SPOTTING in between periods is not uncommon.
In fact for many women it can be a normal part of their cycle.
Getty – Contributor many women experience spotting between their periods, but it could be a sign something is wrong
For others it could be a sign something more serious is going on.
It can be easy to become complacent with your body’s monthly cycle and deal with your symptoms the best you can.
But it is important to pay attention to any irregular bleeding between your periods and what your body might be trying to tell you.
It may be down to something simple like stress or problems with your contraception.
Getty – Contributor Most women menstruate every 21 to 35 days
Or it could be a sign of a serious infection or even cancer.
Whatever the cause, it is best not to ignore it.
If you have experienced irregular bleeding you should speak to your GP, it may be nothing but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Here are six things that could be causing your irregular bleeding:
Getty – Contributor Gonorrhoea is the second most common form of STI in England and can cause abnormal bleeding
1. An STI
If you are experiencing irregular bleeding you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
There are many STIs that cause irregular bleeding, although it is often a less common symptom.
These include gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection which is sometimes known as “the clap”.
It is the second most common form of STI in England.
The bacterial infection spreads through all forms of unprotected sex, oral sex, as well as by sharing unwashed or unprotected sex toys.
In women, symptoms can often include unusually watery or off-colour vaginal discharge, as well as burning pain when urinating.
Less common symptoms in women include pain in the lower gut and bleeding between periods or after sex.
Getty – Contributor Chlamydia can also cause irregular vaginal bleeding
Gonorrhoea can lead to more serious complications including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility.
So it is best to get tested if you regularly spot between periods.
Chlamydia is one of the most common forms of STI in England.
It is a bacterial infection spread through unprotected sex.
Around 200,000 people test positive for the curable STI every year.
In the majority of cases, people with chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms at all.
But others may experience pain while weeing, unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or rectum, pain in the abdomen, bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods.
Again, if you often notice blood between your periods you should get tested.
Getty Images Endometriosis causes tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb to grow outside the womb
Around two million women in the UK are affected by the agonising womb condition, endometriosis.
The painful condition causes the lining of the womb to behave abnormally and grow on the outside – and one of the key signs is bleeding between periods.
The exact cause of endometriosis isn’t known, but it’s thought it could be hereditary or due to environmental factors – namely the presence of dioxins in the environment.
Endometriosis can sometimes cause damage to the Fallopian tubes or ovaries, leading to fertility problems.
Other complications can include painful ovarian cysts and adhesions – areas of tissue which can fuse organs together.
Getty – Contributor Endometriosis can cause agonising pain and irregular bleeding
Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common include painful or heavy periods, pain during and following sex, bleeding between periods, pain in the lower abdomen and difficulty conceiving.
But many women are often dismissed by GPs as imagining their symptoms – and it can take up to 15 years of seeking help for them to be given a diagnosis, according to a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health earlier this year.
Recently, scientists discovered cancer-causing gene mutations in some patients diagnosed with the condition.
If you are experiencing these symptoms it is important to get tested by your GP.
Getty – Contributor Uterine cancer can also cause irregular bleeding in between periods
A range of different women’s cancer can cause irregular bleeding between periods, including cervical and womb cancer.
In most cases of cervical cancer irregular bleeding and bleeding after sex is the first noticeable symptom of the disease.
Cervical cancer develops in the entrance to the womb from the vagina.
In 2014 there were 3,224 new cases – and 890 deaths, which means its the most common form of the disease in women under 35.
Generally, it’s caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is contracted through sex.
Two strains of the HPV virus (HPV 16 and HPV 18) are known to be responsible for most cases, but most women who have them don’t develop cervical cancer.
In the UK women are recommended to have cervical screenings, or smear tests, every three years between the ages of 25 and 49 and every five years between the ages of 50 to 64.
Getty – Contributor In the UK women are recommended to have cervical screenings, or smear tests, every three years from the age of 25
The smear test is not a test for cancer, it is a test for abnormal cells that could become cancerous.
Womb cancer can also cause abnormal bleeding.
It is more common in women who have more tummy fat and women who have been through the menopause.
Cancer of the uterus is the most common type of female reproductive cancer and the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in women, behind breast cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer.
The most common symptom of womb cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina.
The bleeding may start as a light bleed with a watery discharge, which may get heavier over time.
It may also cause pain in the lower abdomen, pain during sex, pain in the back, tiredness, nausea and a loss of appetite.
Ovarian cancer can also cause vaginal bleeding, although this is less common.
If you are worried about any of these symptoms, you should visit your GP.
Getty – Contributor Contraceptives like the Pill can cause breakthrough bleeds if one is missed
Many women use contraception, especially the Pill, as a means of controlling the regularity of their periods.
But you may still experience break through bleeds.
And other types of contraception can put a complete stop to your periods.
Natika Halil, chief executive of the sexual health charity FPA, said: “Your periods can be affected by a range of factors, including illness, stress, excessive weight loss or gain, your contraception, or certain medical conditions.
“It’s also not unusual to have an irregular menstrual cycle for a few years after puberty.
Alamy Natika Halil, chief executive of the sexual health charity FPA, said it is important to know how you feel about your bleeding pattern before choosing a contraception
“Some methods of contraception can cause irregular bleeding, whereas others may cause your periods to stop altogether.
“And some people might choose to use contraception to deliberately miss a monthly bleed.”
Natika said it is important to think about how you feel about your bleeding pattern before choosing a contraception.
She added: “Would you prefer to have lighter bleeding, or no bleeding at all?
“How important is it for you to have regular and consistent patterns of bleeding?
“Irregular periods don’t always need treatment, but if you’re worried or unsure about what’s causing them, then speak to a healthcare professional, particularly if they’re very heavy, frequent or last longer than seven days.”
Getty – Contributor A cervical ectropion, which causes soft cells usually found on the inside of the cervix to be present on the outside, can cause bleeding
5. Cervical ectropion
Also known as a cervical erosion, it is a common condition caused when glandular cells usually found on the inside of the cervix are found on the outside.
The glandular cells, also known as soft cells, are more sensitive and can cause spotting in between periods.
They are usually redder in colour and can be seen by a doctor or nurse doing a cervical screening.
Cervical ectropion can be caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy and being on the pill.
But it is not linked to the development of cervical cancer or any other condition that may cause women’s cancer.
For most women the condition doesn’t cause any symptoms and often goes away by itself.
But, as soft cells produce more mucus than the squamous cells found on the outside of the cervix, some women may experience more discharge, bleeding between periods and pain during sex.
It can also cause pain during a smear test.
If you are worried about the condition speak to your GP.
Getty – Contributor Your thyroid gland secretes hormones into the body and can disrupt your period if something is wrong
6. A thyroid problem
Your thyroid gland secretes hormones that are necessary for a whole host of bodily functions – including growth, body temperature and muscle strength.
So when there is a problem with the thyroid a person’s entire body can be affected.
An that includes your period.
If there is a problem with your thyroid you may experience a heavier than usual period, a lighter period and even bleeding in between.
This is all down to problems with your hormones.
Dr Helen Webberley, a GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, said: “If you do not have regular periods it could be a sign that your hormones are out of balance which can lead to the symptoms commonly associated with PMT – these can include headaches, mood swings, night sweats, fatigue and weight gain.
“Irregular periods can be a result of your thyroid not working properly.”
Again, if you are worried about any symptoms you are experiencing it is best to speak to your GP.