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What is Vaginal Spotting?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Vaginal spotting is light bleeding from the vagina that occurs between menstrual cycles. Spotting may be a sign of a variety of conditions, but is often fairly harmless. Health experts often advise women who experience spotting to visit a gynecologist or health care professional in order to rule out any potentially serious causes.

Spotting, unlike regular menstrual bleeding, is often very light and may only consist of a few drops of blood. The blood may appear different than menstrual blood, or be mixed with vaginal discharge. Dark brown or pale pink drops of blood are common when spotting. Spotting can be the result of an injury to the vagina, an underlying health condition, or either a natural or medically-induced hormonal shift.

There are many different causes of spotting. Even a normal hormonal shift, such as the one that occurs during ovulation, can occasionally cause light bleeding. Some women who use oral contraceptives or hormone-enhanced intra-uterine devices (IUDs) may experience spotting. Women going through menopause, those under high levels of stress, or women with irregularly low thyroid levels are subject to sudden and unusual hormone shifts that may also result in light bleeding.

Vaginal spotting may also be a sign of an internal infection. Bladder or cervical infections are not uncommon causes of the symptom. Other signs of infection, such as frequent or urgent urination, itching, or unusual vaginal discharge, may help identify the cause of an infection. In most cases, infections that cause spotting can be quickly remedied through antibiotics, so prompt medical attention is usually recommended by experts.

Many women in the first days of pregnancy experience a type of vaginal spotting known as implantation bleeding. This occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterine wall, which can cause slight bleeding as the egg embeds in it. Implantation bleeding does not occur in all pregnant women, but can be the first sign of pregnancy in some. Bleeding later in pregnancy can also occur; although it may have a variety of causes, health experts recommend contacting a doctor immediately if spotting or bleeding occurs during pregnancy, as it can be a sign of serious health problems.

Sometimes vaginal bleeding can be caused by more serious health problems, such as endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases, or even cervical or uterine cancer. While many cases of spotting are caused by minor problems that are easily fixed, the potential for more serious causes does exist. Visiting a medical professional for a pelvic exam and additional tests can help determine the actual cause of vaginal spotting, even if the cause is only an irregular hormone pattern.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon952194 — On May 19, 2014

Someone help! I am 25, slightly overweight, and have unprotected regular intercourse. I have not had period for the past five months and now I am beginning to have spotting. I did took some lose weight pills. I am pretty sure I am not pregnant? I don't feel pregnant.

I have seen a doctor before for the irregular periods but she just said that I am stressed and maybe it is my weight. She didn't even bother giving me any tests.

By anon360233 — On Dec 25, 2013

@anon334126 from post 26,and I have the same situation except it was Friday for me. Can anyone reply what the cause might be?

By anon334126 — On May 09, 2013

I am 18 and I had sex on Saturday. On Wednesday I started to see blood, which I thought was my period, so I put a pad on. I started to realize it was just spotting. The weird thing is I did have protected sex and every time he wants to ejaculate, he pulls out even when he has a condom on. I don't know what that means.

And the thing is, this whole week, my lower back been hurting and I've had headaches, but my headache went away for now. But I been having cramps also. Maybe the condom had a a tiny hole or something? But I am curious. Please help.

By anon305905 — On Nov 28, 2012

I had two periods in October, one the first week of the month and one the last week of the month. This month, I don't know if I had one or not, since I had very light brown discharge and it lasted for two days, and I had slight period pain a week before that, but that was all I got this month. Is that normal since I had two periods in October?

By anon300404 — On Oct 30, 2012

I have been sexually active for some months but tested negative for pregnancy but I am putting on weight and my period comes lightly and I urinate a lot, especially when am about to have my period.

By anon293858 — On Sep 28, 2012

My period is late and the only thing I feel is period pains. They're not very strong though and spotting, which only happened one day.

I have done a home pregnancy test but it came out negative, so I don't know what is really wrong with me, if I am pregnant or not, because when I was pregnant with my son, I never had these kinds of symptoms. My periods just stopped and I had other pregnancy symptoms, but this time I am really confused. Please help!

By anon293515 — On Sep 26, 2012

I can share my experience. I spotted only for three days when I was pregnant, but after three days it stopped and everything was normal.

By amypollick — On Sep 09, 2012

@kittychan: Don't rule out pregnancy. The pills you were taking could well have thrown your cycle out of whack, making you ovulate early. And yes, you can get pregnant during your period. It's happened. As I said, the medication could have messed up your cycle.

