Is It Spotting Or Periods?

Most women experience at least one instance of non-period spotting during their reproductive years. Spotting is any bleeding from the vagina, which is not due to the monthly period. During your monthly periods, the blood flow will be heavy enough to wear a sanitary pad or tampon. Spotting is much lighter than a period and the blood flow will be nominal that even a panty liner will not be soaked. The color will also be lighter than a period, too.

Irrespective of these facts, sometimes, it is pretty tricky to differentiate spotting and a proper period. Spotting, most of the time does not point to a serious medical issue. It can be triggered by lots of factors, from pregnancy to a switch in birth control methods. It's always a good idea to note the timing of the spotting, its duration, and other related details to determine the cause.

How can I differentiate spotting and periods?

Here we are listing down the hallmarks of spotting and menstrual bleeding, which will help you to differentiate both.

Characteristics of menstrual bleeding:

  • Menstrual bleeding comes on regular schedule
  • Menstrual bleeding has an expected bleeding pattern. That is, it more often starts with light spotting, gets heavier in a day or two, and then gets lighter little by little, and ends with spotting.
  • Menstrual bleeding has an expected duration (usually, at the max 7 days), whereas spotting can last for the whole month depending on the cause.
  • Menstrual bleeding is usually accompanied by bloating, breast tenderness, headache, cramping ranging from mild to severe, leg pain, fatigue, mood swings, and nausea.
  • The menstrual blood comes with clotting or will be in dark reddish in color. 

Characteristics of spotting:

  • Irregularity is the hallmark of spotting. You may spot for a day, after a break of a few days, spotting may start again. Some women even experience spotting erratically throughout the month.
  • You may spot during "predictable" monthly events like ovulation.
  • Spotting can start following an accident or injury. This usually accompanied by abdominal pain.
  • Spotting differs in color, texture and even in odor from the menstrual blood. It will be lighter, sometimes brownish in color.
  • Women commonly report experience spotting after taking contraceptive hormone pills.

What causes spotting?

1. Ovulation.

When the ovaries let go an egg at ovulation, a tiny follicle burst, thereby, discharging the egg. In some women, this may bring about light spotting that continues for a day. Ovulation spotting takes place in the middle of the cycle as ovulation happens around that time. And, is it will never be heavy. Very seldom, spotting may perhaps come with light cramping that may continue for a few hours to one day.

2. Spotting  after implantation

Around a week after a sperm fertilizes an egg, the egg must implant in the uterus. Occasionally this can bring about light bleeding known as implantation bleeding. Many women mistake this type of spotting for a period because it happens so early to recognize pregnancy.

3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

You may experience irregular bleeding or spotting if you have PCOS.

4. Hormonal contraceptives

Birth control pills and hormonal shots can pave the way for spotting. Spotting is common during the first few months until the body's hormones amend with contraceptives.Spotting is also common in women who implanted an intrauterine device (IUD).

5. Uterine fibroids

Many women with fibroids or polyps experience spotting in between their periods. In fact, spotting is one of the vital symptoms of uterine fibroid.

6. Infections/ Disease

An infection in your vagina, cervix, or another part of your reproductive tract caused by bacteria, virus or yeast, can bring about spotting. Cancer and STI also can be the reason for spotting

7. Breastfeeding

Hormonal shifts associated with breastfeeding can bring about spotting.

8. Injuries

An injury to the vagina, cervix, or uterus may cause abnormal bleeding. Rough sex or sexual assault or even a PAP test can irritate the cervix or lining of the vagina and bring about spotting.