A normal menstrual period lasts anywhere from 2-7 days. And once your period tapers off, you probably don’t expect to see any bleeding until your next period starts in about a month.
Bleeding or spotting between periods isn’t normal, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. In fact, it’s actually quite common. Noticing blood in your underwear or when you wipe between periods can be alarming, and it might leave you wondering if something is wrong.
Fortunately, spotting between periods usually isn’t a sign of something more serious. However, it’s important to talk about it with your doctor — and our team at Women’s Health Specialists is here to help.
In this blog, Daniel McDonald, MD, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team explain a few of the most common causes of bleeding between periods and what to do about it.
Possible causes of spotting between periods
Bleeding between periods is generally described as any vaginal blood loss that occurs when you’re not on your period. Most of the time, bleeding (or spotting) is so light that it doesn’t necessitate a pad or tampon.
A few possible causes include:
1. Hormonal imbalance
Two hormones — estrogen and progesterone — regulate your menstrual cycle. These hormones naturally fluctuate, but too much or too little can disrupt your cycle and cause bleeding between periods.
Some women experience spotting around the time of ovulation due to hormonal changes. Certain gynecologic conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and even perimenopause, can also trigger hormonal imbalance, spotting, and irregular periods.
Taking hormonal birth control is another common cause of spotting between periods, especially in the first three months of use. This is called breakthrough bleeding, and it’s linked to hormonal changes that alter the lining of your uterus.
Endometriosis is a gynecologic condition that affects about 11% of women. It develops when tissue that’s similar to the lining of your uterus grows elsewhere in your body.
This tissue thickens and sheds like healthy uterine tissue, but it can cause pelvic pain and inflammation. For some women, endometriosis causes bleeding or spotting between periods, along with heavy menstrual bleeding.
Sometimes, bleeding between periods is a sign of infection. Your reproductive organs, including your vagina, cervix, and uterus, can get infected from sexual intercourse, pelvic inflammatory disease, and other issues. Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like chlamydia, can cause vaginal bleeding.
4. Early pregnancy
The absence of a menstrual period is what many women consider the first sign of pregnancy. But spotting in early pregnancy is very common, and nearly 20% of women experience it in the first 12 weeks.
After an egg is fertilized, it may take up to 14 days to implant in your uterus. Implantation can cause a few days of light bleeding and cramps, but not as much blood loss as a normal period.
What to do about bleeding between periods
Occasional spotting between periods is common, and it usually doesn’t mean something is wrong. Still, you should never ignore it — especially if bleeding is heavier than a few drops or if it’s accompanied by pelvic pain or other symptoms.
If you’re concerned about bleeding between periods, book an appointment with Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wilson. We do a physical exam and discuss your symptoms, then make our diagnosis and recommend treatment.
There are two cases in which you should always schedule a gynecologist appointment for vaginal bleeding: during pregnancy and after menopause. Bleeding during pregnancy could be a sign of a complication, like miscarriage. Bleeding after menopause could be a sign of a more serious condition, like cancer.
No matter your symptoms, we’re here for you. Learn more about what’s normal during and between periods with an appointment at Women’s Health Specialists in Denton, Texas. Call our office at 940-202-0301 or send us a message online.