Breakthrough bleeding: why it happens and how to deal
Periods don’t always go according to plan. That dreaded feeling when you’re not expecting it is one we know only too well. Breakthrough bleeding can be inconvenient and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s pretty common.
If you’re experiencing breakthrough bleeding for the first time – or you’re not sure why it’s happening – it can feel a bit scary. But it's usually nothing to worry about. In this article, we explore the common causes of breakthrough bleeding and how to manage it, so you can feel more confident, comfortable and stain-free.
Breakthrough bleeding 101
To understand breakthrough bleeding, we need to understand periods. Let's start with the basics. Most people who menstruate will have a menstrual cycle that lasts between 21 to 35 days, with bleeding lasting for 3 to 7 days. Everyone's menstrual cycle is different, and there’s a wide range of what’s considered ‘normal’. Breakthrough bleeding is basically any bleeding or spotting that occurs outside your regular menstrual cycle. It can occur anytime, and the bleeding can be light spotting or as heavy as a regular period. Bleeding between periods may be a one-off, or it could last a few days.
Reasons you might experience breakthrough bleeding
There’s a fair few reasons why you might be experiencing breakthrough bleeding. Here are some of the most common:
- You’re taking a birth control pill
- Your hormones are fluctuating
- You have an inflammatory condition
- You have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- You’re perimenopausal
- You have non-cancerous growths
You’re taking a birth control pill
Breakthrough bleeding on the pill is pretty common, especially in the first 3 months of taking it. It can also happen when you switch from one type of birth control to another or switch to a pill with a different estrogen dose. Your body needs some time to adjust to the new hormones, and in the meantime, you might experience some spotting.
Your hormones are fluctuating
Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, so it's normal to experience some side effects like breakthrough bleeding. Younger people with periods often experience spotting when they ovulate, which is caused by a temporary drop in estrogen. During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, and some people experience irregular periods that can be confused with breakthrough bleeding.
You have an inflammatory condition
Inflammation in the reproductive system can also cause breakthrough bleeding. Conditions like these can all cause spotting:
- Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
- Endometriosis (a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it)
- Vaginitis (inflammation of the vulva and vagina)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection in the reproductive system)
You have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Infections in the vagina, cervix or uterus can cause breakthrough bleeding. Some STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea can also cause spotting. Even something like vaginal thrush can cause irritation and light bleeding. Make sure you get tested if you think this could be the cause for you.
The phase leading up to menopause (called perimenopause) can last several years, during which your hormone levels shift gradually. This can result in lighter or heavier periods, shorter or longer periods, and change in period frequency. You may also experience breakthrough bleeding during hormone dips.
You have non-cancerous growths
Certain abnormal (but typically benign) growths can occur on your reproductive organs, including ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, uterine polyps and cervical polyps. Not all of these will necessarily cause bleeding – it depends on what you’re dealing with. It’s always good to check with your doctor if you’re unsure.
Your breakthrough bleeding could also be due to recent sexual activity, ovulation, an ectopic pregnancy or the start of a miscarriage. Even if you think you know the cause of your bleeding, it's completely okay to talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. There are no silly questions when it comes to your health.
How to manage breakthrough bleeding
Dealing with breakthrough bleeding can be a pain, especially when it's unpredictable.
Take the stress out of your day with Modibodi period underwear. Our Super Light or Light-Moderate absorbencies are perfect for everyday wear, and can come in handy when managing any unexpected blood leaks. With a range of styles available, you can choose the pair that best fits your needs.
If you're concerned about unusual bleeding, breakthrough bleeding or any other symptoms like pain or discomfort, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out the underlying cause and suggest the best course of treatment.
Take control of your period
So you've learned that while breakthrough bleeding can be a real pain, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Now it’s time to take back control. Understanding its common causes and taking steps to manage it can help you get back to your daily routine without fear of those unexpected moments.
Want to know more? Check out our blog for more info on how to tune into your ovarian cycle.