Ultimate guide to spotting

Ultimate guide to spotting
October 22 18:44 2016

Women go through a process called menstruation, which involves the discharge of blood and broken down uterus lining tissue every 28 days for a regular cycle, depending on whether fertilization happened or not during the ovulation days. The menstrual cycle is very important in the life of women as it can very well be used to tell what is happening within the reproductive system. Sometimes the body can make some changes to the cycle that can cause some women to be anxious and worried. One such change is the discharge of blood before periods, just after periods or during pregnancy. Often this discharge of vaginal blood outside of the periods is normal and medically recognized but its important to understand the concept in order to be able to handle any situation linked to it. For all women interested in understanding the concept of bleeding outside of your periods just read on, we will explain everything.


What is spotting?

Spotting refers to light bleeding that occurs when a woman’s period is not expected; this could be before the period, after or during pregnancy. Sometime it can occur even during menopause when a woman is no longer supposed to have any periods. Spotting may be in form fresh red blood discharge over a couple of days or more, or may be in form brownish liquid discharge lasting just about a day or so.

Its important to not that there are women who irregular periods and as such their period can come a few days earlier or later than they expect. This does not count as spotting.

So, as you can see, spotting is considered a normal phenomenon unless the bleeding is excessive or goes on for a longer duration than above. If that happens you need to consult your doctor without delay.


Difference between spotting and periods

The major difference between spotting and normal menstrual periods is in the volume of blood that is discharged through the vagina. In spotting the amount of blood discharged is very small and sometimes goes unnoticed, the whole event lasts just about a day. During menstrual periods there is heavy bleeding that lasts anywhere from 3 to 4 days on the average.

Also, in spotting, the discharge of blood is irregular it does not follow any patterns and totally happens in random sporadic nature whereas period follow certain periods and are dependent on fertilization.


1. Spotting

Spotting occurs somewhere in between menstrual cycles and can be caused by:

  • Pregnancy
  • Ovulation
  • Medication
  • Health issues
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual abuse
  • Foreign objects in the vagina
  • Polyps


2. Periods

A period or menstruation is a part of the menstrual cycle. Generally it happens at the end of the menstrual cycle, which has duration of 28 days in regular women and less or more in irregular women. A period occurs when fertilization does not happen; the discharged blood is due to the breaking down of the uterus lining and can sometimes contain uterus debris. The amount of blood lost in each cycle is measured between four to twelve teaspoons. It is common for some women to experience the following symptoms either before during or after the periods:

  • Cramps in the abdominal area
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Swelling of breasts
  • Emotional changes such as irritability
  • Fatigue


Causes of spotting

In the majority of cases spotting is normal and harmless. Just in case you are wondering what exactly causes spotting we will briefly go through some of the common causes below.


  • Pregnancy

Spotting may be an indication that a woman is pregnant, this kind of spotting is very minimal and can go unnoticed. Women who usually notice this pregnancy related spotting tend to get worried and panic leading to them consulting with a healthcare provider. Pregnancy spotting is considered harmless if it is minimum and lasts less than a day. If you experience heavy bleeding before your expected period then you should see a doctor.

Women who have confirmed pregnancy should always pay attention to what happens with the body during the pregnancy term especially to issues related to vaginal discharge. Heavy bleeding during the first to second months of pregnancy can be a sign of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Bleeding past the second month can be an indication of placenta problems.


  • Medicines

Some medications and treatments can cause spotting. Medicines such as birth control pills and blood thinners are the most common causes of spotting attributed to spotting. If you just started taking birth control pills you can experience spotting somewhere between the first two months of use. When you stop taking the pill spotting can also occur. You can also experience spotting when you miss your usual time of taking the pill.


  • Ovulation

During ovulation a woman can experience spotting. This happens around day 12-14 of the menstrual cycle when and egg is released into the fallopian tubes for fertilization.


  • Health causes

Sexually Transmitted Infections are responsible for the infection of the female pelvic organs. When organs like the vagina, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are infected it is common to experience abnormal bleeding. The spotting attributed to this cause is frequently noticed showering and intercourse.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Uterine fibroids, and Ovary cysts can also be announced by spotting.

Women with Intrauterine devices can experience bleeding in between periods.


Spotting before Periods

Spotting before period can be a result of ovulation and implantation in the event that fertilization did occur. It can also be due to other physiological changes in your body and even some psychological conditions. Things like stress, taking or changing birth control pills, and chronic diseases can also be responsible for spotting before periods.


1. Implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding happens when the fertilized egg implants itself within the wall of the uterus. This event can be associated with abdominal cramping a few days after ovulation given that there was sexual intercourse in the surrounding days. In addition to the abdominal cramps its possible to experience light discharge of blood through the vagina, this phenomenon does not happen to all women but can worry the group of women who experience it. It is very normal and physiologic; in fact it can be sign of early pregnancy for couples that have been trying to conceive.

