During your menstrual cycle you can have a range of blood flow ranging from light, medium and heavy. Spotting however is very light bleeding that occurs outside of your regular period cycle. The bleeding is very light, hence the name ‘spotting’. It looks like very few drops of blood on your underwear. Spotting is known as a form of abnormal vaginal bleeding because it occurs outside of your period cycle. The spotting could be either from the uterus, or the vagina or cervix.
Some people often get spotting confused with proper bleeding. Here are some key points to help you distinguish between bleeding and spotting!
- During menstruation (which is when bleeding occurs) you will notice a considerable amount of bleeding. This is why we need sanitary products like pads or tampons to soak up the blood. When you are spotting, it is very light bleeding that doesn’t require any product to soak up the blood. Wearing a panty liner is enough.
- When you are bleeding, you will experience symptoms of menstruation like cramping, lower back pain, breast tenderness, ovulation pains, etc. You usually do not experience all these symptoms during spotting.
- The colour of the blood while spotting during is sometimes much lighter than the deep red colour of blood during menstruation. It is known to look like small light red or pink dots. Sometimes even brown spotting occurs.
- If your period cycle is regular, then one way of knowing that you are spotting and not bleeding is if you notice blood dots on the days of the month you are not having your periods. This is a clear indication of spotting.
Why does spotting even happen in the first place you might ask? It does seem abnormal that you could have light bleeding outside of your period cycle, but in fact it is quite common! Spotting tends to happen during any new change the body is going though. It could very well be our body’s way of adjusting to lifestyle changes, changes in medication, etc. Here are some causes of spotting. Some are harmless, but some require a trip to your gynaecologist.
- Birth control pills: If you have recently started birth control or have switched over to a new type of birth control pill, then you might be noticing spotting before or after your menstrual cycle. This is due to the hormonal changes in the reproductive organs that the pill causes.
- Stress: Stress is one of the biggest culprits that can disrupt your entire period cycle. Stress can do anything, from making you miss periods to even getting heavier periods than normal depending on your body. Stress releases the hormone cortisol which tends to decrease or slow the production of progesterone, causing an imbalance in your cycle and making you spot.
- Trauma: Any form of physical trauma to the vagina, such as rough sex or sexual assault can cause light bleeding.
- Disease or infections: Many STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) are a major cause for spotting out of menstruation. Even UTI’s (urinary tract infections) are known to cause spotting.
- Implantation bleeding: When your ovum or egg is fertilized by the sperm, it creates an embryo. This embryo is your potential child. When the embryo burrows into the uterine lining and implants or attaches itself to it, some light pink or brown spotting can be observed. Not everyone experiences it though. This is a clear indication of pregnancy.
What is brown spotting?
Brown spotting is just vaginal discharge that is mixed with blood. It can occur during the period cycle, or even before and after it. It is quite normal and almost all women have experienced brown discharge at some point in the menstruation. It is usually some old blood from your last period leaving your system, because as blood stays in your body for long and ages, it turns a brown, rusty colour. There are some causes of brown discharge however that are more serious.
- Indication of pregnancy: Brown discharge is a clear indication of pregnancy if you experience other signs and symptoms along with it. When the implantation or attaching of the embryo to the uterus wall takes place, a brown discharge is observed. This bleeding can occur 1-2weeks after the egg has been fertilized. You can always use a pregnancy test to check if you have been having unprotected sex.
- Menopause: Age plays a factor in causing brown discharge. If you are premenopausal- that is approaching menopause, you might see some brown spotting here and there.
- Reaction to having sex
- Ovulation spotting: Ovulation spotting is oftentimes light pink or brown.
- Starting of menstruation: You can have brown spotting when your period cycle is just about to start.
When is spotting a concern?
Vaginal spotting is a part and parcel of having a menstrual cycle, but it is important to know when it can mean something more serious than normal causes. It’s time to visit your doctor or gynaecologist when you see the following happen:
- If you experience vaginal spotting any time between your 2nd and 3rd trimester. Normally it is okay to spot during your first trimester because of all the new changes your reproductive organs are going through. But alert your doctor about all of it.
- If you experience a sudden decrease in pregnancy symptoms, along with pinkish white spotting. This could potentially mean a miscarriage.
- If you experience a fishy or foul smell coming from your vagina accompanied with brown or green discharge. This could mean you have contracted either an STD or UTI.
- If you experience abdominal pain or an uncomfortable sensation while passing urine during spotting.
If you experience any of the above, please consult your doctor immediately, they will conduct tests and PAP smears to rule out any harmful disease or a miscarriage. Even if you don’t experience any of these, but still have a lot of spotting or brown discharge, its always wiser to keep your doctor in the loop. Better safe than sorry!