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Breakthrough bleeding on the pill

1 min read
Cycle Care

Approved by

Dorenda van Dijken - Gynecologist
It’s so annoying when you put on your perfect white pants only to find out that you bled through and it’s not so white anymore. Especially when you were really sure your period wasn’t supposed to come yet. What’s going on when you bleed in between periods?

Breakthrough bleeding is bleeding that happens outside the pill-free week (the week in which you’re supposed to bleed). It’s common that you’ll bleed a little bit between periods during the first three or four months of using the birth control pill. The amount of blood you lose during the breakthrough is usually much less than during your normal menstrual period, and is also known as ‘spotting’. The reason why you’re experiencing spotting is often because your body still needs to get used to the pill. But that’s not the only reason. Spotting can also occur if you keep taking the pill to skip your period, if there is too much progesterone or too little estrogen in the pill for you, or when you switch to a different kind of pill. It can also mean (when you’re not on the pill) that you’re ovulating - one of your ovaries releases an egg - or that an egg is implanting in the lining of your uterus. You could also have forgotten to take the pill or the pill isn’t working properly - the pill might not be as effective after vomiting or diarrhea. There’s no harm in bleeding between periods and you’re still protected against unwanted pregnancies, but only if you take the pill regularly.

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Something else?

Bleeding during or after sex is different from breakthrough bleeding and is called postcoital bleeding. Postcoital bleeding often has a different cause than breakthrough bleeding. It can be a sign of an STI/STD and in the worst case it can be a sign of an early stage of cervical or vaginal cancer. It’s important to at least participate in the population screening from the age of 25 and to get a smear test. And no need to freak out now, because chances are there’s nothing serious going on, but better safe than sorry, right? Everybody reacts differently to fluctuations in their hormone level or there might be other things that your body has to adapt to. Experience shows that people are quite good at assessing whether a situation is abnormal for them. If you’re concerned about anything, don’t hesitate to consult your GP.


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