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What are the Reasons for Spotting Before Periods?

What are the reasons for spotting before periods?

What are the Reasons for Spotting Before Periods?

Submitted and Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mavra Farrukh

Overview 

Spotting before a period can cause panic or distress among women. So, why am I spotting before my period? This question may result in sleepless nights; therefore, knowing the causes can help avoid that. Usually, spotting before your period is considered harmless. Although, it can also be an early sign of pregnancy. Other causes of such spotting include hormonal imbalance, implantation bleeding, polyps, or other health conditions. Let us take explore the reasons in detail. 

What Is the Difference Between Spotting, Bleeding and a Period?

Spotting is light bleeding from the vagina that occurs outside of your regular period. Spotting typically involves a small quantity of blood. It is usually only noticeable on your underwear or toilet paper after wiping. Spotting is generally irregular and can occur anytime, although some women experience it simultaneously each month. There can be a variation in color texture, which is usually different from your regular period. 

Bleeding when you are not supposed to have your period is considered intermenstrual or abnormal vaginal bleeding. Bleeding is a broader term for both spotting and a period. A period is heavier, while spotting is light. Generally, any time you bleed and when you are not supposed to have your period falls under the category of spotting. 

Menstrual bleeding happens approximately every 28 days. Bleeding due to your period is usually regular and predictable, although it can fluctuate slightly. Other symptoms: Bleeding caused by a period may be preceded or accompanied by different symptoms such as nausea, breast tenderness, and cramping. The color of menstrual blood is primarily bright red, though there can be a bit of variation or a brownish tinge. 

Common Causes of Spotting

Spotting has various causes. Usually, spotting is harmless but rarely indicates a serious underlying health condition. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

 Hormonal contraception and spotting

If you are spotting between periods, your hormonal birth control may be the culprit. Hormonal birth control is available in the following forms:

  • pills
  • injections
  • Implants
  • rings
  • patches

Spotting on birth control can happen spontaneously or if you:

  • start taking or using a hormone-based birth control method
  • take birth control pills irregularly or skip the pills
  • change the dose or switch birth control 
  • use birth control for an extended period

If you are wondering on how to stop IUD bleeding and spotting, talk with a doctor if your symptoms are not improving. Another common concern amongst women is plan b spotting vs implantation bleeding, as they can be similar. 

Pregnancy and spotting

Light spotting during pregnancy is relatively common. A certain number of pregnant women may notcie spotting during their first trimester. The color of the blood can range from light and may be pink, brown or red in color. Spotting after sex during pregnancy can occur as well. Spotting typically shouldn’t raise any alarm, but you inform a doctor if you have it. If your concern includes something like ‘5 weeks pregnant spotting when I wipe,’ contact a doctor. Moreover, if you experience heavy bleeding or pelvic pain, you need to inform your doctor, as these can be signs of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Physical conditions, infections, and spotting

Conditions such as polyps, fibroids, thyroid problems, endometriosis and infections such as STDs can lead to spotting. 

Uterine or cervical polyps

Polyps are small mucosal growths that can grow on the cervix or uterus. Most polyps are benign or harmless. 

Cervical polyps can cause:

  • unusual discharge
  • slight bleeding after sex
  • spotting bleeding between periods

A doctor can easily visualize cervical polyps during a routine pelvic exam. Mainly, treatment is not required unless symptoms are worrisome. However, they can be removed. Uterine polyps are identified on imaging, such as an ultrasound. They’re mostly benign, but rarely can they become cancerous.

Uterine polyps can lead to:

  • heavy periods
  • irregular menstrual bleeding or spotting
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause
  • infertility

Some individuals may experience only light spotting from polyps, and others may remain symptomless. 

Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are growths on the uterus. Fertility can be affected in some cases and it may be harder to get pregnant for a women.

Besides spotting between periods, they may cause:

  • heavy or prolonged periods
  • pelvic pain
  • lower back pain
  • painful intercourse
  • urinary problems

Some people with uterine fibroids may be symptomless. Fibroids are usually benign and can shrink on their own.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when endometrium-like tissue grows outside the uterus. The common areas for such growth include:

  • ovaries
  • abdomen
  • bowel

This results in spotting between periods or bleeding. This condition is quite common. Although, may cases are undiagnosed. 

