Sometimes, bleeding can occur outside of a menstrual period, especially during steps involving hormonal changes such as the time around menopause.
When there is a small amount of blood outside of a period, it is known as spotting or, medically, as metorrhagia. Spotting can occur for many different reasons and many women will experience it at some point in their lives. Also, it can be a sign of pregnancy, but in this case is called “implantation bleeding”.
In many cases, spotting is harmless, but is still out of the ordinary and should be discussed with a doctor. In some cases may signify an underlying condition which needs medical attention.
If you notice some extra blood between periods, then it can be helpful to understand the different reasons why, and see a doctor if necessary. Continue reading to learn more about spotting, as well as what to do about it.
Spotting refers to any bleeding that comes from a woman's reproductive organs and occurs outside of a menstrual period. It can also be called breakthrough bleeding or metorrhagia. It is usually lighter than a period and is either red or brown.
Spotting can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, such as during the transition to menopause, or it may be a symptom of a different condition. In the case of perimenopause, a little spotting around the time of your period is considered harmless. However, if you are experiencing regular spotting at times when you are not expecting your period, then you need to see a doctor to check for an underlying condition.
Spotting and Pregnancy
Small amounts of uterine blood during pregnancy are very common, with 30% of pregnant women experiencing spotting during their first trimesters. One reason for spotting is implantation bleeding, which happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. Implantation bleeding occurs very early in the pregnancy and can last a few days. While spotting during pregnancy is usually not dangerous, it is important to notify your obstetrician if you notice any spotting or evidence of blood. In some cases, spotting can signify complications with the pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancy. Also, spotting after the first trimester may indicate other problems.
If you are certain you are not pregnant, then spotting may signify a different underlying condition that may affect your fertility. Continue reading to learn more about spotting and fertility.
Spotting and Fertility
With spotting, timing is everything. If there is a little bit of blood between periods, around the middle of the cycle, then it indicates ovulation and thus is a sign of fertility.
In other cases, spotting that occurs at other times during the menstrual cycle may indicate a disease or disorder of the reproductive system, some of which may include problems with conception. It is therefore very important to establish the exact cause of the problem. Continue reading to learn more about the different causes of spotting.
There are many different conditions that can cause spotting, but when a woman is getting close to the age of menopause, or when it is most likely, and she experiences unexplainable spotting, it is normally a sign of hormonal imbalance, a natural part of the menopause transition. As her body prepares to taper off the production of the sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, periods often become irregular, including the presence of blood in between periods. In many cases, spotting has been related in one way or another to certain lifestyle factors that can trigger or exacerbate the condition, such as stress, alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking.
Other Spotting Causes
Furthermore, though less common, any of the following conditions may also lead to spotting:
- Primary fallopian tube cancer
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Von Willebrand disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Endometrial hyperplasia
- Cervical cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Uterine leiomyomas
Many of these conditions carry other symptoms. It is important to make note of any other symptoms you have besides spotting and discuss them with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Continue reading to know more about spotting diagnosis.
Diagnosing spotting will depend on other symptoms that you are experiencing. If there is a chance of pregnancy, then the doctor will first check to see whether you are pregnant. If not, then he or she will continue with other tests. These can include tests for hormone imbalance, such as blood tests, or imaging tests to determine if there are any structural abnormalities or growths in the reproductive organs.
When looking for treatments for spotting, it's important to begin with methods that are the least obtrusive, with the least likelihood of side effects, and progress from there. Effectively treatments will depend upon whether there is an underlying condition. In all cases, treatment should be conducted in consult with a licensed medical professional.
If the spotting is occurring due to the hormonal imbalances associated with menopause, then there are many different treatment options available, including lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and medications. Most experts recommend that women who wish to manage the symptoms of menopause should begin with making lifestyle changes, as these carry the least risk, as well as alternative medicines that will help correct hormonal imbalance. In more severe cases, increasingly aggressive measures may be taken, but only with the supervision of a medical professional.
If there is another condition present, then other kind of treatment may be needed. This will depend entirely upon the condition, which will need a medical diagnosis and a treatment plan put forth by a physician. Click on the following link to learn more about the various treatments for spotting.
- Carlson, Karen J., MD; Eisenstat, Stephanie A., MD; Ziporyn, Terra, PhD (2004). The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health. Harvard University Press. pp. 385.
- Gray SH, et al. Abnormal vaginal bleeding in adolescents. Pediatrics in Review. 2007;28:175.
- Goodman A. The evaluation and management of uterine bleeding in postmenopausal women. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed July 8, 2010.
- Mohan S, et al. Diagnosis of abnormal uterine bleeding. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2007;21:891.