If you're not trying to get pregnant, or you don't want to be pregnant, use protection. Period. Your boyfriend may think he didn't ejaculate at all inside you. He probably didn't, but there is a fluid men often release in small amounts before ejaculation that can have sperm in it, and all it takes is one.

Using the withdrawal method is rolling the dice, and eventually, you're going to lose. That's not me preaching; it's biology.

If using contraception is not against your religious beliefs, etc., then not using it is asking for a pregnancy, no matter how careful you think you're being. Any doctor will tell you the same thing.

Are you pregnant? I don't know. It's too soon for a test to pick it up, in all likelihood. If the spotting continues, see your doctor. If it stops, wait a couple of weeks and get one of those first response pregnancy tests. They can pick up a pregnancy sooner, sometimes before you miss a period.

By kittychan — On Sep 09, 2012

I'm 22 years old, sexually active for almost seven months now. Me and my boyfriend have regular sex without protection. I've also been using emergency pills (specifically Nordette which I take four pills within five days after intercourse and another four pills after 12 hours of the first dose) but stopped two months ago because of its side effects which include severe nausea.

My period came in late August. We had intercourse during my period because I was expecting it to be the last day. We had intercourse again a couple of days after my period when my period finally ended. After three days, I noticed scanty brownish blood in my underwear. I experienced the same again after five days (today). I was wondering if it's implantation bleeding. But my boyfriend said he was sure he hadn't injected some of his semen inside me, nor did he have pre-ejaculation. I also have not yet experienced the early signs of pregnancy so far, so I'm ruling it out. (I'm not trying to get pregnant, but just satisfying me and my boyfriend's needs).

I looked up for other causes of spotting on the internet and found out other possible causes, one of which is ovulation bleeding, which happens during mid-cycle not during the beginning of the cycle. Could it be because of the pills which I've stopped taking two months ago? If not, what may have caused this? Right now I haven't gone to an OB-GYN, For now I'd like to hear your opinion(s). Please help!

By anon279713 — On Jul 13, 2012

I'm 27 and overweight. For the last five months, I haven't had a period, and now I've had spotting or light bleeding for almost four weeks. Can anybody help me please with any answer or suggestion? I'm so scared I haven't been to the doctor yet.

By anon273682 — On Jun 08, 2012

I have been having this light pinkish spotting for the past 10 to 15 days. At first I thought it was my regular periods, but it was not. These spots are sometimes like blood and sometimes it is like a slimy pinkish-brown. Has anyone experienced something like this? I am 42 years old.

By anon267750 — On May 11, 2012

I have been trying to get pregnant for the last six months I am due on my period in eight days time and have had a little spotting and brown discharge. Any ideas?

By John57 — On Apr 16, 2012

@sunshined - I totally agree about getting something like that checked out. I had some abnormal vaginal spotting for a few months before I went to the doctor.

My exam was already scheduled so I waited until then to say anything about it. I just thought it was due to changes in my hormones.

I went through a couple different tests and they discovered I had polyps on my uterus which were causing the spotting.

My doctor said the chance of them turning into cancer was very small, but the best thing to do was remove them.

This was done as an outpatient surgery, and I haven't had any abnormal bleeding since I had the surgery done.

By sunshined — On Apr 16, 2012

Whenever I have my annual female exam, I have vaginal bleeding and spotting. This is not abnormal, and they always tell me this will probably happen.

It is not bad and always clears up within a day a two. I think it is important to get checked out anytime you have something that is not normal or expected.

Sometimes it can be something quite serious, and the sooner you have it checked out, the sooner you can know how to treat it.

Our female bodies are very complex, and even though we can have vaginal spotting from hormonal changes, there are also times it is more serious than that.

By Mykol — On Apr 15, 2012

@orangey03 - I have heard of drinking cranberry juice to help with a urinary tract infection, but have never tried pineapple or yogurt.

I get these frequently, and have tried drinking cranberry juice, but still have to go on antibiotics to completely get rid of it.

Usually the first sign that I am getting one is some vaginal spotting and irregular discharge. When this happens, I know that in a few days I will be at the doctor giving a urine sample.

Many times I wish I could just call and tell them what is going on since I always know what the symptoms are. My doctors always says she needs to see me though to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

My vaginal spotting has always been the same thing, but I never realized there were so many other causes for this.

By orangey03 — On Apr 15, 2012

@cloudel – It sounds like you have a urinary tract infection. I get them quite often, and I usually have a brownish-pink discharge, along with overly frequent urination and pain.

