Why Do I Have Spotting but Not Period?

Vaginal spotting occurs when a small amount of blood, which could be pink, bright red or rusty brown, passes from the vagina. It can occur at one time or it can last for a few to several days.

The occurrence of spotting instead of period puzzles many women. It can occur any time during the menstrual cycle, but it is often troubling when it happens just before your period if you are trying to conceive or after your period when it has already stopped. Spotting is sometimes perfectly normal, but there are times when it may indicate a health condition.

What Could Cause Spotting?

There are many possible causes of spotting but no period, including:

Around Period

  • Normal menstrual cycle

Normal menstrual flow may consist of different layers, including old blood, some endometrial lining, tissue remains, nutrients, etc. These layers pass out together as menstrual flow. Sometimes a brown discharge, which consists of a layer of nutrients, may be passed out before actual menstruation. Sometimes the old endometrial lining can leave the uterus during the next period, appearing as a brown discharge before your period. If this is the cause, there is no reason for you to worry.

  • Pregnancy

Having a brown or pinkish discharge a couple of days before your period can be an early sign of pregnancy. It is often caused by implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining, which causes some bleeding or spotting 5-10 days after conception. At this stage, it may be hard to distinguish the physical symptoms (bloating and breast swelling) caused by early pregnancy and premenstrual syndrome. If you experience spotting but no period and you recently had sex, take a pregnancy test to know whether you are pregnant.

In Between Periods

  • Ovulation. Light spotting can occur 1 or 2 days after ovulation, which happens regularly in some women. Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from the ovary, the time in your menstrual cycle when you are most likely to be fertile. If you want to avoid pregnancy, don’t confuse ovulation spotting with menstruation.
  • Contraception. Hormonal birth control methods like shots, pills, patches, IUDS, and implants can cause spotting instead when you begin using the contraceptive or right after you stop using it. This “break through bleeding” means that it may not be the right option for you, especially if the condition occurs every month.
  • Intrauterine device. This birth control method is a device inserted into your uterus, which may cause spotting.
  • Hormonal imbalance. Two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, regulate your monthly cycle. If imbalance occurs, you may have spotting instead of period. Hormonal imbalance may result from thyroid problems, dysfunctional ovaries, using/stopping birth control pills, and severe stress.
  • Uterine fibroids/polyps. These non-cancerous growths in the uterus are common in women who have already given birth.
  • Infection. An infection in the reproductive organs can cause bleeding and inflammation. Common causes include sexually transmitted infection, frequent douching or intercourse. Pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition marked by inflammation of the pelvic organs, is also a possibility.
  • Menopause. The transition to menopause can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to spotting, a sign that you are entering the perimenopausal period.
  • Cancer. Cancer of the uterus, cervix, vagina, or ovaries may cause spotting.
  • Rare causes. These include having a foreign object in the vagina, diabetes, or extreme stress.

Spotting Instead of Period: Others’ Experiences

I experienced spotting during my first pregnancy with my daughter. It also happened in the first trimester of my current pregnancy, and was accompanied by some cramping. We were able to find out that I was pregnant just a day after I had missed my period. Everyone is different and sometimes, spotting instead of having your period could mean that you are pregnant before you test positive. 

The exact same problem happened to me twice. One time was when I was pregnant, but miscarried at around 5 weeks. A few months later, my period was late and I saw a blood clot. The pregnancy test was initially negative even though I had spotting 1 week before. It is really hard to tell, but I'd recommend taking a home pregnancy test or go to your doctors to get a blood test done.

What Can I Do About Spotting?

Spotting instead of period is usually nothing to worry about if it happens around ovulation time, after sex, or 1-2 days before or after your menstrual period. Just observe if it goes away, or if other symptoms occur.

However, call your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • brown or red spotting that lasts more than 2 weeks
  • spotting happens frequently after sex
  • spotting accompanied by cramping, vaginal redness and itchiness, with a discharge that smells funky. These could be signs of an ongoing infection or something more serious.

You may or may not be able to prevent spotting, depending on the cause. But it helps to maintain a normal weight and healthy lifestyle, since being overweight can cause abnormal periods. Exercise moderately to sustain health and to reduce stress.Use birth control pills as directed to avoid hormonal imbalance.

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