Metrorrhagia: Spotting between Periods

Fact checked

By SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Being faced with random spotting between periods - or metrorrhagia - is not only inconvenient, but can be quite distressing for women at all life stages.

Although relatively common and usually not dangerous, mid-cycle bleeding requires proper evaluation to ensure it is not related to a more serious underlying condition. For starters, equipping women with knowledge about spotting between periods can bring peace of mind, while directing them towards finding the help they need.

Read on to learn all about spotting between periods, including metrorrhagia definition; symptoms and causes; how to tell the difference between spotting and a period; and how to find suitable treatment for long-lasting menstrual health.

Spotting between periods

What is Metrorrhagia?

What is metrorrhagia

Metrorrhagia, also referred to as intermenstrual bleeding, is a medical term for bleeding or spotting between periods.

It is characterized by light spotting that occurs outside of one's period patterns and does not need sanitary protection.1

Abnormal uterine bleeding, such as metrorrhagia, is one of the most common menstrual disorders.

Metrorrhagia Symptoms

Spotting between periods is generally just that: occasional light drops of blood that are noticeable on a panty liner or toilet paper. While it generally does not produce its own symptoms, some women may report mild cramps while spotting mid-cycle.

However, because metrorrhagia can be caused by various medical conditions, it can be accompanied by symptoms specific to them, such as:

Difference between Spotting and a Period

Difference between spotting and period

It is important not to mistake spotting between periods for an actual period.

To have a clear understanding of one's menstrual patterns, women are encouraged to use a period tracker to take note of normal periods as well as any instances of spotting between periods and bothersome symptoms.

Keeping the following characteristics in mind can help women tell mid-cycle bleeding apart from normal monthly periods:

Spotting
Periods
Flow
Generally light, few drops or spots of blood; thin; can be handled with a panty liner
Requires several pads or tampons; thicker; some clots; consistent blood loss of 40-60mL per period2
Duration
1-2 days at most
2-7 days3
Pattern
Depends on the cause, but usually unpredictable
Predictable patterns every 21 to 35 days, unless a woman has irregular periods4
Color
Can be light pink, red, or brown
Red
Symptoms

Usually without major period-like symptoms
 
 
 

Causes Of Spotting Between Periods

Causes of spotting between periods

There are many possible reasons for spotting between periods, from normal causes that do not signal problems to more serious conditions that require proper attention. Most causes, however, are related to hormonal imbalance, both directly and indirectly.

Normal Causes

Light intermenstrual bleeding is common during times of hormonal fluctuations, which may occur naturally or triggered by medications. Most common ones include the following:

Abnormal Causes

Bleeding or spotting between periods can also be indicative of various medical conditions or lifestyle practices, such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Uterine fibroids or polyps
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Coagulation disorders
  • Being underweight or malnourished
  • Prolonged high stress
  • Cancers

Complications of Metrorrhagia

In most cases, occasional light bleeding between periods does not carry major health risks, besides being inconvenient. However, frequent, consistently heavy spotting or bleeding between periods can have negative consequences on a woman's health.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia may be triggered by significant blood loss on a monthly basis as well as poor nutrition, which is one of the causes of bleeding between periods. It is said to affect up to 20% of women of reproductive age and has been linked to infertility, depression, heart problems, and other complications.5

Other Complications

Another complication of metrorrhagia that is not properly treated is the progression of the condition that causes it.  While most conditions can have detrimental effects on a woman's well-being and daily functioning, leaving some without treatment can be life-threatening. This includes PID, certain STDs, coagulation disorders, or cancers.

Metrorrhagia Treatment

Metrorrhagia treatment

If spotting between periods is light, infrequent, and due to normal causes, treatment is generally not necessary and efforts might be put on promoting hormonal balance in the body. However, if bleeding results from abnormal causes or is severe, a more advanced treatment approach might be required.

As such, metrorrhagia treatment can encompass a variety of approaches, from optimizing one's lifestyle practices and using alternative medicine to relying on pharmacological or surgical options.

Lifestyle Changes

  • A nutritious diet rich in iron and phytoestrogenic foods - like lentils or soy - can help women regulate their cycles and maintain a healthy weight, which is essential to menstrual health.

  • Regular exercise that focuses on losing excess weight and strengthening the body can restore period regularity and improve overall health.

  • Stress-relief techniques can help reduce the negative effects of accumulated cortisol on menstrual health and their role in causing intermenstrual bleeding.

Alternative Medicine

  • Nutritional supplements, like iron, might be necessary for those whose spotting between periods put them at risk of developing anemia.

  • Phytoestrogenic supplements, like chaste berry, can be used short-term to supply the body with plant-based estrogenic compounds that work to promote hormonal balance.

  • Hormone-regulating supplements, like Macafem Healthy Periods, can be safely used long-term to stimulate the endocrine glands from within toward optimal hormone production.

Medications & Surgery

  • Medications will typically focus on treating conditions like vaginitis, PCOS, or STDs that might be behind bleeding between periods. They might include antibiotics, pain relievers, and birth control pills, among others.

  • Surgery is usually reserved for instances of heavy intermenstrual bleeding as well as severe symptoms, such as abdominal pain. Depending on the root cause, it may involve removing fibroids, polyps, or endometrial lesions.

Key Takeaways

Because a woman's menstrual patterns are a good indicator of her overall health, particularly the state of her hormones, instances of intermenstrual bleeding should not be overlooked. Medically known as menorrhagia, spotting between periods is – in most cases – normal and related to periods of hormonal fluctuations in a woman's life. However, it can also signal other underlying conditions, which, if left untreated, can take a toll on her health. As such, women are encouraged to track period patterns and implement practices to restore hormonal balance through diet, exercise, and stress-relief as well as herbal supplements, like Macafem. Those with heavy bleeding between periods might need more conventional treatments to reestablish menstrual and overall health.