What is spotting?

Spotting refers to any uterine or vaginal bleeding that occurs outside the menstrual period. Most women have a normal menstrual period approximately every 28 days. Spotting can include bleeding between normal menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding before puberty, and bleeding after menopause. Women who are pregnant may also experience spotting.

The causes of spotting vary depending on a woman's age and her stage in life. For instance, young women in the first few years of their menstrual periods may experience some spotting. Women of childbearing age may have gynecologic disorders, such as fibroids or polyps, or complications from hormonal contraceptives or hormone-replacement therapy, any of which may result in spotting.

Women who are nearing menopause may have spotting, irregular periods, or skip periods entirely. A condition called endometrial hyperplasia, which involves excessive or abnormal thickening of the uterine lining, can also cause spotting. In some cases, endometrial hyperplasia can lead to cancer of the uterus. Spotting may also be caused by medications, untreated infections, or a blood-clotting disorder. Suspected vaginal bleeding does not always originate from the reproductive organs. The blood may be from the urinary tract or something as simple as hemorrhoids.

The menstrual period is controlled by two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Spotting may occur if these hormones are out of balance or not available. Women with thyroid disorders may have hormonal imbalances that result in spotting.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are pregnant and experience spotting.If you are not pregnant, your health care provider will determine the cause of your spotting through a pelvic exam and other tests. If you experience heavy or prolonged bleeding, or if your spotting is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with spotting?

Spotting may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Common symptoms that may occur along with spotting

Spotting may accompany other symptoms including:

CAUSES

What causes spotting?

The causes of spotting can vary depending on a woman's age and her stage in life. Spotting can be normal in young women in the first few years of their menstrual periods and in women approaching menopause. Hormonal contraceptives or hormone therapy are also common causes of spotting.

In other cases, spotting is caused by abnormalities in hormone balance.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.