Periods typically come once every 21-35 days. If your vagina starts bleeding between periods, it can be easy to worry.
Light vaginal bleeding in between periods is called spotting or irregular bleeding. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong. It can be fresh red blood, pink blood, brownish blood, or anything in between. You might also have bleeding that’s heavier than that, with or without clots.
There are a lot of reasons why irregular bleeding can happen, from medications to illnesses to emotional changes in your life. If it lasts for more than 7 days or it’s heavy, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. If not, it is most likely one of these reasons.
Hormonal birth control
Spotting is common when you’re taking hormonal birth control. Hormonal birth control includes the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the implant, and hormonal IUDs. Spotting can be especially common if it’s a pill meant to reduce or stop your periods, like Seasonale.
If you’ve just started the pill, your body is still getting used to the hormones, so you might bleed in between periods. This is called breakthrough bleeding, which should usually stop after a couple of months. If you have heavy bleeding, or it lasts longer than three months, it’s best to see a doctor. You might also want to consider changing your birth control.
You can also have other reasons for bleeding between periods when you’re on hormonal birth control:
- Forgetting to take the pill or taking it later than you usually do
- Vomiting or having diarrhea can sometimes prevent the pill from being absorbed by your body, causing spotting or irregular bleeding
- Taking some medications or supplements (like St. John’s wort)
Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill, or emergency contraception) can also cause bleeding between periods. This might last for a few days after you take it. Also, some people who take Plan B may get their period earlier than they expect.
If you’ve used Plan B a lot in the past few months, like once every month or more than once a month, your period might also get shorter or longer, or come earlier or later.
It’s actually your period
Some people don’t have regular periods, especially teenagers. If you started getting your period within the last few years, your body might still be getting used to the menstrual cycle. This means that you might sometimes skip periods, or get them earlier or later. This is common, especially when important or stressful things are happening in your life, like travel or exams.
If you’re bleeding before your period is supposed to be due, you can try to check for symptoms of your period. Do you have tender breasts, cramps, or mood swings? If you are, then the bleeding might just be your period coming early.
Other reasons for bleeding between periods
There are a lot of other things that can cause spotting or bleeding in between periods:
- An abortion in the last month or so
- Ovulation can cause light spotting
- Vaginal sex can cause light spotting because of friction in the vagina. More foreplay and lube can help!
- If you’ve had an IUD (copper or hormonal) inserted, you might spot for 3-6 months after
- Some STIs (sexually transmitted infections), like chlamydia, can have vaginal bleeding as a symptom
- Other diseases or conditions like cervical cancer or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Stress can cause spotting too!
Most of the time, spotting is not serious and will stop on its own. But if you’re having pain while spotting, or the spotting lasts more than 7 days in a row, it’s best to see a doctor. You can call Info-Santé at 8-1-1 to find the closest CLSC drop-in clinic, or go to Head & Hands, which gives free, anonymous consultations to youth 12-25.