so, what the heck is spotting anyway?
Along with getting a handle on all the changes happening to your body right now, it seems with puberty and periods comes a whole load of lingo to learn too. We’re talking about stuff such as spotting – hands-up who has a clue what that’s all about?
First things first, if you’ve never heard of spotting let’s be really clear here, it’s nada to do with spots on your face, or your back, or anywhere else for that matter. Confusing as it is, spotting is no way related to spots.
Ok, so what *is* spotting?
Spotting is when you lightly bleed from your vagina at a time when it’s not your period. Aka, a totally unwanted bit of bleeding. A normal menstrual cycle happens around every 28 days, but cycles can also range from as little as every 21 days to as many as every 45 days, especially if you’ve not long been having periods. However big or small the interval of your periods, if you do have a bit of bleeding in between, it’s known as spotting. Light bleeding at the beginning or as you finish your period isn’t actually spotting – that’s just called, erhm, the start or the end.
Usually if you spot, there won’t be as much blood flowing as there would be during a period. Saying that, there might be enough to make you go, “erhmm hello, what’s that in my knickers then?” and it can be a total pain if you’re not wearing a panty liner and you’ve got your best undies on. Despite its name, spotting also isn’t just about spots or droplets of blood but can be smudges, dribbles and streaks in all the colours of the period rainbow – from bright red to shades of brown and pink.
What actually causes spotting?
Spotting is super-common and there are a ton of reasons why it might be happening, ranging from the totally normal to the not so norms. If you do discover a bit of blood in your knickers mid-cycle, it’s important to make sure it’s coming from your vagina and not your bum or urine. That’s a different ball game.
If you’re certain that your vagina is the source, and you’re not due your period any time soon, then it’s likely that this bleeding is spotting. But why is it happening? Let’s look at a few common reasons.
Plain old puberty
When you first start your periods, it can take a while for the body to figure out this unfamiliar new setting of “fertile”, and the occasional hormonal misfire results in irregular bleeding and spotting between periods. This is standard behaviour of the body during puberty and will settle down after a few years of having your periods as your body finds its monthly rhythm.
Now stress is such a biggie when it comes to the body. If you’re freaking out over exams, worried about boys, or have major friendship dramas, hormonal imbalances can happen which will go on to mess up your periods, making a cycle irregular or late, or causing spotting in between periods. Try to find a way of managing those manic life moments that leave you feeling strung out, whether that’s by catching up on sleep with a duvet day (yes please) or doing a bit of yoga to get your zen.
First off, if you’re managing to squeeze in *any* exercise, while juggling all your schoolwork and everything else, you go girl. We’re all for sweating out that angst and feeling those endorphin highs but just make sure you don’t overdo it, as over-exercising and excessive weight loss can cause your periods to come and go, and could be the reason for a bit of mid-cycle spotting.
Around halfway through your cycle (roughly on day 14 of a 28 day menstrual cycle), ovulation happens – when you release an egg from your ovary. This egg travels down the fallopian tube, and when it isn’t fertilised by a sperm, will slowly disintegrate, be absorbed by your body and get shed with your uterus’ lining – known as your period. When the egg is released from the ovary, you might notice a twinge on one side corresponding to the ovary from which you’re ovulating. Spotting around the time of ovulation is also totally normal and you might feel a bit of cramping too.
Being prescribed the contraceptive pill to help with conditions such as acne or PCOS, can cause spotting as your body adjusts to the changing hormone levels – this usually doesn’t last more than 1-3 months from when you start taking it. You may notice spotting again if you accidentally skip the contraceptive pill or stop it completely. Your periods should settle back to normal within a few months of coming of the pill.
Only very rarely does spotting between periods result in something a lot more serious such as infection, problems with the cervix or cancer. If your bleeding is not heavy and happens only every now and again, there’s probably no need to worry.
If you’re concerned about any spotting you have though, or you’ve noticed it getting heavier or more frequent, make an appointment with your GP who can check you over to put your mind at ease.