Bleeding from your nether regions is never pleasant, and it’s worse if it happens when you’re not on your period. This kind of light bleeding, or spotting, can be harmless, or could point towards a more sinister problem, so today we are going to help you distinguish between what’s normal, and what’s not when it comes to spotting.
Around the 14th day of a 28-day menstrual cycle, you may experience a little bit of spotting that can range from brownish vaginal discharge, to a few drops of blood. This can happen when the ovum gets discharged from the ovary, releasing a little bit of blood in the process. This is perfectly normal, and most of the time, even goes unnoticed!
Going on birth control affects a woman’s hormone levels, and regulates her cycle such that her period can be delayed or comes on specific dates. Sometimes spotting can occur between periods, and this is known as breakthrough bleeding. This can happen if you happen to miss a pill, start a new medication while on contraceptives, or if you become ill with vomiting or diarrhoea, which may impart absorption of the medication. This is no cause for concern as long as bleeding is not profuse, simply continue with the contraceptives to prevent any unplanned pregnancies.
Spotting can be one of the earliest signals of pregnancy. This is because a week or so after intercourse, and after fertilisation, the fertilised ovum then gets implanted into the uterine lining, and this is causes a few blood vessels to rupture when the ovum attaches itself to the lining. Once again, this is normal as long as it is just accompanied by a mild discomfort in the lower abdomen. If you experience extreme pain, nausea, or if the bleeding is profuse, call your doctor immediately as this may be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
Light spotting later on during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is also no reason for concern as up to 20% of women experience this during the first trimester. Other than implantation bleeding, this can happen because of the presence of a cervical polyp (a harmless growth on the cervix), which is more likely to bleed during pregnancy due to higher estrogen levels. Because there is an increased number of blood vessels in the tissue around the cervix during pregnancy, contact with this area (through intercourse or a gynaecological exam, for example) can cause bleeding.
Perimenopause is the period of change that happens as a woman is waning off her period. During this period of time, the hormone levels in a woman’s body are changing, as estrogen levels increase, while progesterone levels decrease. This combination of hormone levels then leads to heavier menstrual flows before periods start to skip, as well as spotting between periods.
When you notice blood down there, it’s easy to attribute its source to the vagina straight away, but this may not always be the case. If you are bleeding from your rectum or urethra, consult a medical practitioner straightaway as this may be a sign Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), kidney infections, kidney stones, haemorrhoids or anal fissures, just to name a few. Unsure which hole you’re bleeding from? Simply insert a tampon to see if the blood is coming from the vagina or somewhere else.
Heavy bleeding during pregnancy
Heavy spotting or bleeding after the first trimester, especially during the later parts of pregnancy is not normal, so immediately consult your gynaecologist if you notice any bleeding going on that is similar to your menstrual period. Heavy bleeding may be a sign of a miscarriage, preterm labour or an ectopic pregnancy, whether the fertilised ovum implanted itself in somewhere other than the uterine lining. Whatever it is, better safe than sorry, you should consult a medical practitioner if you notice any bleeding just to rule out any pregnancy complications.
Bleeding after sex
Bleeding after sex is not normal. However, there are many underlying causes of bleeding after sex, such as vaginal dryness and cervical dysplasia, which are treatable if promptly diagnosed and treated. Some types of postcoital bleeding can be caused by serious conditions, such as cervical cancer or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Seek prompt medical care if you experience bleeding after sex, even if it is light spotting, as early diagnosis can reduce the risk of severe complications.
There are many reasons why you bleed between periods, some of them are harmless, while others can be a warning sign for more serious underlying conditions. You know you body best, so if you detect any unexpected bleeding or pain, consult a professional as soon as you can, many a time conditions can be treated if caught early! Have you experienced spotting before periods, and if so do you have any questions for us? If you do, leave them in the comments section below! 🙂
Chen Wei is an undergrad majoring in Psychology. She's currently spending a year in New York City, where she's interning at a startup. When she's not at work, you can find her practising yoga, or exploring the Big Apple with her camera in hand.