Why Am I Bleeding Between Periods?

Learn What Causes Mid-Cycle Spotting and What to Do

Pantyliner, packed sanitary pad and tampon, close up
Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

Bleeding or spotting between periods can be a frightening experience. Maybe your period ended just the week before, but then you noticed that you started bleeding again. Maybe this isn't the first time you've experienced bleeding or spotting between periods. Maybe it is. Whether it's the first time or yet another month of spotting, bleeding between periods can be a frustrating and stressful experience.

What Is Normal Menstruation?

Normal menstrual bleeding lasts about four to five days, and although it may seem like you are losing a lot of blood, the amount of blood lost during your period is only about two to eight tablespoons. While normal menstruation occurs on average every 28 days, anywhere from 21 to 35 days between periods is considered normal.

When Should You Worry About Menstrual Bleeding?

If you are post-menopausal or younger than 11 and bleeding, you should consult your physician immediately. You should also call your doctor if you are experiencing vaginal bleeding between periods.

What Causes Bleeding Between Periods?

Although the cause of irregular bleeding can vary according to individual health situations, some of the more common causes include:

  • Implantation bleeding/pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Starting, stopping, or missing oral contraceptives or estrogens
  • Low thyroid levels

Some women may also have spotting during ovulation, which is normal.

How Can My Doctor Help Me?

Bed rest may be recommended if the bleeding occurring between your periods is heavy.

Use your menstrual cycle calendar to record the number of tampons or pads you use. This information can help your doctor determine whether or not you are bleeding excessively.

Unless your doctor specifically advises otherwise, never take aspirin while you are menstruating. Aspirin can cause bleeding to last longer and flow more heavily.

Of course, you should inform your doctor about any bleeding or spotting between periods that you experience.

When You Go to Your Doctor

You should expect to give your full medical history when you visit the doctor for diagnosis of bleeding or spotting between periods. Also expect to have a pelvic exam, including a Pap smear if you haven't had one recently. If you've kept a menstrual cycle calendar, you'll be ready to answer your doctor's questions. These questions may include:

  • How long have you experienced bleeding between periods?
  • Does it happen every month or is this the first time?
  • What day during your menstrual cycle does the bleeding begin?
  • How long does it last?
  • Do you experience menstrual cramps when bleeding between periods occurs?
  • Does anything make bleeding worse?
  • Does anything make it better?
  • Is bleeding worse with increased physical activity?
  • Are you experiencing an increase in stress?
  • Do you have any other symptoms such as pelvic pain, increased bruising, difficulty swallowing, pain or burning during urination?
  • Is there blood in your bowel movements or urine?

It's also important to advise your physician if you are pregnant or recently had a miscarriage or abortion. If you have had a D&C, your physician should know this as well.

Remember to inform your physician about any prescription or over-the-counter medications (including herbal supplements) that you are taking.

Your physician will also ask you how old you were when you started having periods, if you are sexually active, and whether you have experienced bleeding between periods in the past. If you have experienced any injuries, or had medical or surgical treatments, this is also important to tell your physician.

If you are using oral contraceptives your physician should be aware of this: bleeding between periods can sometimes be caused by something as simple as not taking birth control pills at the exact time each day.

The Bottom Line

Managing uterine bleeding depends, to a large extent, on your answers to your physician's questions, as well as the findings of your pelvic exam. Based on the initial evaluation there may be additional tests and/or treatment.


MedlinePlus. Vaginal Bleeding Between Periods Accessed 03/16.

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