Light vaginal bleeding between two menstrual periods is called spotting. If this bleeding is heavy, it’s mostly referred to as a breakthrough bleeding. There are a number of conditions which can cause spotting or breakthrough bleedings.
Hormonal changes. During the ovulation, which occurs halfway through your cycle and about two weeks before your next menstruation, there is a temporary drop in oestrogen. This can cause spotting.
Using the contraceptive pill. Whether you’ve recently started taking birth control pills, you’ve just stopped taking them, or you’re taking them every day without a pill-free week: these could all be reasons for spotting. Also an IUD could cause a small amount of bleeding between periods.
Having sexual intercourse for the first time. Some women bleed a bit the first time they have sex. In some cultures this is a must; a ‘proof’ of virginity. However, not all virgins bleed and if they do, this isn’t caused by breaking the hymen. The hymen doesn’t cover the entrance of the vagina; it has an opening which allows menstrual blood to flow through.
Spotting can also occur before you start having your first periods. Mostly this brown discharge is a sign that your first menstruation isn’t far off. It can even occur during pregnancy. Light bleeding in the start of your pregnancy is called implantation bleeding.
A small amount of spotting or breakthrough bleeding which only lasts 1-2 days is mostly nothing to worry about. However, sometimes it could mean there’s something wrong, as stress, medication and rough sex can also cause vaginal bleeding. Same goes for uterine polyps. Also sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), vaginal infections, cancer of the uterus, thyroid disorders or for example endometriosis could cause breakthrough bleedings.
The moral of the story: most causes of spotting or breakthrough bleedings are harmless. However, when in doubt, contact your GP.