Spotting is light vaginal bleeding that occurs outside of your regular menstrual cycle. It can be pink, red, or brown in color, and it is usually lighter than your period. Spotting can last for a few days or weeks, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Fibroids. Some medical conditions, such as fibroids, polyps, or endometriosis, can cause spotting. Infections, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can also cause spotting.
- Hormone changes. Spotting can occur during ovulation when your estrogen levels drop sharply. It can also happen during puberty, menopause, or when you are taking birth control pills or other hormonal medications.
- Pregnancy. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus lining and can cause spotting early in pregnancy. Spotting can also happen during the first trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes or other factors.
If you are experiencing spotting, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. In most cases, spotting does not require treatment. However, monitoring your symptoms and letting your doctor know if you experience any other unusual changes is important.
Spotting Due to Fibroids
Spotting is a common symptom of uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths of the uterus. Fibroid symptoms include heavy menstruation, pelvic pain or pressure, frequent urination, a diminished sex drive, and low energy levels. Women often develop fibroids during their reproductive years — up to 80% affected by age 50. Despite the prevalence of this condition, many women are unaware they have fibroids until they become symptomatic.
Fibroids can cause spotting in several ways:
- They can distort the shape of the uterine cavity, making it more difficult for the uterus to shed its lining during menstruation. This can lead to heavier bleeding and spotting between periods.
- Fibroids can also increase the production of blood vessels in the uterus, contributing to heavier bleeding and spotting.
- Some fibroids may also produce hormones that can stimulate the uterine lining, leading to heavier bleeding and spotting.
If you are concerned about fibroids or have been diagnosed with fibroids, discussing your situation with a fibroid specialist is helpful. They can help accurately diagnose the number of fibroids that might be causing your spotting symptoms.
If you think you may have fibroids, take our short quiz and learn more.
Spotting Due to Hormonal Changes
Spotting caused by hormone changes is not uncommon. While it can occur at any age, it happens often during puberty, perimenopause, and menopause. Hormonal changes can cause spotting by affecting the way the lining of the uterus builds up and sheds its lining. Some common causes of spotting caused by hormone changes include:
- Ovulation. Mid-cycle spotting, also known as ovulation spotting, is a light bleeding that occurs around the time of ovulation. It is usually caused by a drop in estrogen levels. Ovulation spotting is usually harmless and does not require treatment.
- Birth control. Birth control pills, implants, and other hormonal contraceptives can cause spotting, especially when you first start using them. This is because your body is adjusting to the new hormones. Spotting caused by birth control usually goes away within a few months.
- Perimenopause and menopause. During perimenopause and menopause, your hormone levels start to fluctuate. This can cause spotting, irregular periods, and other menstrual changes. Spotting caused by perimenopause and menopause is usually not harmful and does not require treatment.
What Color Is Blood During Spotting?
Depending on how long it took the blood to leave the body, you can notice various colors:
- A lighter or darker hue of red is the most common color.
- A pink or orange color may mean that the blood is combined with other vaginal discharge, and might be signs of an infection.
- Oxidation can cause older blood to appear brown.
Spotting vs Bleeding
Bleeding or spotting can occur throughout pregnancy, from conception to delivery. Light bleeding, that is only a few drops of blood is referred to as spotting. Bleeding is when you have more of the signs of your regular menstrual flow.
Can Spotting Look Like a Period?
When your blood flow is heavy enough that you require a panty liner or pad to keep the blood from ruining your underwear and clothes, it is a period.
Spotting is typically defined as vaginal bleeding that is less than 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) per day. It may be pink, brown, or red in color.
A period is a more significant amount of vaginal bleeding that typically lasts for 3-7 days. It may be light or heavy, but it should be enough to soak through a pad or tampon every few hours.
Spotting During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is also a reason that women may experience spotting or light trace of pin, red or dark red blood. Have you ever wondered what spotting looks like during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester? It’s important to note that spotting is often a normal part of pregnancy.
The amount of blood lost during spotting can vary from person to person. It is usually less than 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters). Spotting may be so light that you only notice a few drops of blood on your underwear or toilet paper. In other cases, spotting may be heavier, but it should still be less than a regular menstrual period.
Here are some things to keep in mind about spotting during pregnancy:
- Spotting is usually lighter than your menstrual period.
- The blood may be pink, red, or dark brown.
- There won’t be enough blood to cover a panty liner.
- Spotting may last for a few days or weeks.
If you experience spotting during pregnancy, it’s important to:
- Keep track of how much spotting you have and what color it is.
- Pay attention to any other symptoms you have, such as cramping or pain.
If you are losing more than 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of blood per day, or if your spotting is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramping, pain, or fever, talk to your doctor right away.
What Causes Spotting During Pregnancy?
