Cramping & Spotting Brown in Between Periods

Cramping & Spotting Brown in Between Periods
Cramping & Spotting Brown in Between Periods (Image: taylorschlades/

Spotting can happen at anytime during your menstrual cycle, but it is more likely to happen between periods. According to, about 5 percent of women experience menstrual spotting. Spotting is defined as a light staining of blood, which happens normally around the time of ovulation, but could also happen outside of this time. Here are some of the most common causes of cramping and spotting between menstrual periods.


Endometriosis is condition caused by the endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. During a normal menstrual cycle, the lining in the uterus thickens and fills with blood and tissue, to await the reception of a fertilized egg. When this fertilization doesn't take place, the egg, uterine lining, and blood, break down and flow through the cervix as a menstrual period. With endometriosis, this lining will grow anywhere in the body and will bleed from wherever this growth takes place. The two main symptoms of endometriosis are cramping (sometimes severe) and spotting (or irregular bleeding).


During pregnancy, some women experience light bleeding around the time of their normal menstrual cycle called "implantation bleeding" or "spotting." This usually happens around the fourth week of pregnancy. Implantation bleeding may be pink or light brown, and in some cases may resemble a light menstrual flow. This bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg burrows into the endometrial lining. During the time the lining thickened up in the menstrual cycle, it also filled with blood, so when the embryo burrows into it, a small amount of blood may escape.


Perimenopause (menopausal transition) is a period of time that occurs two to three years before the onset of menopause. During this time the hormone estrogen, which controls the function of the ovaries, begins to decrease. This decrease can cause the period to become sporadic, heavier, lighter, longer or shorter. Also during this time, women may find that they experience spotting and cramping. Once menopause begins, women may experience spotting after sexual intercourse, due to a lack of vaginal lubrication, contributed by the lack of estrogen.

Hormonal Disorders

According to the National Institutes of Health, hormonal disorders such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) may cause irregular bleeding and spotting between periods. Normally the hormone estrogen gradually rises, causing one of your ovaries to start producing an egg. Midway through your cycle estrogen spikes; causing the ovary to release the egg, in the ovulation process. With PCOS, estrogen sends an irregular amount of hormone to the ovary, causing the ovary to close before the egg is released, or to open before the egg is produced. This fluctuation in estrogen also causes the hormone progesterone to fluctuate, which may cause irregular periods and often leads to spotting.

Use of Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills are known to cause in between bleeding and spotting. This is due to the low dose of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) used in the pills to prevent pregnancy. Combination birth control pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and they are often used to not only prevent pregnancy, but also to control the menstrual cycle. One well-known combination pill, named Seasonique, allows you to only have four periods a year. These aren't actual menstrual periods, since the bleeding is controlled by synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. Seasonique calls these light bleeding occurrences "pill periods." Seasonique comes in three-month packs, and at the end of each pack there are seven, low-dose estrogen pills. These estrogen pills are the cause of the pill periods.

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