A healthy menstrual cycle typically lasts between 28 to 34 days. During this cycle, most women will experience between 3-5 days of bleeding. This time span should only be considered a guideline as every one’s cycle is different.
When your menstrual cycle finishes, it is also expected that all bleeding will stop. But sometimes you may notice spotting after your period ends. This refers to a small amount of blood discharged outside your menstrual period.
This intermenstrual bleeding usually appears as a red/brown vaginal discharge or blood tinged mucus. In some cases, this is not a cause to worry. For example, spotting after periods may happen due to ovulation, be a first sign of pregnancy or because of taking birth control pills. But in others, where the spotting is accompanied by pain or discomfort, it could indicate an underlying health problem.
In some instances, being overly stressed has also been linked to irregular periods and untimely spotting.
Some Possible Causes of Spotting After Period
There are a number of factors determining the menstrual cycle of women. Just so, there can also be an equal number of causes that can bring about unexpected spotting. Some of the more common of these can include the following:
Uterine Tissue Leftover after Menstruation
During a regular menstrual cycle, the uterine lining is shed which results in monthly bleeding. Sometimes you may notice some spotting after the period ends. This could possibly be because of some uterine tissue being left behind. The spotting could be because of the body trying to get rid of the remaining tissue.
In this case, the spotting is just the body’s attempt to clean out your uterus.
Fluctuating Menstrual Cycles
For most young girls, their cycles will become regular a couple of months after the onset of menstruation. But some others may continue to notice some spotting after their period ends. This could be because it takes the body some time to get used to hormonal changes. Some irregular spotting is normal in such cases.
Having sex too soon after menstruation ends could also result in some spotting after period. You may observe some slight bleeding or just spotting which may have happened due to deep penetration during intercourse.
This problem may also occur if you are pregnant. During pregnancy the cervix becomes tender and any kind of rough bumping can irritate it further.
Sexual intercourse may also cause minor bleeding if there is some kind of irritation to the vagina or cervix. Minor bleeding linked to sexual intercourse is more common among women approaching menopause. This is because they are more likely to experience vaginal dryness.
Some other conditions that can cause discomfort during or after intercourse include the formation of ovarian cysts, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The presence of all these factors can also cause spotting after periods.
This type of bleeding or spotting occurs around the time of an expected period. This could also be an early sign of pregnancy.
Implantation bleeding occurs when the embryo in the implants in the uterus. This can trigger a few days of spotting. At this stage some women may experience light bleeding ranging from pink to red discharge. This spotting will happen before your period is expected to start.
It can be confusing whether the spotting is implantation bleeding or just normal spotting. The best way to make sure if you are pregnant or not is to take a pregnancy test.
Spotting During Pregnancy
Some women may experience spotting during pregnancy. This happens most often during the first few months of the pregnancy. If it is light spotting, there is no cause for alarm as it can happen in a healthy pregnancy. Spotting or bleeding that happens in early pregnancy is often lighter in flow than a menstrual period. Plus, the color of the discharge ranges between red to brown.
The thing to know here is to differentiate between spotting and bleeding. With spotting, it is just a few drops of blood occasionally. But bleeding is when you need a pad or liner to keep your clothes from getting soiled.
You need to get immediate medical attention if you start bleeding during pregnancy. Heavy discharge could be a consequence of pregnancy complications.
If you have been taking oral contraceptives for some time and stop suddenly, there may be some spotting after your period ends. This is because contraceptives influence hormonal balances by regulating them. Once you go off the contraceptives, your body will try to regain normal hormonal balances.
This can cause spotting to occur after your periods have ended. Such spotting will often stop once the body gets used to the elevated hormonal levels.
Use of contraceptives like birth control pills or an intrauterine device can also cause spotting after period in the first few months of using them. The same can happen if you miss taking a pill at the same time every day.
Some spotting after your period or in between periods can become more frequent when women approach menopause. This time is known as perimenopause when you may also observe your periods becoming more irregular.
During regular menstrual cycles, hormones like estrogen and progesterone go up and down in a regular pattern. Ovulation happens in the middle of the cycle and then your periods start about 2 weeks later. But during perimenopause, a woman’s body does not follow the regular pattern of hormonal changes. So periods may be longer or shorter than regular.
Even stress is recognized as a contributing factor to causing spotting after periods. When you are under a lot of stress, you may notice that there is some spotting after your period ends. This type of spotting is usually pink or brown in color and happens due to emotional or psychological stress. Stress can also be one of the most common causes of missed or late periods.
Medical Concerns for Spotting After Periods
Brown vaginal discharge after or between periods can be a symptom of a medical condition. Many of these conditions happen as a result of hormonal fluctuations in the woman’s body. Typically, these problems affect women of childbearing age and go away after menopause.
