Is it Spotting or a Period? Here are the causes, symptoms and more

Updated on Aug 06, 2021 09:24 AM IST  |  425.4K
 Is it Spotting or a Period? Here are the causes, symptoms and more
Is it Spotting or a Period? Here are the causes, symptoms and more

A woman bleeds every month during her reproductive days, but there are times when she experiences uncalled vaginal bleeding, which is an indication of spotting. Spotting can be light bleeding before and after periods. This spotting is usually harmless as it can be caused by pregnancy or a change in birth control techniques. Some women experience light bleeding more than others, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. However, taking note of the spotting's onset, duration, and other important factors can aid in determining what's causing it.

Common Symptoms of both:

Menstrual bleeding 

It occurs on a 28-day cycle in non-pregnant women. Every woman's menstrual cycle follows a predictable pattern. For some women, a monthly period starts with light spotting, then it becomes heavier for a day or two before gradually becoming lighter and ending with spotting. 



It is a much lighter flow than menstrual flow. It does not even require a tampon or pad. It is usually not accompanied by any symptoms unless it occurs because of a medical condition. Women may experience additional symptoms including irregular bleeding during periods, abdominal pain, burning or pain during urination.

Causes of Spotting 

  • Implantation bleeding: Spotting is frequently caused by implant bleeding. This happens early in pregnancy when a fertilised egg attaches to the uterine wall (known as implantation).
  • Ovulation: Ovulation spotting occurs in the middle of the cycle and is never severe. In rare cases, it may be accompanied by light cramping that lasts for several minutes.
  • Birth control: Spotting can also be caused due to certain birth control methods, including birth control pills, especially when first used. Switching between birth control pills or using continuous birth control pills could also cause spotting and it has also been reported in some women who use an IUD (intrauterine device) for birth control.
  • Hormonal contraceptives: Spotting can be caused by hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, hormonal shots, and implants. It is best to see a doctor if spotting occurs several months after contraception and no previous spotting case was found.
  • Breastfeeding: Spotting is common in breastfeeding mothers. It can be caused by hormonal changes associated with breastfeeding.
  • Miscarriage: A miscarriage occurs in approximately half of all pregnant women who experience bleeding. Bleeding may be the first sign of a woman's pregnancy in some cases. 
  • STIs: Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause spots like vaginal bleeding. Gonorrhoea is a common cause of unusual discharge or burning during urination.
  • Menopause: During the menopausal transition, women's hormone levels can fluctuate dramatically, resulting in spotting or irregular periods. 




What are the treatments for spotting?

For infections- Antibiotic therapy is recommended.

For PCOS- Women with PCOS, with the desire to get pregnant, can use fertility-enhancing drugs or assisted reproductive technologies.

For cervical polyps or uterine fibroids- Surgery is recommended.

For a regular menstrual cycle – Birth control pills or hormonal treatments can be useful.

About the author: Dr Aarthi Bharat, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bangalore.

Also Read: Can PCOS cause infertility? Here’s what a fertility expert has to say