zig
0

Notifications

  • You're all caught up!

About Spotting After a Period

by
author image April Khan
April Khan is a medical journalist who began writing in 2005. She has contributed to publications such as "BBC Focus." In 2012, Khan received her Doctor of Public Health from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She also holds an Associate of Arts from the Art Institute of Dallas and a Master of Science in international health from University College London.
About Spotting After a Period
Occasional spotting between periods is relatively common. Photo Credit woman image by anna karwowska from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Irregular bleeding affects nearly all women at some point during their reproductive years. Spotting refers to passage of a small amount of blood from the vagina outside of a woman’s menstrual period. This small amount of bleeding often appears as blood-tinged mucus, or red or brown vaginal discharge. Spotting after or between periods, known as intermenstrual bleeding, can occur for a variety of reasons. Possible culprits include hormone imbalances, contraceptive causes, pregnancy, infections and other reproductive disorders.

Menstrual Causes

Among women who are naturally menstruating, meaning they are not using hormonal contraception, several common occurrences can lead to spotting between periods. Roughly 1 to 2 percent of women experience spotting at the time of ovulation, when a mature egg is released from the ovary. This typically occurs roughly 2 weeks after the start of the previous period and is due to a natural dip in estrogen near the time of ovulation.

Anovulatory cycles, in which the ovaries fail to produce and release a mature egg, are another common cause of irregular and intermenstrual bleeding. Occasional anovulatory cycles can occur due to illness or very stress, and commonly occur in the early and late reproductive years of a woman’s life. Hormonal conditions, such as an over- or under-active thyroid and polycystic ovary syndrome, also cause frequent anovulatory cycles.

Contraceptive Causes

Hormonal birth control, which suppresses a woman's natural menstrual cycle, can lead to spotting between periods. This is particularly common with low-dose combined birth control pills, progestin-only pills and depot shots. Forgetting to take one of your birth control pills is a common cause of spotting between periods.

An intrauterine device (IUD) can also cause irregular menstrual bleeding and spotting between periods. For women with a hormonal IUD (Mirena, Skyla), this side effect is most common during the first 3 to 6 months of use. Copper IUD (ParaGard) users are more likely to experience heavy bleeding than those using a hormonal IUD. Although heavy bleeding often decreases with continued use of the copper IUD, spotting or intermenstrual bleeding can persist.

Sexual Causes

Sexual intercourse sometimes causes minor bleeding that can lead to spotting. This bleeding can come from mild irritation of the vagina or cervix, the opening to the uterus at the upper end of the vagina. Vaginal irritation and minor bleeding related to intercourse is most common among women approaching menopause, who might experience vaginal dryness.

Bleeding from the cervix related to intercourse is often associated with a harmless condition called cervical ectropion. With this condition, tissue that is normally confined to the interior of the cervix extends onto the external cervical surface. This fragile tissue tends to bleed easily, such as during intercourse. Temporary cervical ectropion is common among women on hormonal birth control.

Infectious and Pregnancy-Related Causes

Infections of the female reproductive system are another possible cause of spotting between periods. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and internal genital warts can all cause low-level cervical bleeding and spotting between periods. The bleeding is often triggered by sexual intercourse. Since these conditions often cause no other symptoms, spotting might be the only tip-off.

Spotting around the time of an expected period could be an early sign of pregnancy. This type of bleeding, known as implantation bleeding, occurs when the pregnancy embeds into the uterine lining. Women who typically have light periods might mistake implantation bleeding for a normal period.

Other Reproductive System and Medical Causes

Noncancerous and, less commonly, cancerous growths can potentially cause irregular bleeding and spotting between periods, which may or may not be associated sexual intercourse. Examples include:
-- uterine fibroids
-- cervical, uterine and vaginal polyps
-- cervical, uterine and certain types of ovarian cancer

Women with bleeding disorders often experience heavy menstrual bleeding and spotting between periods. Certain medications might also be to blame, including:
-- the breast cancer drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex)
-- anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), dabigatran (Pradaxa), apixaban (Eliquis) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto)

Next Steps and Precautions

Although some conditions that lead to spotting between periods pose no health threat, it’s best to see your doctor if you experience unexplained intermenstrual bleeding to identify the cause. Once the cause is determined, your health care provider can recommend appropriate treatment, if needed. Seek medical care right away if you experience heavy bleeding, suspect you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, or there is a possibility you might be pregnant.


Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
GOAL
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
GENDER
  • Female
  • Male
lbs.
ft. in.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

CURRENTLY TRENDING

Demand Media

Our Privacy Policy has been updated. Please take a moment and read it here.