From time to time, women can experience vaginal discharge tinged with blood, even when Aunt Flo isn’t in town. This somewhat confusing occurrence is known as breakthrough bleeding or BB. What is this and why does it happen?
What is Breakthrough Bleeding?
All is normal in the world. It’s mid-cycle and you’re pleased to have a break in between periods. You feel the urge to urinate and you head to the bathroom. You’re peeing. Nothing out of ordinary here. Some post-pee wiping is going on and… BAAM! Brown. Huh? Welcome to the wild world of breakthrough bleeding. You and your white tights’ bestest pal.
Stay calm. You got this. Don’t flail around like an inflatable sky dancer, contemplate calling all of your past lovers and accusing them of being the cause or go running home from the club in tears only to lay awake all night in bed, just because you have a little brown discharge. In most cases, you won’t even need a tampon or a pad for more than an hour or two. Usually all it is, is a little old blood making its way out of you.
What Causes Breakthrough Bleeding?
One of the lovely side effects of taking oral birth control pills is breakthrough bleeding. Basically, the lower the dose of estrogen is in the pill you take, the more risk there will be for breakthrough bleeding to occur. This is because the dosage of estrogen in the pills is much lower than the quantity produced naturally by the ovaries and this, in turn, causes a shedding of the uterine lining. Women who have just begun a BC regime, women who smoke and take BC pills, and women who have recently switched to a new pill are the most likely to have mid-cycle bleeding, but it can happen to anyone who is on the pill at anytime.
However, because the pill does not protect against any STDs, anyone who has had sex without a condom should be tested for pregnancy and STDs (read more below). And yes, you can still have sex while having breakthrough bleeding, but remember, it is blood, which carries a higher risk for transmission of STDs if oral sex is performed on you. We always recommend using dental dams as a great way to stay safe during oral.
Is Breakthrough Bleeding a Sign of Pregnancy?
Yes, breakthrough bleeding can occasionally be an early sign of pregnancy. This is called implantation bleeding, and it’s due to pregnancy hormones covering up your normal menstrual cycle, while the cycle is still trying to happen. Sometimes, implantation bleeding can occur directly after a fertilized egg implants in the womb. If you have recently had sex without a condom, especially during ovulation, get tested to find out for sure so you can get some peace of mind (or not, depending on the results).
Can I get Breakthrough Bleeding From a STD?
Breakthrough bleeding is commonly mistaken as a sure sign that a STD is present. While it can be an indication of chlamydia, gonorrhea or PID breakthrough bleeding isn’t necessarily anything out of the ordinary. Whether or not you have something to be concerned about largely depends on whether any other symptoms are present and how risky your sexual behavior has been.
Have you recently had vaginal sex without a condom? Get tested. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, increased urges to urinate, pain during urination, or a foul smelling discharge in addition to breakthrough bleeding, get tested. If your breakthrough bleeding lasts beyond your next menstrual cycle, get tested.