During your reproductive years, it is natural to experience some monthly bleeding whenever your period is on. Occasionally though, you may notice some vaginal spotting in between the periods. The term “vaginal spotting” usually describes light bleeding happening outside of monthly periods. There are several causes behind vaginal spotting which, by itself, does not necessarily indicate a serious health problem, however it is always advisable to consult your gynaecologist if ever you experience any vaginal bleeding, especially when you are not sure of the cause.

How can you tell the difference between spotting and bleeding?

During menstruation, the vaginal blood flow is usually heavy enough to call for wearing a health pad or the use of a tampon to evade staining your underwear and clothes. On the other hand, vaginal spotting tends not to be as heavy as a period and of lighter in color in comparison to the menstrual bleeding, and moreover, the amount of blood is too scanty to soak through the panty lining.

Also of note, usually menstruation is accompanied by certain well-known symptoms as mood swings, tummy cramps and bloating, nausea, breast tenderness, as well as the `notorious` cravings especially for sweets and chocolate. In comparison, if you are experiencing a vaginal spotting due to reasons other than monthly period, you may be describing any of the following complaints: heavier or longer periods, missed or irregular periods, vaginal itching and redness, vaginal discharge or strong odor, pain or burning with intercourse, abdominal / pelvic discomfort or pain

What are the possible causes for vaginal spotting?

Menstruation ensues because of the shedding of your uterine lining at the beginning of the monthly cycle. On the contrary, vaginal spotting may be due to various causes; the most common of which include:

  • Ovulation: During ovulation, which happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle, and with the release of an egg, some women may notice some light spotting when they ovulate.
  • Pregnancy: some women may experience mild spotting during the first trimester of pregnancy. Often, the blood appears in the first few days of pregnancy, when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining.
  • Uterine fibroids or cervical / uterine polyps: Fibroids are non-malignant masses that can grow in the lining or muscle of the uterus. Some fibroids may manifest themselves with vaginal bleeding.
  • Polycystic ovarian disease / syndrome (PCOD/ S): Irregular bleeding is one of the common symptoms of PCOS; a common health condition, especially among young women, and characterized by hormonal disturbance and multiple small peripheral follicles in ovaries along with other features.
  • Vaginal dryness due to the lack of estrogen that associates menopause.
  • Inflammation of the cervix (Cervicitis) or the vagina (Vaginitis) can lead to abnormal vaginal spotting.
  • Stopping / starting birth control pills: Birth control pills can cause spotting, especially when you first start using them or you switch to a new one. Spotting is also common in women who are using an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Cancer or pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix or uterus or ovary.

Experiencing vaginal spotting! Should you be worried?

Although spotting does not usually signify a serious health problem, it is still abnormal and while many causes can be easily and radically treated, a few may indicate a more serious underlying disorder. Whether you experience spotting or too-much bleeding in between periods, you are advised fervently to visit your trusted gynaecologist at the earliest possible to have your complaint thoroughly assessed and subsequently managed according to the cause.

Scenario may be that you think your period is over, and then you notice red spots or reddish discharge. It might be few spots, but enough to cause worry and apprehension, particularly when you’re not prepared for its sudden onset. A good way to figure out whether you’re experiencing spotting or menstruation is to track your periods. Keep a diary to record when your monthly period starts and ends each month, and when you have spotting. Share this information with your gynaecologist during your scheduled visit.

Dr. Vandana Bhandula, MD
Obstetrics and Gynaecology Specialist
Women`s Health Expert

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