Most women of childbearing age go through an ovulation cycle each month. The cycle begins with bleeding that is the sloughing off of an unfertilized egg. This bleeding is referred to as the woman’s period. A woman may also have spotting each cycle. Spotting and one’s period may look the same but they are not.
A period is the culmination of a menstrual cycle. A woman with a fully functional reproductive system will begin production of an egg each month. Hormones in her body prepare the egg to be fertilized so that she can have a baby. Her body will also prepare a lining for the egg to grow. Once ovulation has been completed the egg cannot be fertilized. The egg and the lining are shed from her body and the process begins anew. The red blood that results is called her period.
Sometimes a woman may experience a small bit of bleeding. The bleeding is not heavy enough to require a tampon and may barely be noticeable. This type of bleeding is called spotting.
Causes of Spotting
Spotting has many different causes. A woman may spot in mid-cycle as her estrogen levels increase. A woman may have spotting as she first begins to menstruate or as she approaches menopause. Spotting may be pink or brownish or even red. Some women have spotting as a result of implantation bleeding when they are pregnant. They experience a drop in hormone levels as the egg burrows into the lining. This is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern.
A normal period lasts from two to seven days. Bleeding will generally appear bright red. A woman may need to change tampons or menstrual pads once every two hours or so. A normal period may also have blood clots in it. If the bleeding becomes heavy enough to necessitate changing a menstrual pad more than once an hour contact your obstetrician. This can be a sign of a potentially serious medical problem such as an ectopic pregnancy or missed miscarriage. Excessive bleeding that lasts more than eight days can also be a sign of a problem such as hormonal problem. Contact your gynecologist if you have such bleeding for more than one cycle.
When Spotting is Cause for Concern
Usually, spotting is harmless. However you should contact your gynecologist if the spotting persists for more than two or three days. You should also contact a doctor if the spotting shows up in the middle of your cycle for more than one or two cycles. If you are in menopause, mid-cycle bleeding could indicate a serious condition such as cancer. Contact your doctor.