The Difference Between Spotting And Getting Your Period

Being a woman in your reproductive years calls for a supply of sanitary napkins and tampons to stay prepared for monthly visits from ‘Aunty Flo’. You keep track of your dates properly so that you’re always prepared for emergencies. Yet, there are times you visit the loo only to find red stains in your underwear.

It’s natural for you to panic at times like these especially when you’re absolutely certain your periods aren’t due. Bleeding is bound to throw anyone off balance, especially when it’s coming from your nether regions. While it’s best to consult your doctor about spotting, especially when you’re not sure of what the cause is, in most cases, a little spotting now and then is harmless and is most likely affected by a variety of factors from pregnancy and stress to a sudden switch in birth control methods.

So do avoid panicking unnecessarily, here are a few ways you can tell whether you’re getting your period or whether it’s probably just harmless spotting.

How To Tell If You’re Spotting Or Getting Your Period

1. Appearance And Blood Discharge

Periods involve a a heavy-ish bright red blood discharge that lasts for a short while, while spotting is sporadic and irregular.

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Period: A normal, healthy period will always involve a fairly decent amount of blood discharge that lasts from three to five days. Therefore, it goes without saying that the blood will be bright red in color and will be fairly thick in consistency, especially during the first few days. It may even contain a few blood clots.

Spotting: Spotting does not involve any actual bleeding, and is irregular and sporadic. Spotting is characterized by faint rusty brown or pinkish spots around your vagina. You may also notice these same spots around the inner lining of your underwear that cradles your vagina.

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2. Symptoms

Spotting, if harmless, has almost the same symptoms as those of a normal period without the cramps and back aches.

Period: A period usually has some very common symptoms like bloating, breast tenderness, sweating, food cravings, mood swings, back aches, and nausea. Another very common symptom of periods is cramping in the abdominal area which can be very painful at times.

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Spotting: All the above-mentioned symptoms except painful cramps and back aches apply to spotting or implantation bleeding. Usually spotting is harmless. However, if it’s due to some other serious issue, it could involve symptoms like an unusual odor from the vagina, weight gain, pain during urination and sex, abdominal and vaginal pain, and itching and redness of the vagina. It could also affect your periods – causing them to be heavier and last longer than usual or may even cause you to miss them altogether.

3. Causes

Periods are a part of a woman’s menstrual cycle and happen once a month while pregnancy is the most common cause of spotting.

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Period: Periods are a part of a woman’s menstrual cycle and happen once a month when a woman’s body is ready for reproduction. A period signifies the shedding of the thick lining of the uterus when fertilization and implantation fail to occur.

Spotting: Spotting may be caused by a number of reasons. Pregnancy is the most common cause of spotting and occurs in nearly 20 to 30 percent of women when they are in their early pregnancy stages. This is also termed as implantation bleeding. Sometimes, spotting may also happen because of during the ovulation phase in a woman’s body, or it could occur as a side effect of oral contraceptives, especially if the woman has just started using them. Other causes may include hormonal imbalances, urinary tract, vaginal, or bladder infections, cervical dysplasia, uterine, endometrium, or cervical polyps and cancer of the uterus or cervix.

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Spotting: Diagnosis

Keep in mind that although spotting is usually nothing to be worried about, it still isn’t normal. So if you notice bleeding when it’s not the time for your period, especially if you’re pregnant, you must consult a doctor right away. If you’re pregnant, spotting could be a warning sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Your doctor may recommend a physical exam which will most likely include a pelvic exam. Various tests like blood tests, pregnancy tests, ultrasound of the ovaries and the uterus, and pap smears may also be conducted to help diagnose the cause.

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Spotting: Treatment

Depending on what has caused your spotting to occur in the first place, your doctor will recommend a treatment that may either involve an antibiotic or antifungal drug (if it’s an infection), hormone injections or birth control (to help regulate your periods), or a procedure to remove growths or polyps from your uterus or cervix (in case of cervical polyps).