One common cause of spotting is implantation. This is when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. Implantation bleeding or spotting during pregnancy is usually light and occurs around 6-12 days after conception. It may only last for a few hours or days.
Here are some tips for determining if you are having implantation bleeding:
- The timing is right. Implantation bleeding usually occurs around 6-12 days after conception. If you are having spotting before or after this time frame, it is more likely to be caused by something else.
- The amount of blood is light. Implantation bleeding is typically light and does not soak through a pad or tampon.
- The color of the blood is light. Implantation bleeding is usually pink, brown, or light red. It is not bright red like a menstrual period.
- There is no cramping or pain. Implantation bleeding may be accompanied by mild cramping, but it is not usually severe.
Spotting can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it is most common in the first trimester. It can be caused by a number of things, but most of them are not serious. In addition to Implantation bleeding, other causes of spotting include:
- Changes in hormone levels.
- Cervical irritation.
If you have any concerns about spotting in early pregnancy, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of the bleeding and provide appropriate care.
It’s important to keep in mind that implantation bleeding does not always mean you are pregnant. Some women experience it for other reasons such as hormonal changes or cervical irritation. If you have fibroids and experience unusual bleeding, it is important to understand the risk factors fibroids pose on pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Fibroids
Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in the uterus. They can cause a variety of symptoms, including spotting, bleeding, and pain. Spotting during pregnancy is common, but it can be alarming, especially if you have fibroids.
Most women with fibroids will have normal pregnancies. However, depending on the size and position of the fibroids, in some women, there is an increased risk of complications, such as pain, bleeding, placental abruption and miscarriage.
When fibroids are present during pregnancy, you may be concerned you may have is having a premature birth or miscarriage. This can depend on the fibroid’s size and location of it. Occasionally, fibroids can become large, and their blood supply becomes insufficient, causing severe pain. Additionally, fibroids can cause the baby to be in a different position in the uterus.
Getting an accurate diagnosis before pregnancy can be important because you can discuss treatment options, such as non-surgical uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
If you have fibroids and experience spotting during pregnancy, it is important to talk to a fibroid specialist. A specialist can help you determine the cause of the spotting and develop a treatment plan to minimize the risks to you and your baby.
Spotting in Early Pregnancy: How Common?
The American Pregnancy Association reports that studies show that approximately 20 to 30 percent of women experience bleeding in early pregnancy. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy has many causes, some serious, some not. However, while bleeding in early pregnancy is common, it is more serious in later stages.
In a 2010 report from the National Institute of Health, one in four of the over 4,000 participants women reported bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy.  According to the study, spotting typically occurs during pregnancy’s sixth and seventh weeks. It wasn’t always an indication of miscarriage or a problem.
The cervix may become irritated during the second trimester, typically after intercourse or a cervical exam, leading to light bleeding or spotting.
Spotting During Pregnancy: When to Worry
Bleeding or spotting in the first trimester can indicate a major condition, such as:
- Miscarriage. Pre-miscarriage bleeding or spotting is common in almost all women who miscarry.
- Ectopic pregnancy is a term that refers to a pregnancy that occurs when a fertilized egg leaves the uterus and begins to grow outside of it. An ectopic pregnancy will not result in a baby being born. It can produce major, life-threatening complications for a pregnant woman.
- Molar pregnancy. This occurs when a mass of tissue grows inside the womb instead of a baby. Molar pregnancy is a rare occurrence.
Can Fibroids Cause a Miscarriage?
It is believed that up to 1 in 5 women of reproductive age has uterine fibroids, yet little is known about the consequences of fibroids in pregnancy . Fibroids have been reported to increase risk of miscarriage by approximately 60% (6–12), with some estimates of risk as much as 3-fold greater. Fibroids affect a women’s ability to become pregnant, especially if she has large fibroids. They can also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the lining of the womb.
Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
UFE is a minimally invasive procedure that can help women with fibroids avoid surgery. It involves blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, which causes them to shrink and die. UFE can help relieve symptoms such as heavy bleeding, bleeding between cycles, frequent urination, painful sex, and pelvic pain.
UFE offers many benefits to patients seeking alternatives to a hysterectomy or myomectomy. The procedure involves interventional radiologists using imaging to guide a catheter through a small incision in groin (femoral artery) or the wrist (radial artery) to the artery feeding the fibroid and blocks the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid. By eliminating the blood supply, it causes the fibroid to shrink and die.
If you are concerned that you have fibroids, suffer from irregular or heavy bleeding, and want to learn more about treatment options before or after pregnancy, a good place to start is with a consultation with a fibroid expert. If you have a submucosal fibroid (a fibroid that grows from the muscle wall into the cavity of your womb), it may block a fallopian tube, making it harder for you to become pregnant.