Spotting between periods is a common ---and often annoying -- part of being female. As many as 9 to 14 percent of menstruating women deal with spotting, according to a January 2012 "American Family Physician" article. Because many factors can cause spotting, including hormonal imbalances and uterine problems only detected by imaging methods such as ultrasound, finding the cause is an essential part of treating spotting. Once you know the cause, your doctor can help you find a cure.
Determining the Cause
Since spotting has numerous potential causes, diagnosing the cause is the first step to treatment. Blood tests determine whether you have a hormonal problem or bleeding disorder that is causing spotting between periods. Ultrasound imaging of your uterus and ovaries might find non-cancerous growths called polyps or uterine fibroids, both of which can cause spotting. Birth control methods such as IUDs (intrauterine device) or birth control pills can also cause spotting, in some cases.
Treating Hormonal Problems
Polycystic ovary syndrome, (PCOS) is a hormonal problem characterized by abnormal androgen, or male hormone, levels. PCOS affects up to 10 percent of all women, according to "Reproductive Medicine: Challenges, Solutions and Breakthroughs." Taking birth control pills can help correct androgen levels and reduce spotting. If you have a thyroid imbalance that's causing spotting, thyroid medications can help restore normal thyroid function and reduce spotting between periods. Diabetes mellitus can also cause irregular menstrual periods and spotting; diet or medications might be required to reduce spotting.
Spotting and Uterine Abnormalities
Polyps, fibroids and endometriosis, the growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus, can not only cause spotting between periods but can also impact fertility. During hysteroscopy, examination of the inside of the uterus with a lighted scope, your doctor can also remove small fibroids and polyps, small fleshy growths that can cause spotting. Surgical removal is the most effective way to remove growths such as endometriosis and larger fibroids, although they may recur.
Spotting from Contraceptive Methods
While birth control pills can help prevent spotting in the case of some hormone imbalances, in some cases they can also cause spotting. Birth control pills contain different combinations and dosages of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. If you have spotting on one type of pill after 3 months of use, changing to a higher-dose pill might decrease or eliminate spotting. According to Bayer Health care, manufacturers of the IUD Mirena, up to 23.4 percent of women experience spotting after IUD insertion, especially during the first 3 to 6 months of use. If spotting persists, IUD removal may help.
When to See Your Doctor
Always check with your doctor if you have spotting between periods. Heavy bleeding between periods could cause low iron stores or anemia. In rare cases, spotting could indicate a potentially serious medical condition such as uterine cancer or a complication with an unrecognized pregnancy.
- American Family Physician: Evaluation and Management of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding in Premenopausal Women
- Merck Manual: Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding
- Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine: Abnormal Uterine Bleeding: A Management Algorithm
- Reproductive Medicine: Challenges, Solutions and Breakthroughs; Arora, Sulbha, M.D., Merchant, Rubina, Ph.D.
- Bayer Health Care: Mirena
- Maternity and Pediatric Nursing; Susan Scott Ricci ARNPMSN M.Ed., Terri Kyle MSN CPNP