Having extra periods?
May 24, 2008 8:57 PM   Subscribe

I've been getting "extra" periods...

Lately, I've been getting an "extra", very light, period between my normal ones. This has happened three times now, and I wanted to see whether you think this is something to worry about.

I might be providing way more info than is required for a relatively simple question, but I wanted to make sure!
I started my periods when I was 11 (now 20), and, after initially being a bit irregular, everything evened itself out until things were pretty much normal.
I started university in Autumn 2006, and since then things haven't been quite the same: first, my first period since arriving at uni was about 2 months late. I assume this was due to moving to a different city and suddenly living on a corridor in halls full of other girls. After that, my period came back, pretty much as it had been before.
A few months after that, I started getting worse period pains, different to those I'd had before - 'aching' pain in my hips and thighs, and feeling a lot more 'hot and bothered'. This usually goes away after the first day or two, and it's been getting a bit better the past few months.
Now, since March, I've been getting "mini" periods in between my usual ones - so a period every two weeks or so. The "extra" ones are very light, so light the first couple of times that, if I didn't wear a tampon or sanitary towel, it wouldn't seep through my underwear. The most recent one (this past week) was a little heavier, though not much. These "extra" periods have also been coinciding with my girlfriend's periods (we've been living together since last Autumn).
I am not, nor have I ever been, on the Pill or anything like that. I have been fairly stressed at times during the past few months, perhaps over a longer time period than usual, but I've never noticed stress affecting my menstrual cycle before. I don't think my diet has changed much lately.

Any advice on whether this is normal or something I should get checked out?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds more like spotting than an extra period. If it's happening about two weeks after your regular period, then it is probably as a result of ovulation and I wouldn't worry; I had the same thing at your age. Of course, the best advice is always to see a doctor, just in case. Here's more info: Spotting During Your Cycle
posted by Ugh at 9:22 PM on May 24, 2008

By "never been on the Pill or anything like that" I'm going to assume you mean you're not taking oral contraceptives, or use Nuvoring or have an IUD. If that's not the case, you should probably ask Jessamyn to correct that for us.

That said, for post-menopausal women or girls under eleven, spotting can be serious. For the rest of us, it is a (hopefully infrequent) part of life. Spotting can be caused by hormonal changes and stress as well as pregnancy or abortion.

There's a lot of other ones: I know you're 20, but are you on HRT (estrogen)? HRT can, among other icky side effects, cause spotting as well as some of the other side effects you mentioned. So can cervical cancer, a couple of easily treated STDs like Chlamydia, Cystitis (tho it doesn't sound like you're a match, unless you're in pain when you urinate), Ovarian cysts (which might be a possibility since you're experiencing the increased pain during your menses), or even Mittelschmerz (which is mid-cycle pain and spotting due to ovulation).

Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about it - it sounds like you might be a good candidate for stress-caused spotting (school is stressful for me!) and just mention it to your doctor when you have your next annual. Hope this goes away soon!
posted by arnicae at 9:25 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mid-cycle spotting is quite plausible (and if so, nothing to worry about). Learning to chart your cycle (even if you don't rely on it for birth control) would help you figure out if it is indeed associated with ovulation, or something else. From Taking Charge of Your Fertility (p. 308; small comments in brackets are mine):
About 10% of women will notice that they occasionally have a day or two of spotting about midcycle, right around ovulation. In fact, they may even notice that the fertile cervical fluid (especially the eggwhite quality [i.e., one of the types of cervical/vaginal fluids that is considered a primary fertility sign]) is tinged with brown, pink, or red. This is a result of spotting mixed with cervical fluid. It's usually due to the sudden drop in estrogen that precedes ovulation and is nothing to be concerned about. If anything, it is a good secondary sign [of fertility] to record on your chart. It's typically more common in long cycles.

You can tell that it is ovulatory spotting because it occurs within a couple of days of a thermal shift [i.e., the shift in a woman's waking body temperature that divides the preovulary phase from the postovulatory phase of her cycle]. If, however, the spotting lasts more than a couple of days, is bright red, or you notice spotting at other times in the cycle that do not coincide with ovulation or the approach of your period, it could be an indication of a problem requiring medical attention.
posted by scody at 9:49 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might want to get checked out for PCOS. I'm not a doctor, but I do have PCOS, and when I'm not taking medication for it I have an every-two-weeks spotting cycle rather than actual "periods." It's thought to be caused by low progesterone levels.

It could, of course, also be nothing, but since it took me something like 15 years to actually get diagnosed with PCOS, I figured I should toss this out there just in case.
posted by chez shoes at 10:09 PM on May 24, 2008

also, groups of women who live together, or even just a couple, often notice that their times of the month (when not regulated by hormonal birth control) change by a few days to coincide with the other women's periods. it's called synchronization.

some think it's bs, but i definitely noticed it when living on a girls floor in college (hated that!) and when my girlfriend and i moved in together, ours started to sync too. maybe confirmation bias, maybe some truth, i dunno.

but i bring it up because you say you recently moved in with your girlfriend.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:13 PM on May 24, 2008

I've just noticed myself going through the exact same thing, actually. It's annoying to not have that "full month" of rest in between, but I'm hoping it'll adjust back again since this is a very recent change. (I too have been too stressed out for my own good lately.)
posted by Bakuun at 12:05 AM on May 25, 2008

I've been getting spotting between periods for a good long while now - starting a week after ovulation and lasting the entire week before my period - and it freaked me out a little bit when it started. But I asked my GYN about it, and she wasn't concerned. It's just recently begin slacking off, and for that I'm grateful.

If you're still concerned, you should mention it at your next Gyno appointment.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:11 AM on May 25, 2008

I would also mention it at your next appointment, just so that's said first.

I have this occasionally too, around the time of ovulation - in lots of variations - from bright red to darker, "older" looking bleeding. I have noticed that it is more common when I take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like Ibuprofen or Naprosyn) for cramps with the previous period than when I don't. It makes some sort of vague sense to me that taking something that stops cramping keeps my body from getting rid of all that it's supposed to get rid of during the actual menstruation. I've tried to switch to Acetominophen (Tylenol/Paracetamol) and other remedies for cramps (hot water bottles, diva cup, relaxation techniques, etc) and it seems to have helped. Your results may vary!
posted by Theresa at 2:13 AM on May 25, 2008

I don't know anything about vaginas, and I can imagine there might be a benign cause for this, but bleeding is usually a bad sign

Well, this is when knowing something about vaginas actually helps answer the question. It's not that we "imagine" that there "might" be a benign cause; it's that we know, factually, that there frequently is a benign cause.

The OP wanted to know if this sort of light, mid-cycle bleeding is normal. For millions of women, the answer is yes. Of course there might be other causes, and of course the OP should consult with a doc if she's still concerned. But saying that "bleeding is usually a bad sign" is, in this case, just not true; based on what the OP describes, it's actually likely (not guaranteed, of course, but likely) that it's not a bad sign.
posted by scody at 2:25 AM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

« Older Vista/Ubuntu Dual Boot desperate help needed :(   |   MIT clothes for babies? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.