Oops. This was meant to be a week without a period but now without warning my white panties have fallen victim to spotting. Don't worry, that's what happens. But the question is why? Where does the mysterious blood actually come from? Is there something I should check? This is exactly what we are diving into today.
What does "spotting" mean?
A spotting is different from a "regular" period. There is still blood coming from the vagina, but it comes in addition to your "regular" period and normally it is also a smaller amount of blood. Often spotting is due to fluctuations in hormones. Getting spotting once in a while is nothing abnormal or something you need to stress about. If, on the other hand, something comes back, we recommend that you check it out to ensure that everything is as it should be down there!
How is spotting different from a period?
Spotting is lighter bleeding than the period itself and is usually pink or brownish. Many times it is so small that you don't even notice it in your panties, but only when you go to the toilet and dry yourself. A spotting is in many cases so small that a tampon is not necessary (as it dries out the vagina instead). The trick is usually to use a panty liner instead. As I said, the color of a spotting is often more towards the pink or brownish direction, unlike a period, which is often darker red.
The beauty of the menstrual cycle is that it often follows a regular pattern based on a monthly cycle ( read here for what a normal menstrual cycle looks like) that we can predict. A spotting on the other hand is not predictable but can appear more randomly during the course of the menstrual cycle.
Why do we have spotting?
There are various reasons why spotting occurs. Some are completely normal and nothing we need to worry about, while others are good to have extra supervision over and discuss with a gynecologist. If you feel worried, you should always check it out! Here are some of the most common reasons why we experience spotting during the month:
Fluctuations in hormones
Spotting is often caused by rapid fluctuations in hormones, i.e. rapid changes in your hormones that cause bleeding to occur.
If you are ovulating, you may be one of the 3% of women who experience a little bleeding when ovulating. When we ovulate, an egg is released from the ovary, which can cause a little bleeding. This is nothing to worry about and is completely normal.
Spottings and hormonal contraception
If you take any form of hormonal contraception, the probability is greater that you will experience spotting between your withdrawal bleeding (when we are on contraception, we do not have a real period but something called withdrawal bleeding ). It is also common to experience when you start or change contraceptives. Sometimes you can also get spotting if you missed taking your birth control pills , are sick, vomit or experience diarrhea as this can make certain hormonal contraceptives ineffective. If you have a patch or ring and are experiencing spotting, you may need to check your spotting with a doctor to make sure everything looks good.
Early pregnancy or spotting
Our hormones and bodies are affected in many ways during pregnancy, one way you can notice it is light spotting during your first trimester as a pregnant woman. This is something that may feel worrying to many but around 15-25% of all pregnant women experience this - and it doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong. If you still feel a concern about it, raise it with your midwife or gynecologist so you can feel at ease.
Another time you may notice spotting or light bleeding is right at the beginning of a pregnancy. This is also called implantation bleeding or spotting, it occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus. This usually happens 10-14 days after the egg has been fertilized, so around week 2 or 3 of a pregnancy. This is normal and nothing to worry about. Given that this bleeding happens around the same time you would have your period, it's easy to mistake it for your period.
Menopause and pre-menopause
During pre-menopause you often notice that your periods become more irregular and it is not unusual for you to experience spotting - which is normal. However, if you continue to experience spotting when you enter menopause, you should contact a gynecologist to see that everything looks good.
PCOS is a condition that affects the release of eggs from your ovaries. Due to rapid changes and imbalanced hormones, women with PCOS can experience irregular ovulation (and therefore menstrual cycle), missed periods and, as you might have guessed, spotting.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue from the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus, which can be expressed in a range of unwanted symptoms. Spotting is one of them. Although spotting itself is often not painful, many other symptoms linked to endometriosis are. If you suspect you have endometriosis - contact a gynecologist for help. If you are unsure whether you have endometriosis , we recommend that you read the following blog post . If you know you have endometriosis, you must not miss this inspiring success story of how one of the women in our community reduced her symptoms of endometriosis through lifestyle changes.
Sexually transmitted infections - STI
Sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can sometimes cause spotting during the cycle or after sex. If you experience other symptoms related to STIs such as painful urination, itching, discharge or pelvic pain, you should contact your gynecologist to make sure everything is okay down there.
The skin cracks
If you had sex when you weren't wet enough (or are dry overall), it can cause the skin ( blood vessels that burst) to burst. Sometimes it can cause you to have a little bleeding similar to spotting. Most of the time it heals on its own, but if you experience discomfort or feel worried that there is more blood than it should be, do not hesitate to talk to a gynecologist.
With cell changes in the uterus, you can sometimes experience a little bleeding or spotting. Cell changes are usually due to an infection (HPV = human papilloma virus). Many cell changes are mild and will heal on their own, but in some cases you may need treatment to prevent them from developing into cancer. We encourage you to always go for your regular pap smears that the region sends out!
If we were to summarize what we have been through (repetition is key), the most common reasons why you may experience spotting are:
- Bleeding associated with ovulation
- Early pregnancy (bleeding: fertilized egg attaches)
- You start or change birth control pills
- Various infections in the vagina such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
- You are at the beginning of puberty and your menstrual cycle has not started yet
- That you have entered pre-menopause
So the reasons why we get spotting can differ. Getting spotting every now and then happens. In most cases, it is not because something is wrong, but it is important to pay attention to this as it can be a symptom of an infection, hormonal changes or ovulation. If it's the case that you suddenly get spotting and it keeps coming, it might be good to check up just in case to see that everything is top notch down there!
Note: This blog post is for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure. If you have health problems, it is important to discuss them with an expert. We work closely with the Livakliniken , which is run by one of Womensync's external experts, Maria Särén, where you can turn if you are looking for advice. Please state "Womensync" when booking.
Dasharathy S, et al. al. (2012). Menstrual bleeding patterns among regularly menstruating women. DOI:
Cleveland Clinic Staff: Women's Health Team. (2016). How to decode your vaginal discharge — and when to worry.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Vaginal bleeding.
tell if it's a problem. health.clevelandclinic.org/when-should-you-worry-about-spotting-between-periods/