The main signs and symptoms of endometriosis can include:

  • pelvic pain 
  • painful or heavy periods
  • painful intercourse
  • cramping
  • infertility
  • painful urination 
  • painful bowel movements
  • diarrhea, constipation or bloating

Stress

Can stress cause spotting is another common question that crosses a woman’s mind. Stress can lead to drastic changes in your body and affect your menstrual cycle. In some individuals, vaginal spotting can occur from both high levels of physical and emotional stress.

Medications

There are certain medications that can lead to bleeding between periods. Commonly these medications include:

  • hormonal drugs
  • blood thinners
  • thyroid medications

If such is the case with you, your doctor may switch your medication.

Thyroid problems

If you are experiencing spotting, but no period, your thyroid gland may malfunction. Having an underactive thyroid also known as hypothyroidism, can lead to spotting even after your period ends.

Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is not producing sufficient thyroid hormones that regulate many of the body’s processes and affect your period as well.

Other signs of hypothyroidism can include:

  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • hoarseness
  • thinning hair
  • muscle aches 
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • high cholesterol
  • depression
  • slowed heart rate
  • puffy face

An infection can also cause spotting in the reproductive organs. In this case, it is usually accompanied by a fever and pelvic pain. The symptoms can worsen during sex and lead to a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. This type of infection can occur during menstruation or at any time during the month.

If you suspect that you have any vaginal infection or an STD, consult our doctor for treatment.

Ovulation, hormonal issues, and spotting

Ovulation spotting is defined as the light bleeding that occurs around the time of your menstrual cycle when an ovary releases an egg. Such spotting before the period typically occurs 14 days before menstruation.

Spotting during ovulation may be light pink or red. It usually lasts for 1 to 2 days and occurs mid-cycle.

Other signs and symptoms of ovulation may include:

  • increased production of cervical mucus
  • cervical mucus with a consistency similar to egg whites
  • a change in the position or firmness of the cervix
  • Changes to basal body temperature before and after ovulation
  • increased sex drive
  • a dull ache on one side of the abdomen
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • heightened sense of smell, taste, or vision

If you want to know whether spotting during ovulation is a good sign or if you are worried about symptoms such as spotting 4 days after period ends, you should consult a doctor for further advice. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Irregular bleeding or spotting a week before period can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition typically results when a person’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce high amounts of male hormones, also known as androgens.

This can affect the menstrual cycle and make it harder to conceive.

Some other symptoms of PCOS include:

  • irregular menstrual periods
  • acne
  • pelvic pain
  • weight gain
  • excessive hair growth
  • infertility

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause spotting between periods or post-intercourse. 

Other STI symptoms include: 

  • burning while urinating
  • white, green or yellow vaginal discharge
  • vaginal itching
  • pelvic pain

If you have any symptoms of an STI, consult with our doctor for treatment. 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Abnormal or irregular bleeding between periods is a common symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease. A woman can develop PID if the bacteria travel from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

Other PID symptoms can include:

  • painful sex 
  • pain while urinating
  • pain in the lower or upper abdomen
  • fever
  • foul-smelling vaginal discharge

PID may be severe or life-threatening if the infection spreads to the bloodstream. Therefore, antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat PID.

Some Other Reasons You’re Spotting The Week Before Your Period

 You’re pregnant

If you are experiencing spotting instead of a period or light pink spotting before a period, this may actually be implantation bleeding. Implantation spotting typically occurs when a fertilized egg adhers to the inner lining of the uterus. About 15 to 25 percent of pregnant women may experience this.

If implantation spotting does occur, it will often happen a few days before your next period begins. Light blood in discharge but not period may indicate implantation bleeding, which can be light pink spotting, pink spotting or dark brown in colour. It is lighter and lasts for a short duration.

Symptoms that may accompany implantation bleeding include:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • mood swings
  • light cramping
  • breast tenderness
  • lower back pain

If you are concerned about late-period brown spotting when I wipe or bright red bleeding a week before my period is due or confused regarding plan b spotting vs implantation bleeding, here are a few pointers that may help. 

Implantation bleeding and your period can be differentiated based on the following:

  • Color: Implantation bleeding tends to range from light pink to dark brown, whereas a period is a bright red in color. 
  • Time: Implantation bleeding can last anywhere from a few hours to 1-3 days. A period typically lasts longer, such as 3-7 days.
  • Clotting: In case of implantation bleeding, it is usually light and does not contain clots. Menstrual blood may contain clots and is heavier.
  • Amount: Implantation bleeding is light and usually does not require a pad. It may occur on and off or may be constant.

So, if you are experiencing spotting instead of a period with a negative pregnancy test, you may still be pregnant. 

 You have a hormone imbalance.

