You head to the bathroom to pee and you see it...a pink spot right on your favorite underwear. But your period isn’t due for another 2 weeks! Now you’re a little upset with your uterus because the lacy blue panties you got have blood on them and you’re a little concerned about what your body is doing. This scenario happens to many women, leaving them feeling utterly confused. What’s happening? You’re spotting. And while, yes, it could be cause to book the soonest appointment your gynecologist has and barge into the waiting room demanding to know exactly what is happening, most of the time it’s really no reason for concern. Spotting happens and knowing the how and the why will give you peace of mind and allow you to prepare for such an event, lest your next pair from Victoria’s Secret become bloody, too.
The Difference Between Your Period and Spotting
Is there even really a difference in the ways you bleed from your vagina? Yes. Yes, there is. While a period is the start of your menstrual cycle each month and releases about 2 tablespoons of blood (if you don’t have menorrhagia), spotting can happen at any time during your menstrual cycle and is literally spots of blood. Another way to tell the difference is by the color of the blood. While your period blood can range in colors, spotting usually releases light brown blood.
While this may cause alarm bells to go off in your head, spotting is actually fairly common. It can occur between periods, during pregnancy, after sex, or after a gynecological exam. Whew!
What Causes Spotting?
Though spotting is considered normal in most circumstances, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor. This is because there are some causes of spotting that you’ll want a medical professional to treat you for.
Here are some of the reasons you may be spotting:
- Menstruation - Ok, I know I said that spotting is different from your period. And it is! But at the start of your menses, you may find that you have some spotting. This is totally normal. Promise.
- Ovulation - A likely culprit of spotting, ovulation occurs when an egg is released from the ovaries to await fertilization. This process can cause spotting. Alternatively, spotting can happen due to an increase in estrogen that happens when the egg does not become fertilized.
- Implantation - Implantation bleeding is spotting that happens when the embryo implants into the uterus and it can be hard to distinguish - is it your period coming or are you pregnant? Well, it could be either. A good way to tell is to check for other signs of pregnancy, like nausea, fatigue, or sore breasts.
- Abnormal pregnancy - Miscarriages, premature labor, and ectopic pregnancies are all cause for concern. Spotting can be present with all of them so if you are concerned about it, check with your doctor right away.
- Labor - Another pregnancy-related cause of spotting is going into labor. This usually occurs around 37 weeks when your body passes the mucus plug.
- Infections or disease - STI’s, reproductive issues, and other infections like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) could all be causes of spotting. If the above causes don’t seem to be the issue, check with your doctor. Most infections are treatable but can become even more serious if ignored.
When to Call the Doctor
While you should feel free to call your doctor anytime you have a health related question or concern, it’s helpful to know when spotting is a cause for real concern. Here are some times when it’s smart to call a doctor:
- If you are pregnant or think you may be
- If you have consistent spotting
- If you have had unprotected sex and start spotting
- If you have any pain or cramping around the time of spotting
- If you are on any kind of medication that you think could be causing spotting