What It Is, Why It Happens, What It Looks Like

Your period is not due for a while, but you are spotting. So rude, right?

Light bleeding between periods can occur for many reasons. One is ovulation, when your ovary releases an egg in the middle of your menstrual cycle. (Don’t worry—this doesn’t mean anything is wrong or that you’re pregnant.)

So how can you tell if this is what you’re dealing with, and what should you do about it? Here is all the information you need.

Ovulation bleeding is bleeding that happens when you – you guessed it! – ovulate. This is the part of your menstrual cycle when your ovary releases an egg.

Usually the bleeding is very light, and falls more in the spotting area. And it’s not all that common. Research shows that only about 3 percent of women experience bleeding during this part of their cycle.

When does ovulation bleeding usually occur?

Ovulation bleeding can occur when your ovary releases an egg, which happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle — anywhere from 11 to 21 days after your last period. (Your period occurs at the beginning of the cycle.)

But it doesn’t always happen on the same day every month. For many women, ovulation can vary by a few days.

What causes ovulation bleeding?

It all comes down to hormones. For some women, changes in estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone can cause light spotting during ovulation.

How long does ovulation bleeding last?

Ovulation doesn’t last very long, and neither does the bleeding that can occasionally come with it. On most, spotting caused by ovulation will last a day or two.

What does ovulation bleeding look like?

This is usually more like spotting than full bleeding. Ovulation bleeding tends to be very light, to the point where you just need a pantyhose (or maybe just a tissue, honestly).

Color wise it is usually pale pink. This is because the blood is mixed with cervical fluid, which increases during ovulation.

What does ovulation bleeding feel like?

Most women actually feel nothing. But ovulation spotting can come with mild versions of the side effects you usually get during your period. Think dull cramping (especially on one side of your abdomen), breast tenderness or bloating.

The following month, the pain may be on the other side, as most women’s ovaries alternately ovulate.

Some women may have a sharp, sudden pain when the egg is released. Ovulation pain, also called Mittelschmerz, is rarely a serious problem (and the name is quite nice to say).

Spotting generally refers to any vaginal bleeding that occurs outside of your monthly period. Regardless of the cause, it tends to look the same (pale pink), have a super light flow, and only last a day or two.

Spotting can also occur as a result of implantation – when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of your uterus. Implantation spotting is a possible sign of very early pregnancy. It happens in about 25 percent of pregnancies and looks about the same as ovulation spots.

But you can often tell the difference by the timing: Ovulation spots usually occur in the middle of your cycle, but implantation spots will occur a few days before your next expected period.

If you can’t tell what you’re dealing with based on the calendar, a home pregnancy test can give you the answer.

A positive result means the spot was from implantation, and a negative indicates that it could be from ovulation. If you get a positive test result, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

However, ovulation and implantation are not the only causes of spotting. Bleeding outside of your period can also be from uterine fibroids, STIs, changes in birth control, or abdominal bleeding. In rare cases, spotting can be a sign of some cancers.

Can ovulation bleeding be heavy, like a period? Not usually. Bleeding caused by ovulation is light – more like spotting than period-level bleeding. It tends to be light pink instead of crimson and only lasts a day or two.

Bleeding that is crimson-red, lasts longer than a day or two, or is heavy enough to require a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup is likely a period.

If the timing for your period doesn’t seem right, you may just be having an off cycle. (Not everyone’s period comes on the same day every month!) But if it seems manner outside of your norm, it’s never a bad idea to call your doctor.

If you’re soaking a pad or tampon every hour, go to the emergency room.

Timing is one thing that can let you know that your spotting is related to ovulation. But there are other clues as well.

Ovulation-related spotting can also be accompanied by:

  • more vaginal discharge, or discharge that looks thicker, like egg whites
  • higher sex drive
  • dull abdominal pain, especially on one side
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • changes in your basal body temperature (a drop before ovulation and then a rapid rise afterwards)

Are you trying to track your ovulation because you are trying to conceive? You don’t necessarily have to rely solely on looking for vague physical symptoms.

You’ll get more accurate information with an over-the-counter ovulation test. The simple home kit tests your urine for luteinizing hormone, a hormone that rises right before and during ovulation.

Light spotting that lasts for a day or two is usually not a big deal. Most women will experience this occasionally, and as long as you don’t have other symptoms, there’s no reason to call your healthcare provider.

But you should See your doctor if the spots last more than a few days, get worse, or seem to occur frequently, or have other symptoms such as dizziness, fever, severe or prolonged abdominal pain, easy bruising, or abnormal vaginal discharge.

Those problems could be signs that your spotting is related to something other than ovulation.

Also remember that spotting can sometimes be a sign of early pregnancy. If you suspect your spotting is related to implantation, take a home pregnancy test. If the result is positive, see your doctor to confirm and start your care.

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