Photo by Erol Ahmed
Caught some blood in your underwear, but you’re still two weeks away from your period? Don’t panic, this can be normal. Light bleeding in the middle of your cycle or outside of your menstrual period, also known as ‘spotting’ or ‘breakthrough bleeding’, can happen for a variety of reasons. These can range from simple hormonal changes to injury to a deeper underlying issue. Spotting *typically* doesn’t last for more than a few days, but that’s still annoying enough when you have to deal with bleeding for ¼ of the month already.
It’s important to monitor your normal cycle from month to month so you can be aware of any changes that may affect your body. Our body is a sacred temple; let’s not forget that! Changes in your lifestyle can have a big impact on the way your body functions; for example, people who smoke are at a higher risk of experiencing spotting.
Breakthrough bleeding or spotting can come from either your upper or lower reproductive tract, i.e. your uterus or cervix/vagina. This bleeding is different from that which occurs during your period, which is a result of the inner walls of your uterus lining being shed.
A lot of the time the cause of the irregular bleeding isn’t found, and generally goes away after one occurrence. For others, this can be a prolonged issue that may need further attention from a medical professional. We’ve outlined a few common causes for you to consider that may assist in determining where the bleeding is coming from.
A day or two after ovulation some women can notice light spotting, which can be a regular occurrence for certain people. Be mindful not to confuse this with menstruation, as ovulation is the time when you are most fertile and could lead to some unexpected pregnancies if you’re not careful!
Spotting can occur during the first few months of pregnancy and is a common symptom of early pregnancy. There is no need to be alarmed unless the bleeding is quite heavy, then it is best to contact your healthcare professional. Spotting during pregnancy can also be a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs somewhere other than the uterus.
A miscarriage can happen at any stage of a pregnancy, and may even happen before the person is aware that they are pregnant. Miscarriages happen in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus dies in the womb and can be a shock to the system. Breakthrough bleeding associated with miscarriage can last for two weeks or more, so check in with your doctor at the first signs of a potential miscarriage.
If you’ve just switched to a new contraceptive, or have just started taking one – whether it be the pill, the patch, the implant or the intrauterine device (IUD) – you may find yourself experiencing irregular bleeding within the first three months. Also, if you’re skipping the directions and not taking your contraception according to the instructions you may find yourself experiencing in-between menstruation bleeding. If the spotting you’re experiencing from new contraception lasts longer than three months, or is extremely heavy check-in with your doctor, or ask about changing to an alternate form of contraception.
Certain sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, can cause spotting as well as bleeding during or after sex. These diseases can be passed from one person to another easily through unprotected sex and can cause infertility if left untreated. So if you think you may have contracted an STI consult your doctor immediately for treatment.
If you catch yourself having sex that isn’t lubricated enough, or maybe just a little too rough, it can cause damage to the tissue of the vagina, which may result in bleeding. Vaginal dryness may happen for a variety of reasons that aren’t just limited to not being turned-on. Changing hormone levels as a result of medication or illness can cause you to be dry as well, so don’t feel shy to reach out and get some lube if necessary!
During the period leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, the body can experience fluctuating hormone levels. Hormone levels in the body alter for sometimes up to 10 years before menopause, which can often cause irregular bleeding and spotting.
For pain relief associated with pull out your Livia, lay back and let her do her magic. Using a light panty liner will put your mind at ease and let you continue with your daily activities without the stress of wondering if you’re bleeding through your clothes. Depending on what is causing the bleeding you may or may not be able to prevent the bleeding between your periods, but it is best to have a proper diagnosis if the bleeding continues.
To assist with proper diagnosis keep a record of the bleeding, noting the frequency and duration. Treatment varies depending on the source of the bleeding, and could be something as simple as changing your contraception to jumping on a dose of antibiotics.
Breakthrough bleeding or spotting can be very normal, and isn’t an immediate cause for panic. However, if the bleeding is ongoing or very heavy make sure to check in with a doctor to confirm that there aren’t any serious underlying issues. For women who are going through menopause and are experiencing spotting or irregular bleeding, tell your doctor straight away, as this could be a symptom of an infection or hypothyroidism, a deficiency in thyroid hormones.