While some are not a cause for concern, others demand immediate attention. Here is a look at some of these more serious conditions:
Polyps are non-malignant cellular growths that occur in the endometrium. The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus and the organ where a fetus grows. The polyps form by the overgrowth of the endometrial tissue. One of the reasons for their growth is a change in hormonal levels.
There can be a single or multiple polyps all ranging in size. If a polyp bursts due to any reason, it could cause some spotting after the period ends.
This is another uterine condition that may cause some spotting after periods end. Fibroids are harmless growths in the uterus and are a common female disorder. Usually fibroids are small in size, but can grow bigger. Some women may only have a single uterine fibroid while others may have a few.
Due to the presence of uterine fibroids, you may not only experience spotting in between periods but also irregular periods. Sometimes you may observe longer than usual periods or notice blood clots in the discharge.
Larger fibroids can also cause pelvic pressure and pain, urinary incontinence and constipation and bloating.
There can be two reasons for spotting in between periods with regards to ovulation. The first has to do with hormones.
Ovulation, or the release of the egg from the ovum, can cause an increase in estrogen levels in the female body. The hormonal change can cause vaginal bleeding at the time of ovulation. This is often seen as some spotting once your period has ended.
The second reason has to do with the release of the egg. When the egg bursts through the follicle, some spotting may occur. This type of ovulation-related spotting is known as mid cycle spotting.
Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs that form inside the ovaries. Their formation is related to the menstrual cycle and can cause irregular bleeding and some spotting after periods.
Other symptoms of ovarian cysts include pelvic discomfort, abdominal pain and pressure or swelling. You may also feel some urinary incontinence along with a dull ache in the back.
If the cyst remains small in size, it usually does not cause any problems. But if it grows to a larger size, then issues like pain and bleeding can result. Likewise, if a large cyst remains untreated, then you may also experience bloating, pelvic pain, and discomfort during bowel movements.
Most of the time cysts go away on their own but others that become bothersome can be surgically removed.
This is a condition that is linked to hormonal imbalances in the female body. Hormonal fluctuations can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and cause an overgrowth of tissues to develop outside the uterus. This is called endometrial tissue which can bring about some spotting after periods.
This misplaced tissue keeps building up, breaks down and then sheds. But while menstrual discharge flows out of the body during your period, the endometrial tissue and blood have no way of leaving the body. Instead, the tissue starts spreading outside the uterus, resulting in inflammation and scarring.
Endometriosis can also bring about irregular bleeding, clotting and complications getting pregnant.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If you see some spotting after your period, it could be the result of a bacterial infection. This type of infection happens due to inflammation and infection in the ovaries, uterus or the fallopian tubes.
PID is caused by bacteria responsible for sexually transmitted infections.
Unexpected spotting is only one symptom of suffering from pelvic inflammatory disease. Others can include lower pelvic pain or irregular vaginal discharge.
It is important to seek quick medical attention in the case of pelvic inflammatory disease. This is because if left untested, it can cause reproductive problems in the future. There is also the possible risk of infertility if PID aggravates.
Another type of infection that can cause spotting after period is bacterial vaginosis. This infection is not sexually transmitted. Instead it happens when the balance of bacterial culture is disturbed in the vagina. Bacterial Vaginosis results when there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria which causes unpleasant symptoms.
Spotting in between menstrual cycles is only one of the symptoms associated with bacterial vaginosis. Others symptoms include a foul odor and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Different cancers in the pelvic region can all cause bleeding and spotting after periods. These can include endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and even cervical cancer to name a few.
If you have already gone through menopause, then remember that any kind of vaginal bleeding is not normal. Instead, it should be checked by a medical professional immediately. Women who have been through menopause need to know that any extent of vaginal bleeding is a cause for concern.
When to See a Doctor
Experts recommend that you see your doctor whenever irregular bleeding occurs. Your doctor may recommend some diagnostic tests to pinpoint the cause of the spotting. Common types of tests include the following:
- Pregnancy test
- Blood count test
- Thyroid test
- Liver test
- Pap smear test
Your doctor may also give you a physical exam including a pelvic exam.
It is also helpful to keep a record of your cycle. If you experience frequent spotting between periods, note down when your period begins and ends. You should also make note of the duration and heaviness of your menstrual flow as well. Keep a separate log of how much and when you bleed between periods.
If there are any other accompanying symptoms such as back pain, vaginal inflammation or pelvic pressure, inform your doctor.
Treatment for different causes of spotting after periods will vary. The treatment suggested by your doctor for will depend on the cause of the condition.