Difference between spotting and periods: How to tell

orange and blur drops

Picture this: the sun is beaming, you’re surrounded by crystal waters, sprawled elegantly across the bow of a luxury yacht, and sporting your favorite white swimsuit. Then you start to bleed. The scene of blue sea serenity has now been ruined by a red tidal wave. Bleeding mid-cycle? What the actual what is Mother Nature playing at? And how can you tell the difference between spotting and periods?

Two periods, one month

We’ve all been there. Well, perhaps not on a yacht — a girl can dream — but in a situ where Mother Nature has popped up out of the blue, unscheduled and uninvited. A one-off occasion of two periods in one month, aside from being bloody annoying, pun intended, is not usually a cause for concern.

Perhaps you’re a dual-period veteran who’s always had shorter cycles or irregular periods. However, if Aunt Flow comes knocking on the reg, it may be a sign that something else is going on. So, what are the potential causes of two periods, and can you tell the difference between spotting and periods?

The difference between spotting and periods

Repeated menstruation has several causes, but even before that, it can be hard to tell if the bleeding is actually a second cycle. For all our heavy flow gals, spotting the difference between a period and non-menstrual bleeding is often relatively straightforward. However, if you’ve experienced light periods your whole life, or are currently having light periods thanks to other things, then deciphering between the two can sometimes be tricky.

So, to help all the light flow ladies out there here’s how to tell the difference between spotting and periods… Or as we like to call it Spot or Not…

Spot

Spotting, as the name suggests, means there’s blood, but not enough to soak through a tampon or pad. And if you did feel the need to use a period product, a panty liner would likely do the job. The blood is typically brown, dark red, or pink and usually doesn’t last as long as a full cycle. Most importantly, though, spotting happens outside of your Menstrual cycle, not at the start or end of your period. And that’s the main difference between spotting and periods.

Not

If it’s a second period, though, you can expect to soak through a tampon or pad in the usual way. That said, every gal’s flow is different. So, a good indicator that the bleeding is a period is having to use products that aren’t panty liners to prevent leakage on your heaviest days. The color of your blood should be dark red, red, brown, or pink. 

Bleeding more than once a month is unpleasant at best, and quite frankly a bit of a p****take given all the other shiz we have to deal with. So, once you can tell the difference between spotting and periods, it’s super important to find out the cause so you can get it sorted. ASAP. 

What causes spotting?

Starting or changing hormonal birth control methods

Anyone who’s used this form of hormonal birth control will likely have experienced at least a few of its countless side effects… And we mean countless. Unfortunately one of these side effects is spotting, which tends to occur in the first couple of months. That’s because your body is adapting to the new influx of hormones. 

Pregnancy

If you’re up currently baking a new human, spotting can be harmless and is pretty common during the first few months. That said, if you’re seeing actual bleeding during your pregnancy, please get it checked out. It could be a sign of miscarriage or other complications.

STIs

One of the few indicators that you may have an STI is spotting. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, if you have recently introduced a new sexual partner, then it’s best to get your bits checked. But fear not! The idea of the dreaded STI check is often far worse than its reality. It’s time we normalize getting a sexual health check-up. So text a girlfriend, go together, and have some cake after. Because gang, skipping it isn’t an option, K?

Cervical cancer

If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding that’s unusual for you, it could be a symptom of cervical cancer. Which is why it’s so important that you get screened regularly. Thankfully these days, instead of sticking a metal instrument resembling a pair of BBQ tongs into your bits, medical providers are opting for a plastic speculum. They’re far more comfortable to experience, and far less intimidating to look at.

Main causes for two periods in one month

So, you now know how to tell if it’s spotting or something else. But what causes two periods in one month? It might be down to completely natural hormone changes, or, it could be an indicator of a health condition. Here’s what might be going on:

You’re young

That’s right! Two periods in a month could simply be due to the fact you’re a new member of the period posse! It’s all aboard the hormone roller coaster in your pubic years and these fluctuations can cause shorter menstrual cycles and thus more frequent periods. Typically, your periods assume a pattern after the first couple of years, however, it can take up to six years for your periods to settle

Riding that hormonal seesaw during this time can, of course, cause your periods to vary. But two periods in one month can still be a sign that something else may be afoot. Yes, your body is going through a whole load of changes right now, and it’s harder to tell what’s usual. If you’re experiencing two periods in one month, coupled with any of the following, it might be worth seeking advice from a medical type. 

  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Long periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Painful periods

Perimenopause

On the other end of the Menstrual spectrum is Perimenopause! Ah, the wonders of being a woman! You go through all the aggro of puberty, have a decade or so of fertility prime-time where, hopefully, your periods are regular and non-disruptive, then BAM! Big karate kick in the face from Perimenopause. This preamble to Menopause can begin anywhere between your mid-30s to your mid-40s and lasts between four and ten, yes, ten years. Sigh.

