There are many reasons why abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods could happen. The bleeding could be light, heavy or brown in color. It could be caused by an STD, IUD or other female gynaecological conditions.
Brown spotting between period is referred to in medical terms as intermenstrual bleeding or metrorrhagia. While it is not normal many women experience it.
Common causes are: stress, hormonal imbalance, contraceptives and problems with the cervix or uterus.
What is Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding?
Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any bleeding or spotting that you experience outside your normal period.
What your experience during your menstruation is a normal vaginal bleeding. An average menstrual cycle is between 21 days to 35 days long.
A period usually lasts for 3-7 days in your menstrual cycle.
Women who are approaching menopause or who are on birth control pills often notice they bleed when they are not on their periods.
Causes of Bleeding Before Periods
1. Hormonal contraceptives
Birth controls are used by many women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Some women use birth control pills to treat acne and heavy or painful periods.
Birth controls such as pills, patches, injections, rings and plants contain artificial hormones that interferes with your own natural estrogen and progesterone levels.
Any form of imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to irregular bleeding.
Side effects of hormonal contraceptives are:
- Breakthrough bleeding or abnormal vaginal spotting
- Breast soreness and tenderness
These side effects will usually go away after the first 3 months. If you continue to experience abnormal bleeding after the first 3 months, see your doctor immediately.
2. Sexually Transmitted Infections
Another common cause of unexpected vaginal bleeding is sexually transmitted diseases such as: chlamydia and gonorrhea.
STD is a type of infection that is transmitted from one person to the other during oral, vaginal or anal intercourse.
Infection of the female reproductive organs such as vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries causes bleeding in between periods.
Other symptoms of STDs are:
- Painful urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or spotting in between periods
3. Hormonal Imbalance
The menstrual cycle is controlled by two key hormones: estrogen and progesterone.
An imbalance between this two hormones account for most female issues.
Hormonal imbalances causes irregular or absent periods, infertility issues, mood swings, weight gain, skin issues, fatigue and so many other health related issues for women
Hormonal imbalance can disrupt your menstrual cycle, cause spotting in between period and abnormal uterine bleeding.
Your stress levels have a great impact on your menstrual cycles.
Both emotional stress(anxiety, fears, insomnia, depression, worry) and physical stress( illness, injury, trauma, weight loss and weight gain) causes irregular or missed period.
When you are stressed, your body releases a new hormone called cortisol in order to deal with your stress levels.
But the disadvantage of this is that, your body focuses on producing cortisol hormone as it is now in a survival state.
This affects the glands that secret the estrogen and progesterone hormone causing the glands to produce less of these two key hormones.
When a reduced level of the progesterone and estrogen hormone is produced it causes late or missed period and even irregular spotting.
5. Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the walls of the uterus. They are common in women of reproductive age.
It is possible to have uterine fibroids and not even know you do.
Common symptoms of uterine fibroids are:
- Prolongated menstrual bleeding
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Frequent urination
Interuterine device(IUD) is a T shaped plastic and copper birthcontrol device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
An IUD works in two ways:
- IUD works by preventing the sperm from fertilising the egg
- It prevents implantation from taking place in the uterus
One of the side effects of IUD in the first three to six months is irregular spotting.
7. Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is a condition experience by many women. The vagina is a naturally moist environment like the mouth.
The higher the level of estrogen hormone in the blood stream, the more moist the vagina is.
If there is a disruption in the production of estrogen by the ovaries it can lead to an itchy, dry vaginal walls.
Women approaching menopause are usually a victim of this.
For women, who are not in the perimenopausal stage, vagina dryness could be caused by childbirth, hormonal imbalances, emotional disturbances and so much more.
Common symptoms of vaginal dryness are:
- Bleeding during and after sexual intercourse
- Vulva irritation and discomfort
- Vaginal itching that leads to light bleeding
8. Ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilised egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- A missed period
Ectopic pregnancy is very risk as it may lead to internal bleeding. It is usually treated by the use of medication or surgery.
A miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is lost before the 24th week.
It is also referred to as a spontaneous abortion.
A pregnancy that is lost in the first 12 weeks is referred to as an early miscarriage.
A pregnancy that is lost between 12-24 weeks is known as a late miscariage.
A miscarriage occurs when an embryo isn't developing in the normal way it is supposed to.
The most common symptoms of miscarriage are period-like cramping and vaginal bleeding.
The bleeding can be light or heavy and accompanied by a blood clot.
Any form of spotting during pregnancy, should be reported to the doctor immediately.
Ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and uterine cancer are common causes of irregular bleeding.
Ovarian cancer, also referred to as the cancer of the ovaries is any growth that appears in different parts of the ovary or fallopian tube. It is common among women who have attained menopause.
Cervical cancer also known as the cancer of the cervix, is an abnormal growth of cells that occurs on the cervix. The cervix is the neck of the womb that connects the vagina to the uterus.
Uterine cancer also known as the cancer of the womb occurs when abnormal cells start to grow in the lining of the uterus. The lining of the uterus in known endometrium.
The common symptoms of all the cancers that can affect the female reproductive organ is:
- Brown discharge or bleeding that is not part of the normal menstrual period.
- Pain when urinating
- Pain or cramps after sex
- Lower abdominal pain
Perimenopause is the 10 years period before menopause. It is during this time that most of the symptoms of menopause is experienced.
Hormonal imbalance is very common during the perimenopause phase.
Common symptoms of the perimenopause phase are:
- Breast tenderness
- Hot flashes
- Irregular bleeding
- Low sexual libido
12. Ovulation Spotting
Ovulation spotting or ovulation bleeding is a very light spots of blood that occurs during ovulation.
Only very few women spot during ovulation. Spotting occurs when the ovarian follicle rupture and releases the egg.
Other ways to detect ovulation apart from spotting is through cervical mucus charting, Basal body temperature charting, lower abdominal cramping.
And to be more accurate, use an ovulation test kit.
13. Implantation Bleeding
Implantation bleeding or spotting occurs when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the lining of the walls of the uterus to grow and develop for the next 9 months.
Implantation bleeding is one of the very first pregnancy symptoms. It occurs around the time of your expected period.
When to Worry
Anytime you have an abnormal vaginal bleeding, you should see your doctor immediately to find out what is going on.
If you have just started using an hormonal contraceptive, some sort of bleeding is expected. Don't stop taking your pills as this may cause some other issues.
If irregular bleeding doesn't stop after 3 months, contact your doctor for help.
Spotting during pregnancy should be reported to your doctor as soon as possible. Early pregnancy spotting could be implantation bleeding if it occurs days before your expected period.
If the bleeding is accompanied by abdominal pain it could also be caused by endometriosis, polyps or cancer.
There are so many reasons why you are bleeding but not on your period.
What does it mean when you are bleeding but not on your period
There are so many reasons why you are bleeding from your vagina but you are not on your period.
Some of the common causes are:
- Hormonal Contraceptives
- Hormonal imbalances
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix and ovary
- Vaginal Dryness
- Uterine fibroids
- Ectopic pregnancies
- Ovulation spotting
- Implantation bleeding
Vaginal bleeding a week after period could also be due to early ovulation. In the same way pink spotting instead of period may be implantation spotting which is an early sign of pregnancy.
While spotting after period with cramps is common, you should contact you doctor for a diagnosis.
- What is Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding?
- Causes of Bleeding Before Periods
- 1. Hormonal contraceptives
- When to Worry