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What Is Spotting and When Can You Have It?

The term “Vaginal spotting” is usually referred to light bleeding happening outside of periods. You can have spotting a week before period, after sex, or even right before menstruation. But how do you really distinct brown spotting before period from the menstrual bleeding itself? What are the most common spotting causes? Let’s get into more detail.

Spotting vs. period differences

Something looks like spotting in your vaginal discharge, but today is going to be the first day of your menstruation according to predictions. Are you sure you have spotting instead of period and not the actual period?

The menstrual period is a natural bleeding process. Your uterine lining is shedding so it may be difficult to distinguish spotting before period from menstrual flow. 

Your menstrual blood can have a tinge anywhere from red to dark brown. It may look almost inky black towards the end of your period. If the bleeding is heavy and scarlet in color (i.e., bright red with a tinge of orange), you should consult your doctor.

There are several differences between period bleeding and spotting, though. Spotting is a kind of light bleeding — not a prolonged (1–2 days) and heavy flow like menstruation. It shouldn’t be accompanied by heavy cramps or clots. The color is light brown or pink.

Signs of spotting can appear at any time, but your period has its own cycle. Spotting may occur in the middle of the cycle, as it’s mostly linked to ovulation, but sometimes it’s a signal of other changes in your body. Even if you have spotting after period, it’s normal.

Spotting on birth control pill: should you be worried about it?

Having breakthrough bleeding — meaning, spotting between periods — is quite common while on birth control pills.

The reasons for spotting while on birth control vary from woman to woman and may also depend on the type of pills you use.

If you have just started taking the pill, you may bleed between periods because of the hormone disruption as your body adjusts to it. It should stop after a few months and is not dangerous.

Skipping a pill or two may also lead to spotting. This is quite normal and you don't need to worry. Please note that irregularities in taking oral contraceptives can bring on an unplanned pregnancy.

Spotting during ovulation

Although rare, some women see cervical fluid that is streaked with blood or has a pink tinge during ovulation. It is generally considered normal.

Hormonal changes during this time are a possible explanation for such a discharge. Before ovulation, the level of estrogen decreases, which can cause spotting. Use Flo to track all of the changes in your vaginal discharge and to get helpful advice and tips.

Spotting after sex: what does it indicate?

Some women may experience spotting during sex or bleeding after sexual intercourse, known as postcoital bleeding.
The possible bleeding after sex causes are:

  • friction and damage to the vaginal mucosa and cervix during sex caused by dryness and lack of lubrication
  • vaginal and cervical inflammation
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • endometriosis
  • oral contraceptive intake, etc.

Normally, this type of discharge is non-recurrent, doesn’t pose a health threat, and is not a reason for concern.

However, if bleeding after sex occurs regularly and/or is accompanied by pain, you should contact a gynecologist to find out the cause.


Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker

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  • Amazing! Ricecake2003
    This app is super useful for tracking periods, and has given me mostly accurate predictions so far! I especially love that you can comment anonymously on posts and get help from and give help to the community.
  • Such an intuitive app! Hannah Malone
    I've tried several period tracker apps on the market and nothing is as good as Flo. It's accurate, detailed providing you with an abundance of parameters to log, and they even provide useful articles and surveys to help you better understand the complex nature of the female body.

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