Vaginal bleeding or spotting that occurs in between periods is known in medical terms as “breakthrough bleeding,” and it usually serves as a warning sign for the woman experiencing it. This is because it can be one symptom of a more serious problem related to the reproductive system.
But while it’s not considered normal, it also isn’t that unusual, and it doesn’t always indicate the possibility of a more dangerous condition.
That’s why it’s important that all women be well informed about this issue and its possible causes, before they jump to any extreme conclusions.
All about breakthrough bleedingA normal menstrual cycle usually varies between 21 to 35 days in length, with an average of 28 days. The normal menstrual flow lasts for two to seven days, resulting in a total blood loss of 30 to 80 ml.
Abnormal bleeding occurs when there is minor blood flow between the last day of the menstrual cycle and prior to the start of your next period.
It is though that nearly all women will experience at least one episode of this “breakthrough bleeding” or spotting during their reproductive lives, but in most cases it’s not a cause for concern.
In spite of this, health experts and gynecologists recommend talking with your doctor if you experience this symptom, because it could indicate a more serious problem like cancer or another precancerous disorder.
What can cause spotting between periods?
OvulationOvulation is known to be one cause of abnormal blood flow between periods. When you ovulate, your body increases its production of estrogen, the hormone that’s associated with the release of an egg from the ovary.
This surge of estrogen could cause the onset of breakthrough bleeding in between your periods, particularly if you notice it usually occurs between days 13 and 16 of your menstrual cycle.
Usually in these cases the color of blood will vary from pink to brown, and sometimes be accompanied by white cervical mucus and cramping sensations in the lower abdomen.
Physical and mental stress can also have a direct relationship with the onset of unexplained breakthrough bleeding.
Times of tension and stress cause triggers in the brain that can alter your normal menstrual cycle, leading to a brownish discharge in the days before or after your regular period.
Undiagnosed pregnancyIt is not uncommon for a woman who is unaware she is pregnant to be diagnosed while at her doctor’s office to uncover the cause for unexplained bleeding.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, unexplained bleeding can occur when the embryo implants in the uterus. But it’s important to see your doctor, because this bleeding could also signal a miscarriage.
When should breakthrough bleeding be considered an emergency?
If your bleeding between periods is as heavy or heavier than your normal period, or has an intense red, black, or brown color and is accompanied by other symptoms like sweating, dizziness, arrhythmia, or abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention.
If you are passing a lot of blood, but not more than you normally do during your period, it could indicate the presence of a myoma. In any case, the presence of a considerable amount of blood between periods is best diagnosed through a proper medical examination to determine if its origin is the cervix, uterus, or vagina.
What does it mean when bleeding occurs after menopause?The cessation of a woman’s menstrual periods is the signal that she has reached menopause. But after a period of time without experiencing a regular blood flow, some women may notice spotting or the presence of even larger quantities of blood, which could be a warning sign.
This type of unusual bleeding could be caused by a fibroid or polyp, but in most cases it’s an early symptom of a precancerous lesion or cancer itself.
We recommend you read: Symptoms of Colon Cancer in Women
What tests should be performed?
One of the most common tests for gynecological abnormalities is the Pap smear. Results are used to judge whether the bleeding is coming from the uterus, and if there are cancerous cells present in the cervix.
An ultrasound is a highly sensitive diagnostic test that can detect potential changes in the uterus and ovaries.
However, if these are not enough to dispel any doubts, the last resort is usually a hysteroscopy, which involves inserting a small camera into the uterus through the vagina to study it in more detail.