Regular uterine bleeding in the form of vaginal discharge of the purple or the dark-brown blood, sometimes containing admixtures, is referred to as menstruation. Having scanty periods may be associated with a number of factors (including menopause or intake of contraceptives). In some cases, women observe spotting but no period. It may occur in the form of light spotting or intense bleeding. There is also another possible form of physiological spotting between periods. Defining the difference between spotting and a period can only be done by a specialist, after thorough examination.
Menstrual cycle (MC) presents a regular monthly process of alterations within the female organism, involving maturation and emergence of the ovum from the follicle in the first half and preparation of endometrium to possible conception in the second half of the cycle. In the case conception does not occur, proliferated endometrial lining is rejected due to “futility” while the second cycle commences with its discharge – the period.
As a rule, discharge between periods, does not contain blood. This discharge is almost transparent and may have various consistency, depending on the stage of mucus production. It has no foul odor.
What is spotting? Natural spotting between periods
We distinguish between three physiological causes of bleeding between periods – ovulation bleeding (OB), implantation bleeding (IB) and bleeding, associated with adjustment to a new type of hormonal contraceptives (AB).
In order to be able to tell the difference between them, one should pay attention to:
1. The time, when bleeding occurs, as well as its duration.
In the majority of women, MC consists of 28 ± 7 days. That is to say, periods should be expected within the time frames of one’s individual cycle, with consistent periodicity. As for other types of bloody discharge, it should be mentioned that:
- Ovulation bleeding occurs in the very middle of the cycle, since it this blood is discharged from vessels, affected by the ovum during ovulation;
- Implantation bleeding occurs a few days prior to the anticipated period, since it accompanies the process of implantation, which takes place on the 6th day after conception (ovulation+ a few days for conception+ 6 days);
- Adjustment related bleeding may occur on any day of the cycle.
All the mentioned types of bleeding persist for no longer than 3 days whereas periods may last for almost a week (4±2 days).
2. How does bleeding look?
Menstrual blood can be purple or brown, sometimes it contains admixtures, and quite few women observe very light periods. Having scanty periods may be associated with congenial development disorders, adhesive changes in uterine or cervical mucous membranes, endocrine pathologies, rapid weight loss, stress or moving to a new climatic zone. Besides, menstrual discharge becomes minimal during the premenopausal period and on the background of hormonal contraceptives.
Usually physiological bleeding appears in the form of brown spots on the underwear or a pink sticky mass, in case spotting overlaps with the period of maximally intense production of cervical mucus (most typical for OB and IB).