What is spotting? Spotting is defined as light vaginal bleeding that happens outside of your regular periods.
Typically, spotting involves small amounts of blood. You may notice it on toilet paper after you’ve used the restroom, or in your underwear. It usually only requires a panty liner if you need protection, not a pad or tampon.
Bleeding or spotting any time other than when you have your period is considered abnormal vaginal bleeding, or intermenstrual bleeding.
There are many different causes for spotting between periods. Sometimes, it can be a sign of a serious problem, but it’s often nothing to worry about.
What causes spotting before periods?
There are several reasons you might experience spotting before your period. Many of these causes can be effectively treated or dealt with.
1. Birth control
Hormonal birth control pills, patches, injections, rings, and implants can all cause spotting between periods.
Spotting can happen spontaneously, or when you:
- first start using a hormone-based birth control method
- skip doses or don’t take your birth control pills correctly
- change the type or dose of your birth control
- use birth control for a long period of time
Sometimes, birth control is used to treat abnormal bleeding between periods. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or worsen.
About 3 percent Trusted Source of women experience spotting related to ovulation. Ovulation spotting is light bleeding that occurs around the time in your menstrual cycle when your ovary releases an egg. For many women, this can be anywhere between 11 days and 21 days after the first day of your last period.
Ovulation spotting may be light pink or red in color, and will last for about 1 to 2 days in the middle of your cycle.
3. Implantation bleeding
Implantation spotting may occur when a fertilized egg attaches to the inner lining of your uterus. But everyone doesn’t experience implantation bleeding when they become pregnant.
If it does occur, implantation spotting happens a few days before your next period should occur. Implantation bleeding is usually light pink to dark brown in color, much lighter in flow than a typical period, and doesn’t last as long as a typical period.
Spotting during pregnancy is not uncommon. About 15 to 25 percent of women will experience spotting during their first trimester. The bleeding is often light, and the color may be pink, red, or brown.
Usually, spotting isn’t a cause for concern, but you should let your doctor know if you have this symptom. If you experience heavy bleeding or pelvic pain, contact your doctor right away. This could be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
As you transition to menopause, you may have months where you don’t ovulate. This transitional time is called perimenopause.
During perimenopause, your periods become more irregular, and you may experience some spotting. You might also skip your periods altogether or have menstrual bleeding that’s lighter or heavier than usual.