You may well experience two periods in one month as your hormones start to gear up, and also down, during Perimenopause. The rise and fall of Estrogen can cause shorter or longer cycles, lighter or heavier bleeding, and even skipping periods altogether. And, of course, spotting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the difference between spotting and periods can get a bit blurred around this time.

Fun, huh? But you stay in Perimenopause until you’ve had 12 consecutive months with no periods. At that point, you’re in Menopause for real. And if you see any spotting after that, please don’t ignore it. Tell someone, just in case you’ve an infection or the like.

Health conditions that cause two periods

Outside of the usual hormone issues that cause multiple cycles, there are also some health conditions that do the same thing. To whit:

Thyroid issues

Your Thyroid can also cause multiple periods. Why? Because, among its many other jobs, it’s also in control of your Menstrual cycle. And oh boy can this small butterfly-shaped gland sting like a bee.

Hypothyroidism

When you’ve got too little Thyroid hormone, known as Underactivity or Hypothyroidism, it can result in heavy, long periods and frequent menstruation. But it’s also responsible for this list of symptoms:

  • Frequent menstrual bleeding
  • Feeling cold 
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pale, dry skin

Hyperthyroidism

And if you’ve got too much Thyroid hormone racing around your body, AKA Overactivity or Hyperthyroidism, we feel you. Because it’s generally known to cause:

  • Fewer and lighter periods
  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Bulging of the eyes

Fun lists, right? Yup, the symptoms of Thyroid issues are pretty unpleasant! Also, both can stop your periods altogether, and both come with a whole swarm of side effects and symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of the above it’s defo worth getting it checked out. There are plenty of effective treatments for both conditions. 

Fibroids

To give them their technical name, Uterine Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that appear in and around your uterus. But they’ve also been known to attach themselves to bowels and bladders as a fun side hustle.  The symptoms that come along with them are generally determined by their location, size, and shape. And they obviously impact your Menstrual cycle. Here’s how:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Periods lasting more than a week
  • Shorter Menstrual cycles 
  • Bleeding in between periods 

Fibroids tend to become problematic when they form in clusters or get very large. And that means the way they’ll impact your Menstrual cycle will vary.  It’s their interaction with your uterus that causes Menstrual issues, and that’s because fibroids can encourage extra blood vessel growth.

That, in turn, can cause two periods in one month. Fibroids can also cause a lot of pain, particularly if they’ve gone walkabout. The good news, and yes, there is some, is that there are plenty of treatment options available. So if you’re having long, heavy, or frequent periods, get the therapy you deserve and start living your best fibroid-free life!

Endometriosis

If you’ve not been not living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard the word Endometriosis thrown about every so often. From celebs speaking openly about their experiences to social media posts and news articles, the condition has hit the mainstream. And rightly so! One in every ten women on the planet has Endometriosis and many traveled a rocky road to their diagnosis. 

This primary symptom of the condition is crippling period pain. But here’s the fun part. As Endometriosis is caused by your uterine tissue forming in other parts of your body, it can land literally anywhere. So the pain can be literally anywhere. It’s even been known to travel as far as the lungs. It likes a change of scenery is what we’re saying.

Wait, though. It gets better. Since it seems that women with Endometriosis have more uterine tissue to shed, it can also cause shorter Menstrual cycles and therefore two periods in a month. Because one week of excruciating bleeding every month just isn’t enough fun.

And in order to get a diagnosis in the first place, living with pain and heavy bleeding simply isn’t enough. In fact, you’ll likely need a small surgical procedure before you’ll get an accurate diagnosis. Nevertheless, if you’re seeing two periods in one month, along with any of the following symptoms, it’s important you push for the right answers.

  • Long-term pelvic pain
  • Severe period pain
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain while going to the toilet
  • Constipation, nausea, and/or diarrhea
  • Fertility issues
  • Heavy periods

The good news is there are treatments to help you manage Endometriosis. And as the general public becomes more aware of the condition and its symptoms, doctors should, hopefully, follow suit. Of course, that’s not a guarantee, so if your doctor isn’t listening, find one that will.

The difference between spotting and periods: When should I worry?

As we can often be heard saying, you know your body best. So if you feel that something’s off, you’re probably right. Whether it’s just a short cycle, Thyroids, or Fibroids, it’s always worth finding out what might be going on.

Share your experiences with the important people in your life, push for a diagnosis, track your symptoms with the Hormona app, and don’t, whatever you do, just deal with it. Get to know the difference between spotting and periods that applies to you specifically. And if a health condition is causing two periods in a month, you deserve a proper diagnosis and treatment. Because taking care of you is crucial.


Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Posted By  : Sophie White

Our favorites

Be the first one to know when we launch!

We can help you work out if your hormones are working against you, and support you to get them back on your side. 

About the author

About the author

Be the first one to know when we launch!

We can help you work out if your hormones are working against you, and support you to get them back on your side. ​Sign up to be the first one to know when we launch!

You may also like