At some point in a woman's reproductive years, she will experience an irregular menstrual cycle. Irregularities in the menstrual cycle can be caused by hormonal imbalances, stress, pregnancy, perimenopause and reproductive diseases. Most women who experience irregular menstrual cycles either have spotting, heavier than normal bleeding or scanty periods. Bleeding after the menstrual cycle is over is not normal even if it is a small amount.
The small amount of blood that passes through a woman's vaginal opening outside her normal menstrual period is called spotting. Spotting can be red, pink or brown, and is minimal in volume. Spotting can happen before the menstrual period begins, between menstrual cycles or right after menstrual bleeding ends. Some women may experience spotting as a sign of an impending menstrual cycle.
Taking birth-control pills may cause spotting after the menstrual cycle. Birth-control pills are designed to mimic the hormones estrogen and progesterone to control menstrual cycles and stop ovulation. This disruption in the balance of hormones may cause breakthrough bleeding or spotting between periods. This also occurs if a woman forgets to take a pill. Spotting due to this cause may occur over several months.
Spotting after a menstrual cycle can also be caused by ovulation. During ovulation, an egg is released from a cyst within the ovary. The hormone estrogen surges, causing the cyst to rupture to release the egg. When this occurs, some women may experience mild abdominal cramping, and a small amount of blood may escape. This can cause spotting for a day or two. Spotting can also be caused by pregnancy. When the fertilized egg attaches itself to the endometrium--located in the uterus--a small amount of blood may escape. Because this is usually around the time of the normal menstrual cycle, a woman may see this light bleeding and assume she is either having a light period or that one is coming. This type of spotting is known as breakthrough bleeding. Other causes include uterine polyps, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and ovarian cysts.
Spotting usually occurs on its own with no other symptoms. However, depending on the cause, some women may experience nausea, headache, abdominal cramping, back pain or frequent urination. When notifying the doctor about these symptoms, include the name of any medications used, including vitamins or birth control.
Treatments for spotting after menstruation may consist of hormonal therapy, such as birth control or taking hormone replacements to correct hormonal imbalances, shrink uterine growths or ovarian cysts. In many cases, careful monitoring will be all that's required. If a uterine polyp, fibroid or ovarian cyst is too large to be treated with medication, if will have to be surgically removed.
When spotting turns to a full bleed and is associated with heavy cramping or blood clots, contact a physician immediately.