What Is Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods?
Vaginal bleeding between periods is also called
intermenstrual bleeding, spotting, and metrorrhagia. When bleeding occurs
between normal periods, there are many possible causes.
While some causes may be easy to treat, others can indicate
a serious underlying condition. Whether you notice spotting or heavier bleeding
in between periods, it’s important to see your doctor for testing, diagnosis,
and treatment options. Potential causes of bleeding between periods include:
- a growth in the uterus or cervix
- a change in medication
- a miscarriage
- vaginal dryness
- a hormone imbalance
Causes of Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods
Bleeding between periods isn’t a normal part of the
menstrual cycle. The average cycle lasts 21
to 35 days. Normal vaginal bleeding, also known as your period, can happen
for a few days to a week. Any bleeding outside of this is considered abnormal
and can be caused by a variety of factors. These include:
Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that regulate
your cycle. You may have spotting if they get out of balance. Dysfunctional
ovaries, thyroid gland problems, and starting and stopping birth control pills,
can all affect your hormone balance.
It should be noted that when starting any type of hormonal
contraceptive, abnormal bleeding is common during the first three months,
according to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom. These
- birth control pills
- intrauterine device
- contraceptive patch
- contraceptive implant or injection
Complications during pregnancy can cause spotting. Both a miscarriage
and an ectopic pregnancy can cause bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when
the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
These are noncancerous growths that form in the uterus. They
aren’t uncommon in women who’ve given birth.
Vaginal bleeding between periods may indicate an infection
of the reproductive organs. Infection can cause inflammation and bleeding.
- sexually transmitted infection
- vaginal douching
- pelvic inflammatory disease, which is marked by
inflammation of the reproductive organs leading to scarring
Less commonly, a cancer of any of these organs can cause
Other possible causes of vaginal bleeding are rare and include having an
object in the vagina, extreme stress, and diabetes.
When to Seek Medical Help
You should see your doctor anytime you have abnormal vaginal
bleeding. The cause of the bleeding could be serious and should be determined. You
should see your doctor right away if you’re pregnant and have vaginal bleeding.
If you have other serious symptoms in addition to bleeding,
you may need emergency medical attention. These serious symptoms include:
What to Expect at a Doctor’s Appointment
When you see your doctor about bleeding between periods, be
prepared to answer questions about your symptoms. It’s helpful to keep a record
of your cycle. Take note of when your periods begin and end, the heaviness and
duration of your flow, and when and how much you bleed between periods. Your
doctor will want to know about any other symptoms that you’ve experienced and
any medications you’re taking.
Your doctor will also likely give you a physical exam,
including a pelvic exam.
Diagnostic tests can help your doctor find the cause of the
bleeding. Your doctor may draw blood to check hormone levels. You may need to
have cultures taken or tissue removed from your cervix or the lining of the
uterus for testing, which is called a biopsy. Your doctor may also want to
perform an ultrasound. An ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses sound
waves to create a picture of your reproductive organs.
Consequences of Ignoring Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods
In some cases, this kind of abnormal bleeding will resolve
on its own. However, for some women, the underlying cause requires treatment.
Ignoring the problem and failing to see a doctor can lead to a worsening of the
problem. If the cause of the bleeding is an infection, cancer, or another
serious disorder, the consequences could be life-threatening.
Preventing Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods
You may not be able to prevent bleeding between periods
depending on the cause. However, in some cases, preventive measures can help.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and a normal weight because being overweight can
lead to abnormal periods. If you take birth control pills, do so as directed to
avoid a hormonal imbalance. Exercise moderately to maintain health and reduce
To manage pain, use ibuprofen or naproxen, which can
actually help reduce bleeding. Avoid taking aspirin, which may increase your
risk of bleeding.