing your symptoms to your doctor.
Finally, get to know your cycles and body patterns to determine if spotting is unusual or not. Any remarkable changes may need to be reported to your physician.