Did you ever experience bleeding between your periods without knowing why? If you are like most women, the answer to this question is yes. This common occurrence can be a minor nuisance, a curious symptom or sign of a major life change.
What is Spotting?
Spotting, also referred to as abnormal vaginal bleeding, typically occurs between menstrual periods. Often alarming at first, many women experience spotting at some time or the other during their lives. Spotting usually appears as brownish blood but can vary from dark to pink blood that is so scant as to only be seen on toilet paper when wiping the vagina. Spotting is much lighter than menstrual flow and can last from one to several days.
Even though it may be called abnormal vaginal bleeding, some amount of spotting can actually be normal. For example, spotting in the middle of your cycle is called mid-cycle spotting, and occurs from 10 to 14 days before your next period. Mid-cycle spotting is considered normal because it occurs during the time when you ovulate and indicates your peak period of fertility. As a result, mid-cycle spotting often helps women to determine their exact ovulation day and helps them to plan or avoid pregnancy.
Ovulation may cause some blood to flow out of your vagina when the egg is expelled from its follicle and when your levels of oestrogen rise, typically causing the uterus to lose part of its lining. Additionally, certain medications that affect your menstrual cycle may cause spotting in the second week of your cycle. In other cases, vaginal and cervical infections as well as certain intrauterine devices (IUD) may also provoke mid-cycle spotting.
Another time when spotting is considered normal is during implantation bleeding, which occurs approximately seven days before your next period is due. This type of spotting normally lasts less than one day and happens after ovulation, when a fertilised egg attaches itself into the uterine lining and causes a small amount of blood to be expelled through the vagina. If your cycles are short, implantation bleeding could indeed occur during the second week of your cycle, but is not the same as mid-cycle spotting.
Prolonged spotting, sometimes referred to as abnormal spotting, usually happens at other times than the second or third week of your cycle. Also, prolonged spotting can last longer than other types of spotting. Low progesterone levels at the end of your cycle can provoke spotting in progesterone-deficient women and can lead to fertility problems and even miscarriage. Other causes of abnormal spotting are birth control pills and uterine fibroids - a common cause of heavy periods. In extreme cases, sexual abuse and cancer of the cervix, uterus, vagina and ovaries can also cause abnormal spotting.