Many women experience breakthrough bleeding at some point during their lifetime. Breakthrough bleeding is a period of of bleeding that occurs between menstrual periods. This type of bleeding can be light or heavy, and may or may not be accompanied by cramping. There are several possible causes of breakthrough bleeding. Women should consult their gynecologist if persistent or abnormal vaginal bleeding occurs.
Various methods of birth control can cause breakthrough bleeding. Hormonal contraceptives work by altering a woman's natural hormonal balance, which can cause menstrual irregularity. If breakthrough bleeding occurs, it is more likely during the first three months of treatment, reports Planned Parenthood. Taking birth control pills at the same time each day and not skipping pills can help decrease the risk of breakthrough bleeding. Women who experience this type of bleeding after having used the same method of birth control for more than 3 months should consult their gynecologist. In some cases, an alternate contraceptive method may be recommended.
Breakthrough bleeding may be a symptom of pregnancy. A woman may experience vaginal bleeding around 11 to 12 days following conception. This type of bleeding is called implantation bleeding, and is thought to occur when the fertilized egg begins to implant into the wall of the uterus. Implantation bleeding is usually shortener in duration and lighter in color and flow than a normal menstrual period. Women who develop an ectopic pregnancy may also experience breakthrough bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy is when pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus, usually in one of the Fallopian tubes. Women experiencing bleeding between menstrual periods who may be pregnant should take a home pregnancy test and consult their physician.
Disease or Infection
Certain diseases and infections can cause breakthrough bleeding, such as bacterial vaginosis and genital warts as well as certain cancers. According to MedlinePlus, a careful exam by a health care provider is the best way to sort out the source of the bleeding. A pelvic examination can be performed while bleeding. Vaginal cultures, urine cultures and blood work may be done to determine the cause of bleeding.