It occurs just about a week before your regular period is due. After fertilization the formed zygote digs into the uterus lining to attach itself, in the process it can puncture one or two blood vessels, which causes the bleeding.

Implantation spotting is light and pale in color, it is mostly described as pink to brownish discharge, it can be preceded by a clear odorless discharge from the cervix. Depending on your body, implantation bleeding should not last more than 2 to 3 days.


2. Ovulation bleeding

When you are not pregnant, spotting prior to your period may be a result of ovulation. In this case the bleeding is a direct result of the emergence of the egg from the follicle, which can sometimes be accompanied by slight affection of vessels. Since around the same time the cervix is at its peak of secreting cervical mucus, the blood the ruptured follicle vessel mixes with the cervical mucus giving the brownish like discharge.

Ovulation bleeding is experienced around mid cycle and should not last more than 2 to 3 days.


3. Spotting linked to change in contraceptive means

Adjustment to a new contraceptive means can cause temporary hormonal imbalance and changes, which can be accompanied by bleeding before the period. The discharge in this case is also brown in nature but can last up to 3 to 6 months.


4. Pathological conditions

Pathological spotting before the period can be caused by:

  • Hormonal disruption
  • Polycystic ovary symptom
  • Peri-menopause
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Endometritis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Cervical diseases like erosion, polyps, and cancer
  • Disturbance of blood clotting ability

Pathological causes of spotting before period needs to be checked out by a gynecologist and treated if need be.


Spotting after period

Between days 1 to 5 of the menstrual cycle a woman undergoes her periods of bleeding. The period lasts about 3 to 5 days depending on your body. Sometimes after the period you may experience some spotting, it is normal and should not lead to worry unless heavy bleeding is involved, in which case you should probably visit your doctor for a check up. Causes of spotting after period may be due to:


1. Remaining Uterine Tissue After Period

Sometime you body fails to get rid of all the uterine tissue during the period, which will result in noticeable discharge happening a week or so after your period. The body will simply get rid of the remaining tissue expelling it through the vagina through spotting.


2. Fluctuating Menstrual Cycles

This kind of spotting is common among teenagers as their bodies generally take time to adjust to hormonal changes. Until the teenage body is accustomed to hormonal changes, they can continue to experience spotting after periods. It is a normal physiological process that happens in some girls and can be absent in others.


3. Sexual Intercourse

Deep penetration in the days just after menstruation can cause slight bleeding. Soon after the period your cervix is still sensitive and when it is hit by the penis during sexual intercourse it can result in bleeding.


3. Oral Contraceptives

When you take oral contraceptives for a while then you stop you can experience spotting after periods until the body adjusts to the hormonal changes caused by stopping oral contraceptives.


4. Polyps

These are non-malignant cellular growths in your uterus. Sometimes they may burst and cause light bleeding.


5. Uterine Fibroids

It is usually a mild condition that may cause spotting after period or at any other time.


6. Infections

Spotting due to infections is usually accompanied by a foul and undesirable odor from the vagina, along with other symptoms such as fever and itching. The blood can be slightly discolored depending on the type of infection.


Dealing with Spotting After Period

Dealing with spotting after period is not necessary unless it is caused by infection, you really want to or the spotting is making you uncomfortable. Treating it lies on managing the cause. You can take birth control pills to balance the hormones, have infections treated and remove things like fibroids or polyps. Taking birth control pills should be by recommendation of your doctor.


Spotting instead of Period

There are times that some women experiences spotting in place of their period. This can lead you to believe that you have missed your period and are pregnant when you are really not. Spotting in place of periods is mostly due to Stress and lifestyle changes.

Spotting that replaces periods can appear pink, dark red, or brown. Some popular causes of spotting instead of periods include:

  • Ovulation
  • Implantation
  • Physical stress
  • Mental stress
  • Dietary changes
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Gynecological problems
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Obesity
  • Anemia


What should you do in case of spotting without periods?

The first thing you should look to do when you experience spotting without periods is to rule out pregnancy and ectopic pregnancy. You can take a pregnancy test; if it consistently comes out negative you can have a doctor confirm the result by ultrasound.

An ectopic pregnancy can be suspected when a pregnancy test is positive and you also experience some of the physical symptoms linked to ectopic pregnancy like cramping, and dizziness.

Spotting instead of periods can be prevented by:

  • Using birth control pills as directed
  • Limiting aspirin intake
  • Getting screened for gynecological conditions
  • Managing stress


Spotting during early pregnancy


Pregnant women are one of the most anxious people alive, bleeding during their pregnancy is enough to sent them running to a doctor, which is right because you get to manage complications faster except that in the majority of cases it is not really bleeding its just spotting, an experience that is deemed by medical professionals normal during early pregnancy.

