It might be distressing and confusing to experience unexpected spotting before your period. Is it a common condition or should you be concerned? Spotting refers to light bleeding from your vagina that happens outside of your regular periods. Remember, light bleeding during the start or end of your period is not spotting. Spotting is brown or dark red in colour and does not last more than one or two days. It is noticeable on some days apart from your date of menstruation.
It can occur due to many different reasons. Most of them aren’t anything to worry about and spotting in these circumstances is generally harmless. There is not always an obvious cause for it.
For example, a little bit of spotting before a period is considered normal for many women. This happens due to low progesterone (female sex hormone) levels in your body.
But, sometimes spotting before your period can be an early sign of pregnancy. It can also indicate hormonal fluctuations in your body if you are on birth control pills. In this article, you will get all the information you need on spotting before your period. It will help you navigate better what’s normal and what requires a visit to the doctors.
Table of Contents
- Causes of Spotting Before Your Period
- How to Manage Spotting Before Your Period?
- When to Consult a Doctor
Causes of Spotting Before Your Period
1. Hormone-based birth control
If you’re using birth control (pills, patches, shots, rings, or implants) that contains hormones, you may experience spotting during the first three months of your course. This is known as “breakthrough bleeding.” It occurs due to the extra hormones that may trigger changes in the lining of your uterus/womb. Hormonal birth control also alters your progesterone levels. Thus, it increases your risk of spotting before periods.
You may see this kind of spotting even when you make a shift from one birth control to another with a different dosage. Research suggests 30-50% of women using combination pills, the most common type of contraceptive, can expect bleeding in the first 3-6 months of use. One of the best ways to stop or prevent spotting while on the pill is to take your pill at the same time every day. This helps regulate your hormone levels.
2. Post-coital bleeding
The friction and abrasion of sexual intercourse can injure or irritate the sensitive tissues of your vagina, resulting in mild bleeding. If this happens, apply a vaginal lubricant to reduce the risk of tissue damage. Foreign objects like dildos or other sex toys can also cause injury inside your vagina or anus. If you experience heavy and persistent bleeding after intercourse, consult your doctor.
Ovulation is the process in which your ovaries release a mature egg. The egg travels down a fallopian tube, the duct that transports the egg from your ovary to the uterus, where it may encounter sperm and become fertilized. This process usually occurs about 12-14 days before your next menstrual cycle and might result in spotting.
Approximately 3 percent of women have ovulation-related spotting. Ovulation spotting can be light pink or red in color and may last for one to two days. Ovulation spotting may occur due to changes in estrogen levels around ovulation. This is normal and not something to be worried about.
There are various methods to detect ovulation timing. The easiest and most accurate method is to use a reliable ovulation prediction test kit like Inito. It measures the levels of Estrogen and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) in urine to track your fertile window and Progesterone (PdG) to confirm ovulation. All this from the comfort of your home.
Some other tests you can opt for are a transvaginal ultrasound, endometrial biopsy, or blood tests. Consult your doctor to find out which is the best option for you.
Light bleeding or spotting outside of your normal period might be a sign of early pregnancy. This is often called implantation bleeding. It occurs 6 to 12 days after conception when the fertilized egg attaches to the interior lining of your uterus.
About 15 to 25 percent of pregnant women experience spotting with implantation during their first trimester. The bleeding is usually lighter than your regular menstrual flow and can be pink, red, or brown in color. Implantation bleeding is usually accompanied by breast tenderness, mood swings, or nausea. Some women may mistake it for a very light period.
If you think you might be pregnant, consult your doctor or take a home pregnancy test. Know that the best time to take a pregnancy test with accurate results is a week after your missed period.
Some differences between implantation bleeding and a normal menstrual period:
|Points of differentiation||Implantation bleeding||Menstrual bleeding|
|Timing||6-10 days after ovulation||12-14 days after ovulation|
|Duration||1-2 days||4-7 days|
|Flow||Light spotting with no clots||Heavy bleeding, sometimes with the presence of clots|
|Color||Light pink or brown||Red or brown|
5. Perimenopausal spotting
As you approach menopause (the end of your menstrual cycle), estrogen levels in your body fluctuate, thus causing changes in your menstrual cycle. This might make it difficult to determine the date of your period.
You may have months where you don’t ovulate or ovulate more than once a month, or you might skip your periods completely. Your menstruation may become lighter or heavier than normal and may include spotting. It can also cause other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep problems.
6. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects your hormone levels. If you have PCOS, small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) may develop in your ovaries. These cysts surround the eggs, preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs as they should. You may have high levels of androgens (male sex hormones).
As a result, your reproductive system may become imbalanced, resulting in irregular periods, spotting, and sometimes no period at all. Other symptoms of PCOS may include painful periods, acne, hair growth, pelvic pain, infertility, and weight gain.
7. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea if not treated on time can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The untreated infection spreads from your vagina to other parts of the reproductive system. This can cause spotting between your periods. Apart from spotting you may have pelvic pain or pain during intercourse. Other symptoms include foul-smelling vaginal discharge and pain when urinating or having sex.
Endometriosis is a complicated pelvic disorder, in which the lining of your uterus starts to grow abnormally. The tissue grows outside your uterus in areas such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or abdominal region. This condition can cause abnormal bleeding or spotting between periods. Endometriosis spotting might appear as pink or brown-colored discharge. Some other symptoms are pelvic pain, cramping, infertility, painful bowel movements etc.
Stress can cause many changes in your body. Stress, whether mental or physical, can cause your body to release less estrogen and progesterone and release more amounts of the hormone cortisol. This hormonal imbalance can disturb your menstrual cycle, causing it to be irregular or late, as well as causing spotting in between. It can also lead you to skip your cycle altogether.
10. Thyroid problems
Thyroid is a small gland located at the base of your neck. An overactive or underactive thyroid can affect your menstrual cycle and cause abnormal bleeding or spotting. Thyroid disease can cause periods to be light, heavy, irregular, or absent depending on whether the thyroid hormone in your body is too high or too low.
11. Other causes of Bleeding Before Periods
- Cervical cancer: Cancer that occurs in the cervix
- Fibroids: Benign tumors inside the uterus
- Uterine or cervical polyps: Abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the uterus
- Ectopic pregnancy: A pregnancy that happens somewhere outside your uterus
- Vaginal dryness due to lack of estrogen after menopause
- Use of blood thinners
- Diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and bleeding disorders
Inform your doctor if you have these problems and experience spotting.
How to Manage Spotting Before Your Period?
Although light spotting before a period is unlikely to require treatment, you can wear a panty liner or pad to protect your underwear from any staining.
When to Consult a Doctor
Any vaginal bleeding outside of your usual period is considered abnormal.
Although most instances of spotting before your period are normal and benign, some of these need prompt medical treatment. Consult your doctor to determine the cause and ensure there is no health risk. You should also consult a doctor if you have spotting along with the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in your lower abdomen
- Fever, dizziness, easy bruising
- Symptoms that worsen or occur more frequently
- Any type of vaginal bleeding, including spotting, after you’ve gone through menopause
Most causes of spotting before the period are easily treatable. The problem may be diagnosed without too much discomfort. Therefore, it is important not to delay having this problem evaluated by your doctor.