Intermenstrual bleeding is the name given to a minimal bleeding that can occur at any point in your menstrual cycle and that isn’t your usual menstruation. It is sometimes referred to as a menstrual leak or escape, and it tends to be a very light bleed or just spotting. The color is usually brown or light pink and is not similar in consistency to menstruation.

Remember, intermenstrual bleeding is considerably less than your usual menstrual period. You should only experience around two tablespoons or less of blood, while the average menstrual period is about eight tablespoons.

The main cause of intermenstrual bleeding

One of the main reasons women experience intermenstrual bleeding is from use of the contraceptive pill. You could be in the middle of your pill pack and suddenly experience light bleeding.

The reason for this is usually to do with your hormone levels and the strength of the pill you are taking. If the pill is too weak for your body, you may experience bleeding because the synthetic hormones aren’t strong enough to tell your system what to do. If this is the case, you’ll find that you’re experiencing intermenstrual bleeding regularly. It’s best to talk to your doctor about this so that you can get the right contraceptive for your body and ensure you are properly protected against falling pregnant.

Other causes of menstrual leaks

Contraceptive pills are definitely the main culprits for many women. Aside from an incorrect starting dosage, your body may also have gotten used to the levels of synthetic hormones in your pill if you’ve been taking them for many years. If you start to experience intermenstrual bleeding, it may be time to talk to your doctor about switching to a different birth control option.

Another culprit that causes intermenstrual bleeding is the morning-after pill. This medication is designed specifically to cause bleeding as it evacuates everything from the uterus. The bleeding is a sign that the pill has worked as intended.

Aside from synthetic hormones, there are also natural causes for intermenstrual bleeding. Conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause natural imbalances in your cycle, which lead to bleeding outside of your normal menstruation. If you experience irregular bleeding for more than two cycles, consult your doctor. They will check for these conditions and test your hormone levels.

Another possibility is that this bleeding is actually a sign that you’ve conceived. If the bleeding happens after you’ve ovulated and just before you are due to start menstruating, it could be a sign that implantation of the embryo has occurred. Not all women experience this when they fall pregnant, but you could.

IMPORTANT: Even if you experience intermenstrual bleeding, your cycle will still continue as normal. This means that you can still fall pregnant during that cycle.

Repetitive intermenstrual bleeding

It’s important to contact your doctor if you are experiencing regular intermenstrual bleeding. You may be experiencing it once every cycle or several times in one cycle. Both could be a sign of something serious and should be investigated by a gynecologist.

The first step will be to rule out bleeding from the urethra or anus. Your doctor will do a physical examination and confirm exactly where the bleeding is coming from. Once it has been confirmed that the blood is coming from the uterus, your doctor can check for the cause.

Once you know the cause, your doctor can prescribe the correct medication and treatments to contain the bleeding. This will make your life a lot easier and decrease the amount of time you have to spend wearing sanitary pads or tampons.

Menstrual leakage when pregnant

Experiencing bleeding while pregnant can be quite normal, but can also be very dangerous for your pregnancy. It’s important to be very vigilant and contact your doctor if you are at all concerned.

Causes of bleeding while pregnant include:

  • Hormone deficiencies
  • Placental abruption
  • Placenta previa
  • Premature rupture of the amniotic sac
  • Over exertion
  • Sexual intercourse

Readers’ questions:

How can I stop intermenstrual bleeding?

Usually this bleeding will stop on its own after a couple of days. However, if it recurs or continues, your doctor may recommend changing the contraceptive you’re taking or run tests to investigate the cause. You can also change certain habits you may have. Smoking, for example, increases your chances of experiencing intermenstrual bleeding.

How do I differentiate normal menstruation from a menstrual leak?

The major difference between the two is the amount of blood that comes out. Intermenstrual bleeding is usually only very light and doesn’t even need sanitary pads or tampons to contain it.

Can I still fall pregnant if I get intermenstrual bleeding?

If you are using a contraceptive correctly, you shouldn’t fall pregnant even if you are experiencing menstrual leaks. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what to expect if you change your contraceptive.
If you aren’t using any contraceptives, then you definitely can fall pregnant. Your cycle will continue as normal even with intermenstrual bleeding.

What does intermenstrual bleeding look like?

Usually spotting or bleeding leaks are dark brown or light pink. It will have the consistency of old blood.