Bleeding during pregnancy is common, especially during the early stages of pregnancy, it is not a cause for alarm unless the bleeding is heavy or takes longer to stop. Early pregnancy bleeding is caused by horminal changes which increase circulation and blood flow to pelvic region to support the growing child. Because of these adjustments a pregnant woman can easily bleed and the blood discharged through the vagina. The bleeding however, remains minimum at best and does not happen over a long period or continuously. Any continous bleeding during pregnancy should be reported to a health practitioner. In order to understand spotting during pregnancy better a woman needs to know the causes of early pregnancy spotting:


1. Implantation bleeding

It is very possible and common to experience some normal spotting in the days after conceiving as the fertilized egg now called a zygote attaches itself withing the uteral lining. Women who do not know that they are pregnant usually mistake implantation bleeding for menstruation, they can even miss the abscence of periods only to realize at a later date that they are pregnant.

Generally implantation bleeding is light and of very short duration.


2. Miscarriage

Sometimes early pregnancy bleeding can be a sign of a miscarriage. Miscarriage is most common during the first 8 to 12 weeks of pregnancy and as such it is the first cause to be investigated in the event of pathologic early pregnancy bleeding. A quick ultrasound can confirm the presence of a heart beat and therefore eliminate miscarriage in the event of spotting in early pregnancy.

If you experience bleeding in your first trimester, just keep and eye out for strong cramps in the lower abdomen and tissue passing through the vagina. If you do notice these signs consult your doctor right away.


3. Ectopic pregnancy

This is a dangerous condition whereby the fertilized embryo implants outside of the uterus, implantation in the fallopian tube is the most common of the ectopic pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is dangerous in the sense that the embryo can continue to grow and cause the fallopian tube to burst thereby putting the life of the mother on risk.


4. Molar pregnancy

Molar pregnancy is a very rare condition in which abnormal tissue grows inside the uterus instead of a baby. The bleeding due to this condition can be acompanied by nausea, vomitting and fast growth of the uterus.


5. Cervical changes

During pregnancy, circulation is improved due to the hormonal changes, this causes extra blood flow to the cervix. During sexual intercourse or medical exams such as Pap smears, can irritate the engorged cervix and cause it to bleed.


Spotting after sex

Sometimes a woman can bleed after sexual intercourse, this type of spotting is called postcoital spotting. Postcoital spotting is a cause for concern especially if it repitative.


Causes of bleeding after sex


Infections are the first investigated causes of postcoital bleeding. When you have repeated bleeding after sexual intercourse your doctor can investigate any of the following infections according to associated signs:

– pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

– sexually transmitted infection (STI)

– chlamydia

– vaginal dryness

– menopause

– cervical or endometrial polyps

– cervical ectropion


Tests and examinations for investigating postcoital bleeding, generally you may be required to do any of the following tests according to need:

-a pregnancy test

-a pelvic examination

-Examination of tthe cervix with a speculum

-Cervical screening tests ( especially women aged 25 to 64)


Prolonged spotting

Prolonged spotting is reffered to in medical terms as metrorrhagia, it is abnormal bleeding that is not associated with menstruation and can occur at any time generally taking longer than usual to cease.

There are many possible causes of metrorrhagia, including:

– Hormone imbalance

– anovulation

– Abnormal uterine growths

– polyps

– fibroids

– Pregnancy complications

– Infection

– Uterine or vaginal cancer

– Endometriosis

– Ectopic pregnancy

– Miscarriage

– Implantation bleeding


Only consultations with a doctor can confirm the cause of your prolonged spotting, according to the cause you can get treated and return to your normal state.


Causes of Prolonged Spotting

 Abnormal causes of prolonged spotting are retained after physiological conditions like pregnancy have been eliminated.


– Dysfunctional uterine bleeding

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding mostly affects women aged 40 and above. The condtion can happen at anytime during active reproduction age and acts as a sign of hormone dysfunction. The hormone disfucntion has an impact on the uterus walls, causing irregular prolonged bleeding.

The condituion is treated by correcting the hormone problem by administering hormine supplements.


– hormone-based birth control

Hormone based birth control can affect the physiological balance and lead to long duration of menstrual periods. The same effects can also be brought forth by changing the type of birth ciontrol.


There are other causes of prolonged spotting but these are not specific for prolonged spotting, the causes may include:

– Uterine fibroidsnon

– Uncontrolled Endometrial growth

– Bleeding disorders

– Problems with clotting

– Thyroid functioning

– Infection

– Ovarian cysts

– Uterine polyps

– Cancer



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