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Spotting Instead of Bleeding With a Period

written by: weborglodge • edited by: BStone • updated: 3/16/2011

Spotting instead of bleeding with a period can indicate a variety of conditions, most of which are not a cause for concern. However, there are a few scenarios which warrant a visit to your doctor. The important thing to understand is that spotting may simply be a matter of hormonal fluctuations.

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    What Is Abnormal?

    The menstrual cycle can vary from woman to woman. You may typically experience periods which last only 3 or 4 days. Other women may menstruate for up to a week. Your cycle is controlled by hormonal activity. Abnormalities such as spotting may be caused by fluctuations of hormones in your body.

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    Common Causes

    pregnancy test There are several causes for spotting instead of bleeding with a period. Birth control pills may cause changes in your cycle depending upon the type you use and the concentration of hormone levels. Other medications may also impact your body such as blood thinners or steroids.

    Physical causes can also be behind your fluctuating cycle such infections of the reproductive system or thyroid disorders. Another concern is pregnancy. Spotting or a light period can be an early symptom. If pregnancy is a possibility, you should get tested to rule out this cause.

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    Stress and Weight Loss

    Some women may also experience a light period if they are under stress or experience rapid weight loss. In stressful situations, your body diverts resources to survival. Your body may slow or cease menstruating when the potential of getting pregnant looms. Likewise, exercising strenuously may also affect your period.

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    Perimenopause and Menstruation

    Women in perimenopause will often experience fluctuations in their cycle. A heavy period may be followed by an unusually light cycle. As you approach menopause, you may even skip a month. These changes are a normal consequence of declining hormone levels and loss of reproductive function.

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    Coping Strategies

    You can begin by tracking your periods, noting when they begin and end as well as any unusual characteristics such as spotting. You will also want to take note of any other symptoms you may be experiencing such as cramping, swelling in your breasts or changes in appetite. This information can help your doctor come to a definitive diagnosis.

    In cases where pregnancy is not a possibility, an occasional light period may not be a cause of concern. If you have just begun birth control pills or have recently switched types of birth control, your spotting may be due to stabilizing hormone levels.

    However, if your spotting continues, you should discuss the issue with your doctor. While most cases are minor, it can indicate other more serious conditions such as endometrial cancer. If you are menopausal and experience spotting, abnormal menstrual cycles should be investigated.

    Spotting instead of bleeding with a period can be just a minor fluctuation of hormones which will soon right itself. If your spotting is accompanied by other symptoms, you should not ignore this condition. Early detection can improve your treatment options whether it is a minor issue or an indication of pregnancy.

    Photo by LesKZN, stock.xchng

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    Columbia University: Light Period = Pregnant?

    Medline Plus: Menstrual Periods - Heavy, Prolonged, or Irregular

    G. Tortora, et al. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. 2005.