You really should see a doctor to confirm this, though. It could always be something more serious. He will likely take a urine sample before doing anything invasive, and if he sees bacteria in your urine, he will just send you home with antibiotics. You probably won't even have to have a vaginal exam.

If you are determined to treat it at home, there is something you can try. Drink at least one 8 ounce glass of cranberry juice a day. You can also take cranberry extract supplements.

This will make your urine so acidic that the bacteria cannot cling to your urinary tract. I learned this trick after getting several infections. Pineapple and yogurt will help do the same thing.

By cloudel — On Apr 14, 2012

I've been having this pinkish-brown discharge lately, and I'm worried that something might be wrong. I've never seen this before, but it sounds like the discharge mentioned in the article.

I've also been having to urinate a lot more lately. I get cramps really low in my abdomen from time to time, and I always feel like I have to urinate, even when I don't.

Does anyone know what might be wrong with me? Do I need to see a doctor, or is it something I can fix at home?

By OeKc05 — On Apr 14, 2012

@ceilingcat – Wow, I didn't know that you could get spotting just because you took your birth control pill at a different time of day than normal! You must be on a high dose or something.

With my birth control pills, I only get vaginal spotting if I forget to take them for about two or three days. This happened to me last week, because I had family visiting, and my normal routine was disrupted. On the third day, I saw spots of blood in my underwear, and the first thing I did was check my birth control packet.

By indemnifyme — On Apr 13, 2012

I never knew there were so many different vaginal spotting causes! I definitely think a visit to the doctor is in order if you're having spotting a lot though. I personally wouldn't worry about it if I had spotting one month and then didn't have it again for awhile. But if it was happened all the time I think I would be worried.

It seems like spotting is caused by hormonal changes, and a lot of different things (pregnancy, illness, birth control pills) can make your hormones change. It might be worth a doctors visit to find out what's making your hormones change.

By SZapper — On Apr 12, 2012

@ceilingcat - That sounds annoying. I'm on the pill too, but I don't usually have spotting at any time during my cycle. However, before I went on the pill I used to have spotting at random fairly often.

I have endometriosis, which is why I went on the pill in the first place. In addition to vaginal spotting between periods, endometriosis also causes seriously painful periods and painful ovulation. It just got to be too much, so I finally went on the pill. I've been very happy with the results. Now I hardly even get my period on my "skip week."

By ceilingcat — On Apr 12, 2012

@turquoise - I'm not sure if I would consider that spotting. To me, that just sounds like part of your period. I thought vaginal blood spotting usually occurred at other times of the cycle.

Whenever it occurs, it sure is annoying! I'm on the pill, and if I don't take my pill at exactly the right time every day, I always end up spotting. I discovered this the first few months I was taking the pill. Now I'm meticulous about taking it at the right time to prevent annoying symptoms! I have an alarm set on my phone and everything.

By serenesurface — On Apr 12, 2012

@alisha-- Both could result in vaginal spotting. Did you use protection during intercourse? If you didn't, you could be pregnant and it might be pregnancy spotting.

Since you don't have any vaginal pain, it doesn't sound like it's an injury from intercourse. It could also be period spotting. It happens a lot to women who have irregular periods.

I recommend you wait for your period next week or visit the doctor right away. If you don't get your period next week, you could be pregnant and need to get tested to find out. Either way, it's wise to get checked out by the doctor to make sure that nothing else is wrong.

By discographer — On Apr 11, 2012

Can vaginal spotting be because of irregular periods or because of intercourse?

I've been spotting every day for a few weeks now which is not normal. I'm not getting my period and I'm not due to get my period for another week. My spotting started after my last intercourse.

I'm worried because I've never had this before. I don't know if something went wrong during intercourse and that's why it's happening or if its period spotting. I usually have irregular periods meaning it's never on the same day every month.

I don't have pain or anything like that, although I do feel like I'm urinating more than usual. Has anyone experienced something like this?

By turquoise — On Apr 10, 2012

I always get vaginal spotting several days before my period and several days after. I think it's just my period starting out and finishing up.

A few days before my period starts, I get light pinkish spotting. It's like a warning sign that my period is about to start. And after my period is over, I'll have brown vaginal spotting for a few days. I've never asked a doctor about this but my theory for why it's brown is that the blood oxidizes at the end of my period since it doesn't flow freely anymore and turns brown.

Anyway, I've never worried about my spotting, I know that it's normal.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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