Spotting vs. Period: Learn the Signs

Spotting vs. Period: Learn the Signs

It is a fear and an annoyance shared by many women: with having a regular menstruation comes the occasional spotting – but how can you truly tell the difference? What are the signs that separate between cycles spotting from a full-on period?


Which Is Which?


First, the handy definitions:

  • Spotting: Light vaginal bleeding or discharge that occurs between periods.
  • Periods: The actual monthly menstrual bleeding as part of ovulation.


Periods tend to last 3 – 5 days and have a heavy enough flow that tampons or pads are required, whereas spotting will generally be too light to need a tampon and has not set time parameter it can last.

Signs and Symptoms




Typically, with a menstrual period, you will not only experience the rather regimented bleeding described above, but you also may possibly experience tender breasts, bloating, abdominal cramps, mood swings and more.




Not only will it be much lighter in terms of bleeding, but it also may be red or brown in color and occurs at a time when you are not expected to be menstruating. You may also experience irregular periods around the spotting or periods that have heavier bleeding than usual. Rather than typical cramps, spotting may be accompanied by more intense abdominal pain. You may also experience vaginal itching or additional discharge.


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The biggest difference, though, is that the blood will be much less than that of a period, it will occur at irregular intervals and the color may be brown-ish in color.




While the causes of having a period are a given (hello ovulation!) spotting can be caused by any number of various reasons.


For one, birth control may be a culprit. The pill, since it affects your internal clock, essentially, can sometimes lead to some breakthrough bleeding. If you have recently switched birth control pills, too, the chances of spotting may increase. IUDs also have reports of spotting associated with their use.


Hormones are another ‘friendly fire’ face. When your body is going through any kind of transition – menopause, stress, trauma, etc. – your hormone levels can swing wildly back and forth which can lead to irregular periods or spotting.


It could also be something scarier, though that is not typically the case. Benign growths, polyps, infections, STDs, etc. have the potential to cause breakthrough bleeding. If you have any concerns, it is always recommended you speak with your physician.


Dealing With Spotting

Since the spotting blood flow is not heavy enough to wear a tampon or use a pad (especially comfortably) but still enough that you see the blood on your underwear (or God forbid your outer layers of clothing) it can be a bit delicate. A great solution to protecting yourself and staying comfortable is a pair of PantyProp leak-proof underwear. Without adding bulk or going overboard, you can feel secure your unexpected bleeding is being protected against and you are not in for any nasty surprises.


Again, if you are experiencing any worrisome symptoms or have any uncertainties, always consult your doctor to make sure you are staying healthy.


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