Intermenstrual bleeding is a condition in which a woman experiences bleeding from her vagina between her regular menstrual periods. The bleeding may be lighter than a normal period or could closely resemble it. Bleeding between periods can be due to a variety of causes, ranging from mild to potentially life-threatening.
To determine if vaginal bleeding is intermenstrual and not actually just an irregular menstrual period, a woman may first need to record the length of her menstrual periods. She can keep track of the date that bleeding begins and ends, then record the amount of days until her period starts again. A normal length for a menstrual period is considered to be between 21 and 35 days. If a woman notices more frequent bleeding in the middle of her menstrual cycle, it would be considered intermenstrual bleeding.
One of the most common causes of intermenstrual bleeding are birth control methods, especially oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices. Oral contraceptives use estrogen, a female hormone, to keep a woman’s body from forming an egg each month. Vaginal bleeding between periods can occur in women who take oral contraceptives, particularly in the first three months as their bodies get used to the estrogen levels or if they don’t take the pills regularly. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small pieces of flexible plastic that are placed inside the uterus and give off hormones to prevent the release of eggs, but can also result in light bleeding.
Intermenstrual bleeding can also have more serious causes. It can be a sign of gynecological cancers in the uterus, cervix, or the fallopian tubes. Any non-cancerous growths on the uterus, known as uterine fibroids or polyps, can result in vaginal bleeding. If pelvic pain is present along with the vaginal bleeding between periods, it is more likely to be the result of a serious underlying condition.
The exact treatment for intermenstrual bleeding will generally depend on what is causing it. If the bleeding is due to birth control usage, it will usually subside after regular and correct use; however, if the vaginal bleeding between periods continues, a woman may want to switch birth control methods. Bleeding caused by cancer or other gynecological issues will typically go away once the underlying condition is effectively treated.