Aww dang it. You thought you were period-free this week and now your clean white knickers have fallen victim to some surprise spotting. Don’t worry, it happens. But why? What is that mysterious pink blood and where does it come from? If you have questions, we have answers. Get your white pants in the wash pronto, and let’s take a look at all things spotting.
What does ‘spotting’ mean?
Spotting, sometimes referred to as ‘intermenstrual bleeding’, is a little bit different to a period. It’s still blood coming from the vagina, but it happens outside of your usual period cycle and is normally a much smaller amount of blood.
Spotting is lighter than a period. Sometimes you won’t even see it in your pants, you’ll just notice it on your loo roll when you wipe after going to the bathroom. In fact in many cases it won’t be worth using a tampon because there won’t be enough blood. A liner will do the trick here. You may also notice the blood that appears when you are ‘spotting’ is more pink in colour, as opposed to darker red.
You are likely to know the difference, as your period tends to bring along PMS symptoms that you’ll recognise, such as bloating, cramping, sore breasts, tiredness, mood swings and so on - spotting doesn’t produce these symptoms. Your period will also likely follow a regular schedule so you can predict it, whereas spotting is less predictable as it turns up randomly in between periods.
There are many possible causes for spotting; some totally normal and safe, others you may want to keep an eye on or speak to your GP about. Here are some of the most common reasons you may be experiencing spotting.
Hormonal contraception - If you are taking hormonal contraception, you are more likely to experience spotting between periods, especially since irregular bleeding is rather common in the first few months of taking a new hormonal contraceptive. You may also see some spotting if you miss your combined pill or progestogen-only pill, or if you’re ill and throwing up or experiencing diarrhoea, as this can render some hormonal contraceptives ineffective. If you have a patch or vaginal ring and you experience spotting, you may need to get this checked by the GP to make sure it’s working as it should be.
Ovulation - If you are ovulating, you may be one of around 3% of people with periods who experience ovulation spotting. Around this time in your cycle is when your ovary releases an egg, and sometimes there’s a little blood. It’s all good. It’s normal.
Pregnancy or implantation bleeding - Pregnancy tends to mess with hormones and bodies in lots of crazy ways, and one that you might notice in the first trimester is some light spotting. This can be worrying for many, but it’s important to remember that light bleeding like this happens for about 15-25% of pregnant people, and doesn’t always mean there is anything wrong. Still, if you are worried about this it’s always best to go speak to your GP so they can put your mind at ease.
Then there’s implantation bleeding, which happens when the fertilized egg embeds itself in the lining of the uterus - this can cause some light bleeding. If you start to experience only spotting and no period, this could be a sign of pregnancy.
Menopause and perimenopause - In the years leading up to menopause (called perimenopause), you may notice your periods become more irregular, and spotting may occur. This is normal, although once you have entered menopause, if you continue to experience bleeding or spotting you should contact your GP to check everything is healthy.
Polycystic ovary syndrome - Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a condition that affects the release of eggs from the ovaries. Due to fluctuating and sometimes imbalanced hormones, PCOS sufferers can experience irregular periods, missed periods, and, you guessed it, spotting.
Endometriosis - Endometriosis is a condition where tissue from the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus where it shouldn’t be, which can cause a whole lot of unwanted symptoms. Spotting is one of them. Although spotting isn’t painful in itself, other symptoms of endo might be, so don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor if it is affecting your daily life.
STIs - Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea can sometimes cause spotting too, either between periods or after sex. If you experience other symptoms related to STIs like painful urination, vaginal discharge, itching or pelvic pain, you should check with your GP to make sure it’s all good down there.
Broken skin - If you have had particularly rambunctious sex or haven’t used enough lubrication then this may have aggravated the skin inside the vagina and caused a small amount of fresh blood that looks similar to spotting. This will typically heal on its own, but if it causes discomfort or you are worried there is more blood than there should be, go speak to your GP for advice.
Got a question about spotting? Speak about it in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, so that's one load off your mind about everything that might be going on down there.
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