As if period blood isn’t enough, now I’ve got spotting too. When’s a gal gonna get a break?
Menstruating humans, does spotting ring a bell? Our guess is there’s probably been a sighting of some unexpected blood during the ‘surely I’m not due on yet’ phase at some point during your menstruating history. Now, here comes the problem – the docs all too frequently refer to spotting and pregnancy in the same sentence. So, yes, we feel you when your heart drops at the sight of some unexpected bleeding, especially the first time this happens. There are most definitely certain things that every menstruator should know about spotting. So we’re here for you, and we’re also here to bust the dominant ‘spotting means guaranteed pregnancy’ myth because that can be damn right scary and quite frankly untrue.
Okay, so what is that blood?
First up, let’s clarify what spotting really is. Our guess is that most of you out that that have periods usually know when it hits. This could start with some mild (or bloody horrific) PMS, some womb twangs (or chronic curl-over-and-give-me-heat pains) which are normally issued with blood of some sort which inevitably gets heavier over a few days and normally requires a tampon, pad or menstrual cup (unless you’re one of those infamous ‘barely get a period’ gals that the entire nation envies). This initial period blood could be a range of colours, covering every shade of autumnal red (all shades of red totally normal, Babe). Watch out for tinges of orange or grey though, as sometimes an orange hue may indicate early signs of infection, while grey may signal a miscarriage. Spotting, in comparison to menstrual blood, is very light discharge, most often brownish in color (think old blood stain), and happens between periods often when you’re least expecting it. So, if you’ve just had your period or you are in the middle of your cycle and something colourful is happening, there’s a high chance you’re experiencing spotting.
Someone shed some light on this not-so-light and totally unexpected not-my-period blood. What’s my V doing?
For those of you menstruators on a form of hormonal contraception, spotting is a very common side effect. Take your pill and you’ll likely experience spotting at some point, forget to take it and your hormone levels will take a dip – cue spotting. (Side note top tip, set your daily repeated alarm, find your pill, take your pill. Easy, Babe). If spotting as a result of a hormonal contraceptive happens every month (and you, ahem, promise that you’re taking your pill regularly) it might be because your contraception choice has a hormone combination and level that’s not right for you. Chat to your doctor as it might be worth seeing what other options there are, especially if this spotting is starting to disrupt your….extracurricular activities.
Another potential (non dangerous) culprit we’d like to bring your attention to is the monthly occurrence of ovulation. Upon reaching maturity, part of the ovary called the ovarian follicle releases an egg, which is all ready to meet its potential Prince Charming (ermmm, we talkin’ bout you sperm). Ovulation happens every menstrual cycle, and can sometimes result in a small amount of totally harmless spotting. Monitoring and keeping a closer eye on your cycle is the organised humans answer to deciphering spotting. For the slightly less organised, we’re advocates of period tracking apps so you know what’s going on (Clue is pretty foolproof, in a minimal time input kind of way).
Right, onto the potential doctor worthy (not so fun to talk about) potential causes of spotting.
- Can you name one person that has never had a UTI? Didn’t think so. Although it’s not technically spotting, if you notice some blood down there, accompanied by some blood and painful urination, it could be a UTI. Yeah, not nice, but start by getting loads of fluids (amen for cranberry juice) down you and popping to see your GP. They’ll likely prescribe a short course of antibiotics and it should clear up fuss free.
- We all know things can get a little raunchy in the bedroom (and occasional spotting after sex can be super normal since the skin in our vaginal walls are very thin and sensitive). If you’re experiencing spotting regularly post sex, however, then you could have a lesion or polyp/s in your vagina. This could also be caused by fibroids or slightly abnormal growths in your uterus. Babe, pop to your doctor for this one. It’s likely things are just getting heated in bed, but it’s pretty good to know for sure.
- You’re manufacturing a tiny human. Okay, don’t freak out and confuse spotting for implantation bleeding if you’ve not been getting lucky for a while. However, if you have been getting sexually active without contraceptives (which, btw, we never recommend unless of course you’re looking to make some babies) then bleeding outside of your period could indicate possible pregnancy. In this case, mild spotting normally means a healthy pregnancy between week 5 and 8 of gestation is normally nothing to worry about and occurs in a healthy pregnancy. For this one, we’d recommend straight to the GP.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a lot more common than we like to think (we’ve all been there, or have an ‘imaginary friend’ who has) and several of these can cause spotting. If you’ve been having unprotected sex, it’s worth a quick trip to the GP or Sexual Health Clinic to get it checked out.
(Super important N.B. We all have sex. The doctor has sex. The doctor has probably had an STI before. The doctor (guy or gal) has seen countless vaginas in a professional manner. The doctor has prescribed meds for all types of vaginal ongoings. There should not be one ounce of shame or embarrassment visiting a GP for vagina issues because your vagina is utterly fantastic and whatever is going on, the doc has seen it before, we promise.)
So, what do you do when your vagina does decide to bleed before your period?
A bit of mid cycle out-of-period-time light bleeding shouldn’t be a scary thing. Pop a liner in your bag for the just-in-case spotting and don’t let it ruin your day of dominating at work (or where ever else you may be dominating…). Using a tampon during a very light bleed might irritate your vaginal walls and make you bleed more. Do you need to see a doctor? Well Babe, keep in mind that when in doubt, get checked out. Spotting may well just be a result of hormonal changes in your body, but it’s better to discuss your concerns with a health professional if you’re unsure. Chances are, you will be told that there is nothing to worry about. And remember, Google is not a health professional, as much as we like to believe it. A trip to your gyno or doctor will always, always, be endorsed by us.
Image credit: Lena Goncharova from Pexels