It is Spotting or your Period?

How to 'Spot' the Difference Between Spotting and Your Period

The age old question: is this spotting, or is my period about to start? When it comes to telling the difference between spotting and your period, the volume is blood being discharged is the primary indicator.

During your period, most will experience moderate to heavy bleeding which will last for between 3 to 7 days. Spotting is, as its name suggests, periodic spotting of blood that happens erratically. Below is a breakdown of possible period symptoms, how to know what is spotting as well as some possible causes of spotting explained.

Period symptoms

There are some common symptoms you may experience that can indicate that your vaginal bleeding is due to your period. Pain and cramping are the most common, with other symptoms like headaches, acne breakouts, bloating, tender breasts, irritability and food cravings also being quite common. Check out this blog to learn more about the most common signs and symptoms of menstruation.

Symptoms of spotting

Spotting before your period and spotting after your period is very common. If you are spotting in between periods, this could be a sign that something is wrong, so it’s a good idea to investigate the cause with your doctor.

If you are spotting, the volume of blood being discharged is minimal and again, as the name suggests, is more or less experienced as a spot or two. Spotting can also vary in colour from pinkish to dark brown, and can often be noticed on toilet tissue when you wipe after using the bathroom.

What causes spotting?

There are a few common reasons for spotting, including:

  • Ovulation – when ovulating, an egg is released, and spotting can occur during this time.
  • Medication – certain medications, especially birth control pills or when you change from one to another can cause spotting. Those with an intra-uterine device (IUD) can also experience spotting when the device is first fitted.
  • Pregnancy – some women can experience implantation bleeding when they fall pregnant which can cause spotting. If you are already pregnant and spotting occurs, its best to contact your doctor immediately.
  • Infections and disease – conditions such as sexually-transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and even cancers, can cause spotting.
  • Sexual activity – trauma in the vaginal area from rough sexual intercourse or sexual assault can cause spotting.

It’s important to be aware of the difference between spotting and a period. As mentioned earlier, your period results in heavier bleeding (enough to require a pad, tampon or menstrual cup), while spotting is less noticeable and can be contained with a panty liner (or nothing at all). You may only notice spotting when wiping after using the bathroom.

It's equally as important to consult your doctor or specialist if you think any bleeding or spotting might be occurring abnormally.

If you do experience spotting in between periods, keep track of dates when it occurs and any other symptoms that come with it and present them to your doctor (using a period tracker app can come in handy - find out about the top period tracker apps here). This information will be extremely useful when it comes to diagnosing any issues.