You've been tracking your periods and can heave a sigh of relief because you still have a long way to go before your next cycle. But, suddenly, you feel that familiar wetness, and sure enough, you find random spotting in your underwear.
Aside from the inconvenience of dealing with breakthrough bleeding, unexpected spotting can also be stressful. You're just not sure about what's happening in your body! In this article, we will describe all the reasons why you could be spotting between your periods.
But first, let us go back to the basics and understand why we bleed during our monthly cycles in the first place!
As you know, the bleeding you experience during your monthly periods comes from the inner lining of the uterus, which sheds if you do not get pregnant during that month. In every cycle, an egg is released from a mature follicle in your ovary through ovulation.
If that egg meets a male sperm, it gets fertilized to form an embryo that implants itself into the uterine lining. The embryo eventually grows into a baby. But, if fertilization does not occur, then without implantation, the uterine lining begins to shed, which is let out as blood through the vagina.
Menstrual bleeding occurs approximately every month in non-pregnant women. Most women experience:
- A regular schedule, even though the time between periods may vary.
- A predictable bleeding pattern begins with light spotting, gets heavier for a day or two, and then gets gradually lighter, ending with spotting. The blood is usually bright red, with clots or strings of coagulated blood, although it may be brown at the start and the end of the cycle.
- Bleeding usually lasts 5-7 days.
- Premenstrual symptoms just before the period occur due to hormonal changes. This includes breast tenderness and headaches.
- Mild to intense cramping as the muscles of the uterus contract to push out its inner lining.
- Menstrual blood is usually red: The color can help differentiate a period from spotting- although the blood may be brown at the beginning or end of the period. Some women see large clots or strings of blood during their monthly period, which is less common with spotting.
On the other hand, spotting is light vaginal bleeding that occurs before or after your regular period. Since it only involves small amounts of blood, you may only notice it when it stains your underwear or on tissue paper after you've used the restroom. Some women experience a day or two of light spotting every month and are not alarmed by it. However, if you have just noticed that you have frequently been spotting, it is advisable to look into it. Depending on the cause behind spotting, it may also be accompanied by other symptoms, like abdominal pain or vaginal pain in case of injury or infections.
Causes of Spotting
Now that we know the differences between regular menstrual bleeding and spotting, let's dive into the causes of spotting before your period.
As discussed earlier, ovulation occurs when a mature follicle releases an egg. Some women experience cramping around ovulation, while others observe spotting. Studies have shown that almost 5% of menstruating women experience mild bleeding or spotting. If you notice light pink or red spotting for 1-2 days around 12-14 days before your next cycle, it could be ovulatory bleeding. You can also keep an eye out for other symptoms of ovulation like
- Changes in your cervical mucus, which becomes more liquid and transparent, like egg whites
- A difference in the position or firmness of your cervix
- Changes in your basal body temperature
- Increased sex drive Breast tenderness
- Intensified sense of smell, taste, or vision
2. Implantation bleeding
Research shows that 15 to 25% of pregnant women experience bleeding in early pregnancy. Spotting usually occurs during this period when a fertilized egg attaches to the inner uterine lining during implantation. It usually happens a few days before your next period begins. You may notice light pink to dark brown discharge, which is shorter, with a lighter flow than your usual period. You may also experience other symptoms of implantation, like
- Headache and body ache
- Mood swings
- Light cramping Breast tenderness
While implantation bleeding isn't dangerous for a growing fetus, you should seek medical aid if you experience heavy bleeding while pregnant.