From pregnancy to PCOS: 9 reasons why you might be spotting.

If you're a person with ovaries, then you know that spotting is just a thing that happens - usually before your period. When you're wearing white. Or your fave pair of undies. Classic.

And in most cases, it's really nothing to worry about. It's just another fun thing we deal with, right?

But what if you're experiencing impromptu, non-period spotting on the regular? What does that mean?

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Well, a few different things, actually. 

Random spotting might be related to everything from stress to vaginal tears and even polycystic ovary syndrome.

So, how do you know exactly what's going on if you're bleeding before your period even starts? Yikes!

We've pulled together nine possible reasons and what to look out for.

Wait, what does spotting actually look like?

Oh, good one! Spotting (also known as staining) is basically a small amount of bleeding that usually happens between periods (it's often enough to stain your undies but not enough to bother with a tampon, you know?).

However, sometimes it can be confusing to know whether you're spotting or menstruating - especially for women who have really irregular or light periods.


Side note... listen to Mamamia's daily news podcast, The Quicky. On this episode, we talk about the period revolution and how women are changing the way we bleed in 2021. Post continues below.

But! There are some telltale signs to look out for. 

The first? Colour. 

When you're spotting, the colour of your blood is usually a kinda light red or brown. It's also usually light enough to just wear liners.

Also, if you're not experiencing your usual premenstrual symptoms - such as cramps, breast tenderness, breakouts, wanting to punch people in the face, etc. - then it's a sign that you're most likely spotting. 

The biggest giveaway? If your spotting occurs before or after your period has occurred.

Okay cool. Why am I spotting?

As we said up there, spotting is normal and usually nothing to worry about. However, if you never spot and suddenly you are, it could be something worth talking with your doctor or gynaecologist about.

Here are some of the reasons you might be spotting:

1. Hormonal contraceptives.

If you've just started on daily birth control, it's pretty common to experience spotting in between periods for the first few months. (If it lasts longer than a few months, you should check in with your doctor).

If you skip taking the pill for a couple of days, you might also experience spotting as your hormone levels drop. However, this usually resolves pretty quickly once you start taking the pill again.

2. Vaginal tears.

Yep. Not ideal. 

This kinda thing is really common though, and it can happen if your vagina isn't properly lubricated before you have sex, or before you insert or pull out a tampon. Eek!


Will it sounds 11/10 painful, sometimes you won't even notice... until you see some spotting. Other times, it's a little more ouchy and obvious. 

Either way, if you're experiencing a lot of pain or bleeding, or you think something just isn't right down there, it's best to check in with a doctor.

3. Pregnancy.

While Hollywood likes to make us believe that getting pregnant is just this one step kinda thing (HA), there are heaps of things that can happen to your body before pregnancy. One of which is something called implantation bleeding. 

This is when the fertilised egg attaches to the wall of your uterus causing tiny blood vessels to erupt, which leads to spotting. While it usually occurs around five to ten days after conception, it can be confusing as hell because sometimes it can happen around the same time your period is supposed to start. 

Then... surprise! A womb tenant for you, kind friend.

It's important to note here that if you're experiencing bleeding throughout your pregnancy, this could be a sign of a complication (like ectopic pregnancy) - so contact your doctor.  

4. Stress.

If you're under tonnes of stress, your hormones can take a real hit. Whether we're talking physical stress or emotional stress, this causes a hormone imbalance (thanks to an increase in cortisol) which can impact on your menstrual cycle. 

The result? Spotting.

If this sounds familiar, we suggest finding different ways to reduce your stress immediately. Don't be afraid to hit up a mental health provider or doctor to work out the best steps to take. 


5. Perimenopause.

On average, women go through menopause at 52 years old. This is when you've gone 12 months without having your period, signalling the end of your menstrual cycle.

Before you hit menopause though, you go through the glorious thing that is perimenopause - which usually sticks around for about four years prior to menopause. Among other symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and the gang), spotting between periods is really common.

This is usually the result of your body's fluctuating hormones and the build-up of your uterine lining. And while it commonly happens right before your period starts or just after it ends, if you're spotting for more than two weeks, this could point to something else (like a hormonal imbalance). So, speak with your doctor if you think something is up.

6. Uterine fibroids.

If you have no idea what uterine fibroids are, they're basically non-cancerous growths that can form on and in the uterus. 

While they're usually nothing major to worry about, they can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, such as cramping, heavy periods and - you guessed it - spotting. Wonderful spotting. 

And while the severity of things will depends on the shape and size of the fibroids, if this is all sounding eerily familiar, book that doctor's appointment.

7. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. While PCOS symptoms can begin shortly after puberty, then can also develop during the later teen years and early adulthood. 


One of the many different symptoms of PCOS is irregular bleeding and spotting, caused by hormones that interrupt ovulation. 

If you experience abnormal heavy bleeding or spotting between periods, check in with a medical professional.

8. Sexually transmitted infection (STI).

It might surprise you to know that sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common causes of spotting in women. Crazy, right?

Some STDs like herpes and trichomoniasis can also cause a condition called cervicitis - an inflammatory condition of the cervix that causes pain, itching, vaginal discharge and spotting among other symptoms. 

9. Ovulation.

Ovulation spotting is a light bleeding that can happen when the egg is released from your ovary. However, this isn't something every woman will experience - around five per cent of women have spotting in the middle of their cycles.

This can happen anywhere between 11 and 21 days after the first day of your last period and usually lasts a day or two in total.

As we said before, spotting is usually not something to worry about, especially if you're on the pill. However, if you think something might be up, take note of any changes in spotting patterns (especially if you've never experienced it before), and check in with a medical professional for some advice.

Do you have anything you'd like to add to the list? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty