Your period is not expected for weeks but you find that you are spotting or bleeding. It is a normal reaction to worry. What could this mean? Before you panic there can be many reasons for bleeding in between periods. Some of these reasons are harmless but some of them are quite serious. So I would strongly urge you to consult with your doctor or gynecologist any time you have bleeding or spotting from an unknown cause when it is not your period.
Here are some possible causes for spotting or bleeding in between periods:
- You are using birth control pills. Spotting in between cycles is very common in the first several months of taking birth control pills. One thing which can help is for you to take your pill at the same time each day. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois advises that spotting will usually improve as you continue to take the pill past three cycles. According to the American Family Physician some women may spot the entire time they take birth control pills. They say this is not dangerous, just inconvenient for you. If you are continuing to bleed past three cycles of taking your pill it is suggested that you talk to your doctor about switching birth control pills to one with a higher dose of progesterone or estrogen.
Also women who smoke are more prone to this spotting while on birth control pills. In addition to taking the birth control pill at different times of day, missing pills can also cause bleeding. When you stop taking your pill, your body assumes it is time for a period and you may begin to bleed. Always read the instructions given on your pack of pills to know what to do should you miss a day or more of your pill. If you have any doubts call your gynecologist.
- You may have a laceration (a cut) or abrasion in the vagina. The skin of the vagina is not immune to cuts and scrapes. It is possible that more vigorous sexual intercourse can result in a cut or abrasion and some subsequent bleeding.
- You may have hemorrhoids. It is possible that when you wipe, any blood you see is not from the vagina but from a bleeding hemorrhoid. Make sure you always wipe front to back not only to make sure that bacteria from the rectum does not enter the vagina but also so you can determine the source of the blood.
- You may have an illness. Women who have hypothyroidism (the under production of thyroid hormone) may experience bleeding in between periods. Also women who have kidney or liver disorders are more prone to this type of bleeding. When these conditions improve, the bleeding in between periods usually ceases.
- You may be suffering from Endometriosis. Our Jennifer Rackley discusses how she was bleeding for six months in her article, "My Endo: The Early Signs." You can read more about endometriosis here on Health Central.
- You may have a cervical polyp. Polyps are protrusions attached to mucous membranes by a small stem. A cervical polyp is an overgrowth of tissue in the cervical canal which protrudes into the vagina. They are almost always non-cancerous but they can cause some bleeding. Pregnancy or injury to the cervix can cause these types of polyps. If the polyps become too bothersome they can be removed.
- Bleeding in between periods may also be a sign of cervical cancer. This is why you need to be checked by your doctor if you have any bleeding when you are not having your period. The symptoms of cervical cancer include bleeding after intercourse or in between periods, a pink tinged or foul smelling vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, and painful urination. Please don't panic at the first sight of bleeding between periods though, to assume it is cancer. But do take spotting in between periods seriously enough to check it out with your doctor.
While I have listed some possibilities here of causes for such bleeding there are many more including: Cervicitis, uternine fibroids, an ectopic pregnancy, obesity, stress, estrogen replacement therapy, or a corpus luteum cyst. We have another article about causes called "Health Tip: Bleeding Between Periods" which lists even more potential causes.
If you are experiencing spotting or bleeding during the times when you are not having your period please do get checked out by a doctor right away. There are far too many possibilities for a cause to guess at the reason for this bleeding. You will need to be seen by a doctor. Stay safe and healthy!
Carlson, K.J., Eisenstat, S.A., and Ziporyn, T., (2004) The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health, Harvard University Press