What Causes Spotting Between Periods
On average, women passes around 40 ml of blood for an entire menstrual period. The menstrual period usually lasts for around seven days. However, for some women, their menstrual period is characterized as heavy with prolonged menstrual flows where in some extreme cases, the flow turns chronic, painful, and extended. There can also be instances of women experiencing acute menstrual disorder which is a serious menstrual disorder that is characterized by the onset of sudden and severe blood flow.
The onset of bleeding between menstrual periods characterized as heavy and/or abnormal flow is usually referred to as “abnormal uterine” bleeding or intermenstrual bleeding (IMB). Bleeding between menstrual periods is not part of a normal menstrual cycle.
Abnormal bleeding is described as the presence of hemorrhage that does not follow a normal pattern, for example, in the occurrence of spotting between periods. Spotting does typically occur within the period of menstrual cycle but other than during menstruation.
Brown spotting after period is a fairly common experience among a lot of women. This happens because regular vaginal secretion changes in color, consistency, appearance, and thickness, as per the stage and time of occurrence.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding may sometimes be light with just little amounts of “spotting” that can only be noticed on toilet paper. This is often described as brown spotting between periods.
Sometimes, spotting may become so intense, requiring a change of sanitary towels after every other 1-2 hours of flow. In any case you suspect an abnormal vaginal bleeding, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention. The following discussion surrounds the causes of spotting between periods.
Causes of Spotting Between Periods
1. Hormonal instability
The female menstrual cycle is usually regulated by two reproductive hormones. These hormones are called the estrogen and the progesterone. When a woman’s reproductive system experiences a fluctuation in hormone level, she is likely to experience spotting between periods.
Hormonal instability or fluctuation may result from the body system’s response to stress, a variety of external factors, as well as changes in diet. A sudden start and cessation of birth control pill usage can also cause hormonal instability.
Other known causes of hormonal instability include complications arising from disorders of the thyroid glands, dysfunctional ovaries, among others.
There are cancers such as cancer of the cervix and uterus that have been known to cause spotting/ bleeding between periods in women. Usually, cervical pre-cancers along with some other type of cancers have been observed to show little to no symptoms.
The symptoms may only be experienced later when the cancer becomes intense and invasive, destroying neighboring cells. Invasion of the adjacent cells usually results in abnormal bleeding in between periods. The bleeding may also happen during or after sexual intercourse.
Some extreme cases include abnormal vaginal bleeding during menopause and prolonged menstrual bleeding. A noticeable symptom is the presence of a foul smell just before bleeding occurs.
Risk factors associated with cancer of the cervix include prolonged tobacco use, infection with Human Papillomavirus, and certain sexual behaviors like early age engagement in sex and having multiple sexual partners.
3. Von Willebrand Disease
Von Willebrand Disease describes a particular hereditary condition having problems with blood coagulation. Commonly, patients with the condition only experience mild or no symptoms at all.
When visible signs develop, the intensity tend to differ from one individual to another. A common symptom of Von Willebrand Disease is abnormal or increased menstrual flow. Bleeding may also occur in the gums, stool, and even the nose. This can be recurrent and prolonged.
- V. R. Byams, P. A. Kouides, Kulkarni, J. R. Baker, D. L. Brown, J. C. Gill, A. M. GRANT, A. H. James, B. A. Konkle, J. Maahs, M. M. Dumas, S. McAlister, D. Nance, D. Nugent, C. S. Philipp, J. M. Soucie, & E. Stang (2011). Surveillance of female patients with inherited bleeding disorders in United States Haemophilia Treatment Centres.
4. Pregnancy complications
A complication resulting from pregnancy can also be considered a cause of spotting. Some individuals develop possible problems such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages which are known to cause profound effects like abnormal bleeding or spotting.
An ectopic pregnancy that involves the attachment of the embryo to one of the fallopian tube usually results in bleeding. Moreover, bleeding after the 6th-8th week of pregnancy can be a sign of miscarriage.
5. Contraceptive/birth control pills
Birth control pills or contraceptives can sometimes be a cause of spotting between periods. The unusual bleeding or spotting varies according to the type of pill used, from one person to another.
Birth control pills including hormonal birth control rings usually have small amounts of synthetic progestin and estrogen; which inhibit the natural hormone that causes pregnancy (oxytocin). In the presence of synthetic hormones, the body tries to adapt and during the process, it may result to spotting.
Sometimes the pills meant for birth control may seem inappropriate to a particular individual, causing a hormonal imbalance that leads to bleeding. Missed doses may also lead to spotting. It is recommended that whenever you miss a dose you should take it as soon as you can.
6. Ovulation spotting
Some women experience light spotting while ovulating. This spotting is experienced when the ovarian follicle bursts while releasing the ovary.
Ovulation spotting tends to occur 10-14 days before the menstrual cycle. The spotting is not known to have profound health effects. In fact, it may be a confirmation that suggests one’s fertility.
Not all women experience ovulation spotting. If by any chance you are avoiding pregnancy, it is important that you understand the difference between ovulation spotting and menstrual bleeding.
7. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID refers to the infection of the uterus, fallopian tube, and other reproductive organs. Pelvic inflammatory disease is usually associated with lower abdominal pain. It may be a serious complication of STI, for example, gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
The disease can damage the fallopian tube and the surrounding tissues. The symptoms occur towards the end of the menstrual period shortly after contracting it. Symptoms include irregular vaginal bleeding between periods and a foul vaginal discharge. PID is also known to cause infertility.
A preventive approach against the disease mainly involves abstaining from unhealthy sexual behaviors and maintaining a single sexual partner.
Vaginal thrush can be another cause of spotting between menstrual periods. Vaginal thrush refers to a fungal infection caused by a yeast called Candida albicans. The disease is usually characterized with Vulvitis and Vaginitis.
Vaginitis involves the inflammation of the vagina while Vulvitis entails the inflammation of the vulva. Some of the risk factors surrounding the disease include the use of certain anti-bacterial and systematic corticosteroids, and other factors that affect immunologic status. Examples of factors that affect the immunologic status are Thyroid infections, Lupus, and HIV infection.
Other symptoms include itchiness of the vulva, pain while passing urine, and white vaginal discharge.
9. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods may be a result of infection in the reproductive organs. Such infections are mostly sexually transmitted and are bound to cause bleeding due to inflammation of the internal sexual organs.
A STI may result from douching or sexual intercourse. It also may be due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which causes inflammation that leads to scarring.
10. Intrauterine devices
These are devices used to control birth, and they are inserted into the uterus. Women who use this method as a way of regulating births have elevated levels of Ang-2 protein levels during Immunohistochemical analysis, compared to women who do not use it.
Findings show that angiopoietin/Tie-2 system restructures the endothelium where, in the long run, leads to an abnormal uterine. This in turn renders the women highly vulnerable to spotting.
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