Conditions such as PCOS, thyroid problems, or the use of birth control can cause hormonal imbalance and result in vaginal spotting.

You’re under the weather

Other medical conditions and stress can affect your body and lead to a hormonal imbalance resulting in spotting or affecting the menstrual cycle. 

How do Doctors Diagnose Vaginal Bleeding?

Your doctor will question your symptoms and medical history. After that, they might perform a physical exam and pelvic exam accordingly. Some commonly asked questions include:

  • When did the bleeding start?
  • How long does your period last?
  • When does the bleeding occur?
  • Do you bleed during or after intercourse?
  • How many pads are you using per day?
  • What medications are you currently on? 
  • Have you had any surgeries? 
  • Is there a chance of pregnancy?

The doctor may order the following tests to investigate the cause : 

  • Urinalysis.
  • Papsmear.
  • Thyroid functioning tests.
  • Complete blood count (CBC).
  • Pregnancy test. 
  • Ultrasound.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Hysteroscopy
Do you have spotting before your period? Consult our doctor for treatment.

Treatment and Prevention

How is vaginal bleeding treated?

The treatment for vaginal bleeding may depend on several factors. The main ones include the cause of the bleeding, your age and whether you want to conceive. Furthermore, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, reducing stress and exercise. 

Depending on the condition, medication or surgery may be required to treat vaginal bleeding. 

Medications for vaginal bleeding

  • Hormonal birth control methods (pills, patches or vaginal rings): These forms of birth control may help regulate menstrual flow.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD): Certain types of IUDs can be used both as birth control and to reduce blood flow. 
  • Gonadotropin-releasing agonists: Used to stop the menstrual flow and shrink the size of fibroids.
  • Tranexamic acid: Prescribed to treat excessive menstrual bleeding.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Can help control heavy bleeding.
  • Antibiotics: Prescribed to treat an infection.

Surgical treatment for vaginal bleeding 

  • Endometrial ablation: This procedure burns the lining of your uterus, which helps reduce the bleeding. 
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): This involves scraping away tissue from your uterus.
  • Uterine artery embolization: Used to treat fibroids by blocking blood vessels in your uterus and cutting out the blood flow to the fibroids.
  • Myomectomy: Removal of fibroids from your uterus.
  • Hysterectomy: This procedure involves the removal of your uterus and is done as a last resort.

What do I do to Prevent or Avoid Vaginal Bleeding?

Bleeding while on your period is normal. However, abnormal vaginal bleeding can negatively impact your life. Mostly, the causes are harmless, but if the symptoms continue, you must consult your doctor. 

 What Can I do About Spotting Before My Period?

If you are experiencing vaginal bleeding or spotting, along with the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor:

  • Irregularity of the menstrual cycle 
  • A change in the flow during a menstrual cycle.
  • Bleeding after sex.
  • Any bleeding that occurs before puberty or after menopause.
  • Bleeding after starting a new medication.
  • Bleeding during pregnancy.
  • Any bleeding accompanied by severe pain.
  • A fever, weakness or dizziness.

When to Consult a Doctor for Spotting?

In most cases, spotting is not a sign of anything serious and is usually not a medical emergency. However, you must seek medical attention if you have symptoms of an infection, have any injury or have been sexually assaulted.

It is essential for all women to keep track of their menstrual cycles so that they can identify any changes and abnormalities. If you are unsure about the cause of your spotting before a period, consult our online doctor for advice at Your Doctors Online. 

If you have vaginal spotting, consult our doctor to determine the cause.

FAQs About Spotting Before Period Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

How does spotting differ from light period bleeding?

Spotting occurs irregularly and can occur in between cycles. Wheres as light period bleeding usually occurs at the time of the period.

What Can You Do to Prevent or Stop Spotting?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help prevent a hormonal imbalance. Although, you should visit a doctor for diagnosis and proper treatment.

How do I know if I have low progesterone?

Signs that indicate low progesterone include regular periods, spotting before a period, mood swings and sleep disturbances.

Spotting on the birth control pill: should you be worried?

Commonly, women may experience spotting while on any form of birth control. This can be due to external hormones introduced into the body. 

When should I take a pregnancy test after spotting?

Waiting at least a week after your missed period is a better time to take a pregnancy test.

How many days is it normal to spot before your period?

Spotting a few days after a period can be expected and can be a part of residual bleeding. 

Is it normal to spot a week before your period?

Several causes leads to spotting. Proper diagnosis and treatment are required depending on the cause.

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