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Spotting Vs Period : Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Women in reproductive years, typically bleed every month when they have their periods. However, sometimes you might notice spots of vaginal bleeding even when you are not on your period days. Most of the time, there is nothing to worry about spotting. However, it is always a good idea to have a check with your doctor for any unexpected vaginal bleeding; especially if you are not sure about the cause of spotting. There are some noted differences between spotting and period. Read below to know about the differences.

Spotting Vs Period

Spotting Vs Period: Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Basic Differences Between Spotting & Period

Spotting is generally much lighter bleeding than the normal menstrual period. It is usually so light that a pad or a tampon is not essential. Spotting may be red or brown in color and it occurs when you are not having your regular menstrual period.

However, the period or menstrual period refers to the monthly vaginal bleeding experienced by women of reproductive age. Most women recognize their period, which arrives at an average of 28 days. The bleeding in case of period is heavy enough to require the use of a tampon or a pad and it lasts for 3-5 days on an average. It stops during pregnancy.

Spotting Vs Period: Differences Based On The Symptoms

Spotting is very much lighter than a menstrual period and you won’t produce blood to soak through a panty liner. The color in case of spotting may also be lighter than a period too. If you have spotting staring before your period, then you may include symptoms like cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, cramps, mood swings, fatigue, and nausea. Spotting that occurs during any other time or because of any other condition, you may experience symptoms such as itching and redness in the vagina, nausea, missed or irregular periods, heavier or longer periods than normal, pain or burning sensation during sex or urination, unusual discharge or odor from the vagina, pain in the pelvis or abdomen and weight gain.

However, during the period, the blood flow is generally heavy enough and you require to wear a sanitary pad or tampon so as to avoid staining your panty and clothes.

Spotting Vs Period: Differences Based On The Causes

Period occurs when the uterine lining sheds at the beginning of a woman’s monthly cycle. However, spotting may be caused by some other factors. Some of the causes of spotting include the following:


During ovulation, or in the middle of the menstrual cycle, an egg is released from the fallopian tubes. Some women may notice spotting while they ovulate.


About 20% of women experience spotting during the first 3 months of their pregnancy. Blood appears when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, during the first few days of pregnancy.

Birth Control Pills:

Birth control pills can also cause spotting, especially when you first begin using them or when you switch to a new one.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome( PCOS):

Irregular period, spotting, can be a symptom of PCOS or a condition where your ovaries produce extra male hormones. This condition is mostly common in young women. This results in the growth of small, fluid-filled sacs in your ovaries.

Spotting Vs Period:

Uterine fibroids or noncancerous, small lumps inside or outside the uterus, can also cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, like spotting in between periods.


Spotting may also be caused due to an infection in the vagina, cervix or any other part of the reproductive tract. These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses and yeast. There is a serious infection known as Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID, that can be caused from a sexually transmitted disease.

Cervical Polyps:

A cervical polyp is a growth that forms on the cervix. Though it is not cancerous, it can bleed or can cause spotting in some women.

Rough Sex Or Sexual Assault:

Another cause of spotting could be rough sex or sexual assault. Any damage to the vaginal lining can make you bleed a little bit.


This is also one more cause of spotting. The transition to menopause can take lots of years. During this time, your periods will likely be more unpredictable than usual. This is because of the fluctuating levels of hormone. The bleeding should taper off once you are in your full menopause.

Spotting Vs Period: Differences Based On The Diagnosis

Although spotting is not something dangerous, it is not normal. You should mention it to your doctor or gynecologist, in case you notice any bleeding or spotting, outside of your regular period, as this can sometimes indicate a sign of a serious complication. The doctor may ask about your symptoms, perform some physical examinations which may include a pelvic exam. Tests that also help in diagnosing the cause of spotting and they include blood tests, pregnancy tests, Pap smear, and Ultrasound of your ovaries and uterus.

You do not require to diagnose your period, as you already know it is quite normal for a woman and occurs every month.

Spotting Vs Period: Differences Based On The Treatments

Periods are the normal monthly cycle that every woman goes with and that is quite normal. So, you do not require any treatment for this. However, for women desiring a more regular menstrual period, sometimes hormonal treatments or birth control pills can be beneficial.

The treatments for spotting depend on the underlying cause of the spotting. One might require an antibiotic or anti-fungal drug for treating an infection, birth control or other hormones for regulating your menstrual period, a procedure to remove polyps or other growths in your cervix or uterus.


It must be mentioned that spotting is not something serious; however, it can be inconvenient, especially when you are not prepared for the bleeding. You need to talk to your doctor in case you experience spotting too often, so as to know the underlying causes and take the effective treatment. Also ask your doctor about hormone treatments that can help you regulate your periods and prevent spotting.

Apart from this, note it to always keep panty liners close by, until you can get your spotting under control.


  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Understanding Menopause. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/understanding-menopause
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Vaginal Bleeding: What Does It Mean? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-bleeding/basics/definition/sym-20050756
  3. MedlinePlus. (2021). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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