12 Reasons Not to Ignore Spotting After Period

Spotting After Period
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When the menstrual period is over, most women expect that any vaginal bleeding will stop until the next period. So, you may be worried if you have noticed signs of spotting after your period has ended. Thankfully, noticing some pink or brown spots on your underwear or having light vaginal bleeding a week or more after your period isn’t usually anything to worry about.

Spotting after a period can happen because of using some birth control methods, it could be the first sign of pregnancy (implantation bleeding), or it could be just the normal part of your menstrual cycle when ovulation happens. Even stress has been connected with spotting between periods. Depending on the cause of the spotting, you may also experience vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, pelvic discomfort, or cramping.

Because bleeding after your period has ended is classed as “abnormal vaginal bleeding”, doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend seeing a doctor or gynecologist for a checkup.1 This is because spotting between periods could also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition like ovarian cysts, thyroid disease or cancer in the reproductive organs.

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If you are concerned about spotting after your period, please read on to find out what could be causing this abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Spotting or Bleeding Between Periods – What Is It?

Most women have a period approximately every 28 days as part of their menstrual cycle, although periods can start sooner or later from day 21 to day 35.18 Typically a period lasts between 3 and 8 days and tends to be heavier in the first two days.19

Vaginal bleeding between periods is called intermenstrual bleeding (IMB) which describes vaginal bleeding at any time during the menstrual cycle other than during normal menstruation.20 Another name for it is metrorrhagia which refers to vaginal bleeding at irregular intervals, especially between the expected menstrual periods.21

Spotting vs. Bleeding – What Is The Difference?

According to staff from the Mayo Clinic, spotting occurs when you notice small amounts of blood when you are not expecting your period. The spots of blood are often seen after wiping when you have used the bathroom or you may notice them on your underwear.1

Whereas blood flow associated with spotting will generally be very minimal with a lighter color, bleeding, on the other hand, describes a heavier flow, usually with a darker color. Because blood from spotting is generally older than menstrual blood, spotting may be a darker, brown color that looks like rust marks or spots on underwear. Other causes of spotting may cause a lighter, pinkish color.

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The pattern of bleeding and spotting is also different. Menstrual bleeding usually starts as very light bleeding or spotting and gradually gets heavier. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that during the first 3 days women usually experience heavier bleeding. This gradually becomes lighter and the bleeding lasts an average of 5 days.22

Causes of Spotting After Period

Here are the most common causes of light bleeding or spotting after your period has ended.

Ovulation

Light bleeding about one week or two weeks after the end of your period could be due to ovulation. A woman’s menstrual cycle lasts on average 28 days and ovulation occurs about 10 to 14 days after the start of the menstrual period.

The reason for light bleeding when ovulation occurs is explained by Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Andrew M. Kaunitz from the University of Florida. He says that sudden changes in hormone levels can cause vaginal spotting at the time of ovulation. Women who have irregular periods may also find that they have light bleeding between periods.2

According to the Mayo Clinic, ovulation can also cause an increase in vaginal secretions which become slightly thicker just after ovulation. Around the time of ovulation is the optimal time for a woman to become pregnant.

Implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding is one of the first signs of pregnancy and can cause brown spotting after your period. This light bleeding is completely natural and is nothing to be concerned about. Along with spotting, the early signs of pregnancy are a white milky or creamy discharge and pelvic cramping, but no period.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus, some light spotting and cramping can occur. However, not all women experience light bleeding as the first sign of pregnancy.3

The only way of being sure that you are pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test. Home testing kits are generally quite reliable and a doctor will also carry out a test to confirm if you are pregnant or not.

If you are already pregnant and you notice vaginal bleeding, you should contact your health care professional as soon as possible. Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD says that although some light bleeding is common during the first trimester, it could also be a sign of a more serious condition like miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.4

Birth control

If you have started using birth control in the past few months, you could experience some spotting after your period. This is common if you have started taking the contraceptive pill or have had an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted.

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According to the University of Colorado, birth control pills can cause spotting or abnormal vaginal bleeding in the first few months of using them. Also, spotting can occur if the estrogen dose is changed or you miss taking the pill at the same time every day. Some spotting may happen in the first few days of having an IUD fitted. Some women continue to have spotting between their periods all the time while they have the IUD fitted.5

If you have heavy vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal or pelvic pain, and/or vaginal discharge that gives off a foul odor (or fishy smell), you should visit your doctor.6

Perimenopause

Spotting after your period or light bleeding between periods is common in women who are approaching the menopause. The few years before the menopause are called the perimenopause. You will also notice that your menstrual periods become more irregular because your estrogen levels fluctuate.

Doctors from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that fluctuations in the levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and spotting before period. However, between periods you may have more frequent spotting or light, irregular bleeding. If vaginal bleeding lasts longer than normal, they advise speaking to your doctor to have a checkup and to rule out more sinister health conditions.7

To find relief from the stress and anxiety that the menopause can cause, please read my articles on the best natural supplements for coping with the menopause and how essential oils can provide relief from menopausal symptoms.

Stress

Pink or brown spotting after your period could be due to physiological or emotional stress. Stress can affect your body in many ways, and play havoc with your monthly cycle. Stress is also one of the causes of thin, light, and watery period.

Dr. Melissa Stöppler on MedicineNet says that stress can interfere with the menstrual cycle and cause irregular periods. She says that stress is one of the most common causes of missed or late menstrual periods.8 The National Health Service in the United Kingdom says that stress also causes spotting or light bleeding after your period has ended.9

There are many natural ways to help you cope with stress better and, therefore, prevent spotting after your periods. For more information on reducing stress, please read my article about various natural remedies for coping with anxiety and stress better.

Stress is also one of the causes of cramps before period.

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Ovarian cyst

Ovarian cysts can cause abnormal bleeding and spotting after your period has finished. Cysts can form in the ovaries and develop as part of the menstrual cycle. Usually ovarian cysts don’t cause any problems, however, in some cases, these cysts can become larger and cause pain and bleeding if they rupture.

Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Irina Burd says that among the symptoms of ovarian cysts are spotting or light bleeding after your period. You may also have pelvic pain, bloating, and pain during bowel movements.10

Many doctors often take a “wait and see” approach to treating ovarian cysts. If they become bothersome, they can be surgically removed. If you are concerned about ovarian cysts, you can find some useful information in my article about the warning signs of ovarian cysts and what to do about them.

Underactive thyroid

Even though it doesn’t seem connected with your reproductive system, one of the signs of an underactive thyroid is spotting a week or more after the end of your period. An underactive thyroid condition is called hypothyroidism where the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep your body functioning properly.

Doctors at WebMD say that hypothyroidism can cause tiredness, fatigue, dry skin, and changes in the menstrual cycle.11 Regarding the effect of thyroid disease on abnormal vaginal bleeding, Dr. Millie A Behera on MedScape.com says that hypothyroidism can cause random or frequent bleeding that can be heavy or light.12

Pelvic inflammatory disease

If you notice spotting after your period or even light bleeding, it could be a symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The vaginal discharge, lower pelvic pain, and irregular bleeding from the vagina are all caused by a bacterial infection which often results from a sexually transmitted disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the bacterial infection responsible for bleeding between periods is caused by inflammation and infection in the ovaries, uterus, and/or fallopian tubes. It’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, as pelvic inflammatory disease can cause complications in your reproductive system and even make you infertile if left untreated.13

Cancer

Cancer of the ovaries, endometrial cancer, and cervical cancer can all cause irregular bleeding after your period has ended. If you have been through the menopause, then it’s good to remember that any kind spotting or vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal and should be checked out by a doctor.

The NHS says that most people with abnormal bleeding don’t have cancer, but because bleeding from the vagina can be a symptom of cancer, you should see a doctor. This means that if you have been through the menopause, any kind of vaginal bleeding is a cause for concern. If you haven’t been through the menopause, then you should see a doctor if your periods are heavier than usual or you have unusual bleeding after your period has ended.14

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Uterine fibroids

Sometimes uterine fibroids can cause spotting a week or more after the end of your period. Uterine fibroids are harmless growths that develop in the uterus. Apart from brown spotting, fibroids can cause lower back pain, pelvic discomfort and bladder problems. They may also cause heavier than usual menstrual bleeding.

If you have spotting after your period has ended along with pelvic discomfort and painful periods, doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend that you visit your doctor.15

To find out more about how to identify if you have uterine fibroids, you can find helpful information in my article about the warning signs of uterine fibroids.

Uterine polyps

Uterine polyps are soft growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus (the endometrium). They are usually noncancerous (benign) but they are known to cause issues with the menstrual periods or even infertility. Uterine polyps are most commonly develop in women who are going through or have completed menopause, although younger women can get them too.

According to doctors from Mayo clinic uterine polyps (endometrial polyps) can causes bleeding between periods as well as affect the duration and frequency of your periods.23

Urethral prolapse

If the muscles that hold your urethra in place become weakened and stretched, you may experience pink spotting after the end of your period. In order to prevent spotting caused by prolapse and strengthen the pelvic muscles, many women have found Kegel exercises to be very helpful.

Spotting or Bleeding One Week After Period

Apart from ovulation spotting which typically occurs around 2 weeks after the start of your period, and implantation bleeding which usually occurs around the timing of your period itself (around 10 to 14 days after ovulation), all the other reasons mentioned above can cause spotting a week or so after your period.

Bleeding or Spotting 2 Weeks After Period

Spotting 2 weeks after your period can be a sign of ovulation, which occurs about 10 to 14 days after the start of the menstrual period and is a result of sudden changes in hormone levels. However using birth control pills or IUD can also cause spotting around the middle of your cycle, especially in the first few months since you have started taking the pill or using IUD. This is because your body is adjusting to this contraceptive method.

While spotting 2 weeks after period can be harmless, some conditions mentioned above can be more serious and can also cause spotting in the middle of your menstrual cycle. Therefore, if you experience other symptoms, such as lower abdominal or pelvic pain, vaginal itching or burning, or pain during intercourse, visit your doctor or gynecologist as soon as possible.

Spotting After Your Period Has Ended – When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor in any case of unusual or abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods. This can help to put your mind at rest and start treatment as soon as possible in case the spotting is because of a serious condition.

Your doctor may also check you over for other underlying health conditions. For example, irregular menstrual cycles have been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease16 and type 2 diabetes.17

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Article Sources

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  7. org. Perimenopausal bleeding.
  8. com. Can stress cause irregular periods?
  9. uk. What causes vaginal bleeding between periods?
  10. com. Ovarian cysts.
  11. Medscape.com. Abnormal uterine bleeding.
  12. com. Hypothyroidism.
  13. gov. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  14. uk. Symptoms of womb cancer
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  16. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;87(5):2013-7.
  17. JAMA. 2001 Nov 21;286(19):2421-6.
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  21. Medicinenet. Medical Definition of Metrorrhagia.
  22. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Mar 15; 175(6): 536–545.
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