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Spotting vs. interval: How to tell the difference

Most women expertise no less than one occasion of non-period recognizing, and for some, recognizing is sort of widespread. But how do women tell the difference between recognizing and a correct interval?

Spotting doesn’t often level to a critical medical challenge. Noting the timing of the recognizing, how lengthy it lasts, and different related particulars, nevertheless, may also help decide what’s inflicting it.

Some durations start or finish with recognizing, and a few women bleed extra frivolously than others. As such, it may be arduous to tell the difference.

Spotting vs. interval: What’s the difference?

blood on a tissue
Spotting refers to any bleeding from the vagina that isn’t due to the month-to-month menstrual cycle.

Spotting is any bleeding from the vagina that isn’t due to a lady’s month-to-month interval. Some women additionally refer to the mild bleeding earlier than and after a interval as recognizing.

Some women monitor their cycles and know what’s regular for his or her our bodies, which suggests they will often tell the difference between recognizing and common bleeding.

Hallmarks of menstrual bleeding

Menstrual bleeding happens roughly each 28 days in non-pregnant women. Each month, the uterine lining thickens to put together for being pregnant. If a lady doesn’t get pregnant, the uterus sheds its lining, inflicting a month-to-month interval.

Some traits of menstrual bleeding embrace:

  • A daily schedule: While the size of time between durations varies amongst women, most women expertise durations round the similar time every month.
  • A predictable bleeding sample: Every lady’s menstrual bleeding follows its personal sample. For many women, a month-to-month interval begins with mild recognizing, will get heavier for a day or two, after which will get steadily lighter, ending with recognizing.
  • Time spent not bleeding: Some women with hormonal imbalances or health issues might spot all through the month. Periods often final 5-7 days, and by no means final a whole month.
  • Menstrual bleeding is usually accompanied by different signs: In the week or so earlier than a interval, modifications in hormones can set off signs, resembling breast tenderness and headaches. As the uterus contracts to expel the uterine lining as blood, some women expertise cramping that may vary from delicate to intense.
  • Menstrual blood is often purple: The colour might help differentiate a interval from recognizing, though the blood could also be brown at the starting or finish of the interval. Some women see giant clots or strings of blood with their month-to-month interval, which is much less widespread with recognizing.

Hallmarks of recognizing

A variety of things may cause recognizing, and each lady’s sample of recognizing could also be barely totally different.

Some traits of recognizing embrace:

  • Irregular timing: Women might spot for a day, cease bleeding, and begin once more. Some women expertise recognizing intermittently all through the month.
  • Associated with predictable menstrual cycle occasions: Unexplained recognizing is usually irregular. But recognizing also can happen alongside ovulation. Some women expertise a day or two of sunshine recognizing each month.
  • May be related to accidents or different signs: This consists of stomach ache.
  • Often a unique colour from a lady’s regular menstrual interval: Some women spot brown blood. Others discover that the blood from recognizing is lighter, a unique texture, or smells odd.
  • May be associated to hormonal contraception treatment: Starting on new hormonal birth control may change the quantity and timing of bleeding.

Common causes of recognizing

doctor discussing menstrual cycle with patient
When an egg is launched at ovulation, a small quantity of recognizing might happen.

Spotting doesn’t all the time imply one thing is improper. Some of the commonest causes women expertise recognizing embrace:


When the ovaries launch an egg at ovulation, a tiny follicle ruptures to permit the egg out. In some women, this causes mild recognizing that lasts for a day. There may be a sudden decrease proper or left twinge a couple of days earlier than as ovulation happens.

Ovulation recognizing takes place in the center of the cycle and isn’t heavy. Rarely, it might be accompanied by mild cramping which will final from a number of hours to someday.

Implantation bleeding

About every week after a sperm fertilizes an egg, the egg should implant in the uterus. Sometimes this causes mild bleeding often known as implantation bleeding.

The bleeding sometimes solely lasts a day or two and happens round every week after ovulation. This often takes place a few week or two earlier than a lady’s interval is due.

Hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives, together with contraception tablets and hormonal photographs and implants, may cause recognizing. Spotting is particularly widespread in the first few months, as the physique’s hormones modify to contraceptives.

Spotting might change over time, happen intermittently, or comply with a predictable sample. If recognizing begins a number of months after beginning contraceptives, with no earlier recognizing, it might level to an underlying drawback and the lady ought to go to her physician.


Breast-feeding suppresses ovulation, notably if the child is solely breast-fed. It is necessary to know that ovulation will happen about 2 weeks earlier than the first interval, so it’s potential to get pregnant whereas breast-feeding.

However, many women who’re breast-feeding expertise recognizing. Hormonal shifts associated to breast-feeding may cause recognizing.

Hormonal modifications that happen as the physique prepares to ovulate for the first time after childbirth can also set off recognizing.

Uterine fibroids or polyps

Uterine fibroids and polyps are noncancerous growths in the uterus. They can develop fairly giant, nevertheless, and should trigger ache and different signs.

Many women with fibroids or polyps expertise irregular bleeding between durations. Certain forms of recognizing also can sign the presence of those uterine growths. This consists of recognizing that lasts throughout a number of cycles, or that’s accompanied by:


An damage to the vagina, cervix, or uterus might trigger irregular bleeding. Rough sexual activity or a PAP test, for instance, can irritate the cervix or vaginal tissue and trigger bleeding.

If the bleeding is minor and never accompanied by ache, it is often wonderful to see if it goes away. However, unexplained bleeding that’s heavy or accompanied by ache is usually a medical emergency.


About half of women who expertise bleeding throughout being pregnant could have a miscarriage. In some instances, bleeding is the first signal that a lady is pregnant. Very early miscarriages might even be mistaken for unusually heavy menstrual durations.


Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may cause irregular vaginal bleeding that appears like recognizing. Gonorrhea is a standard wrongdoer, and may trigger uncommon discharge or burning throughout urination.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a kind of continual pelvic inflammation brought on by an an infection. Women with PID can expertise infertility if signs go untreated. PID typically causes recognizing, notably after intercourse. It also can trigger pelvic ache.


Although uncommon, recognizing could also be a symptom of cancer. Types of most cancers that may trigger recognizing embrace:

Spotting is usually accompanied by ache and different signs and may final a number of months. Symptoms might get higher after which worse, or get progressively worse.

Women who’re previous menopause or who’ve a household historical past of those cancers are at a heightened danger. It isn’t regular for postmenopausal women to expertise vaginal bleeding.

When to name a physician

Any lady who experiences extended recognizing or new and unexplained recognizing ought to go to the physician. Women ought to contact a physician instantly if:

doctor speaking with patient
A physician ought to be consulted if there’s a extended expertise of recognizing.
  • recognizing is heavy, causes them to really feel dizzy, or is accompanied by a foul odor
  • they’ve lately skilled rape
  • they consider the recognizing could possibly be due to an damage
  • they’re pregnant or might be pregnant
  • they expertise recognizing after menopause

A lady also needs to see a physician if the recognizing:

  • lasts various days
  • is accompanied by ache
  • continues intermittently throughout multiple cycle

Sometimes women can undertake a wait-and-see strategy. These circumstances embrace experiencing recognizing that’s:

  • the similar as recognizing they’ve had earlier than
  • probably due to implantation
  • probably due to ovulation

If women are not sure which of the circumstances described applies to their state of affairs, then it’s higher to be cautious and phone a physician for recommendation. In the majority of instances, nevertheless, recognizing shouldn’t be the signal of a medical situation and should solely be momentary.

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