Spotting & bleeding between periods
It can be a little scary when you notice traces of blood on your underwear between periods, especially if your cycle is pretty regular. But there’s no need to panic!
Have you ever pulled down your pants when going to the loo or jumping into the shower to find some unexpected spots of blood on the inside of your underwear? These little specks of blood that appear outside of your usual period days is known as spotting. Spotting can occur for a number of reasons, and most of them are harmless. Let's learn more about the causes of spotting and what you can do about it!
What is spotting?
Well, spotting is essentially light bleeding from your vagina that takes place outside of your usual menstruation days. This means that you might randomly see a few dots of reddish-brown blood on your underwear or on toilet paper after wiping yourself at a time you wouldn’t expect to.
Noticing your body react in a way you're not used to can be startling. But there’s no need to feel immediately alarmed if you notice that you are spotting between periods – there’s usually a clear explanation behind it.
Is pink or brown spotting normal?
You may notice that the colour of your spotting isn’t exactly the same as period blood. Spotting can actually range in colour from a pale pink (think candyfloss) all the way to a rusty brown colour. The reason for this is that old blood, which didn’t leave your uterus from your previous period, can mix with your vaginal discharge and produce these different colours.
While it may seem a little odd to see pink or brown discharge appear suddenly in your underwear, this type of discharge is rarely linked to anything more serious. If you talk to someone you know who has periods, you’ll realise that everyone experiences brown spotting from time to time!
What causes bleeding between periods?
The reasons behind spotting between periods are not all a cause for concern – sometimes it just means that your body is adapting to a change in hormone levels, and in this case spotting is to be expected! However, there are also reasons that could be a bit more serious, so it is worth checking in with a doctor or medical professional, even if it’s just to put your own mind at ease.
Spotting on the pill
As we mentioned, hormonal changes can definitely cause spotting and in particular, a lot of people will experience this when starting or coming off the pill. This type of spotting is also known as “breakthrough bleeding”. Breakthrough bleeding will usually occur during the first 3-6 months of you starting the pill, as your body adjusts to the new hormones that it’s receiving.
It can be frustrating to deal with, but remember breakthrough bleeding is usually a temporary phase and it doesn’t mean that the pill isn’t working! If you are however experiencing breakthrough bleeding after 6 months on the same pill, you can always check in with a medical professional. Your doctor for example, will then be able to provide you with a different pill or contraceptive option which is more suited to your body.
More hormonal changes
The pill is not the only factor that can trigger changes in your hormone levels. They can be caused by a variety of factors such as; ovulation (when one of your ovaries releases an egg), implantation (when an egg attaches itself to your uterine lining at the beginning of pregnancy), starting/stopping a contraceptive, puberty or perimenopause.
When you first start your periods and are going through puberty, it can sometimes take years for them to fall into a regular pattern. This may mean you experience spotting in the meantime. Similarly, when you approach menopause, your periods can become irregular and unpredictable, leading to harmless spotting as your body adapts to a new normal.
So, if you are going through a fluctuation of hormones, then don’t panic if you experience spotting – this is a common response from the body as it adapts to new levels of hormones.
Other changes that can cause spotting
Other slightly more serious causes of spotting could be vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia. It can also be a sign that you’re pregnant, and while spotting doesn’t always mean there is a problem with the pregnancy, it definitely should be checked out.
Post-sex spotting can also – very occasionally – be a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer , so it’s important to consult a medical professional if you experience this. Also, it’s a good idea to attend your regular smear test appointments to check the health of your cervix (even if you aren’t experiencing spotting!).
How can you deal with spotting between periods?
So now that we’ve figured out some of the causes, you may be wondering what you can do about spotting. The good news is that when you’ve figured out the cause of your spotting, you’ll be able to start taking the right steps towards dealing with it!
If you have checked in with a medical professional and they have reassured you that there is nothing to worry about, then there are simple things you can do to make your life a little easier when it comes to spotting. For example, you can use a liner to protect your clothing and also keep some handy in your bag in case you experience spotting out of the blue.
Did you know?
At the end of the day, we know that seeing blood anywhere can sometimes be a little unsettling, but spotting is a common occurrence and most of the time it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. As always, try to listen to your body as well as give it time to process and adapt to new changes – hormonal or not!
And even though some causes of spotting can be a warning sign of something more serious, as long as you’re sure to check in with a medical professional, they will be able to best guide you on how to deal with it.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.
 Hasan, Reem et al. “Patterns and predictors of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy.” Annals of epidemiology vol. 20,7 (2010): 524-31.
 Deutchman M, Tubay AT, Turok D. First trimester bleeding. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jun 1;79(11):985-94.