When Should You See A Doctor About Breakthrough Bleeding?

If you've ever taken birth control or considered doing so, your gynecologist may have informed you about breakthrough bleeding. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a woman who is not expecting her period is experiencing breakthrough bleeding when she notices random light spotting or heavier bleeding. Any abnormal bleeding that deviates from someone's normal monthly bleeding patterns can be considered breakthrough bleeding, reports Healthline. As you can imagine, having this happen can be very frightening, and can cause someone to wonder what's going on inside their body.

Breakthrough bleeding can occur when taking any kind of hormonal birth control method, but is most commonly seen in those utilizing low-dose birth control pills, birth control implants, and hormonal IUDs (per American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). During the first few months of using an IUD, abnormal bleeding is common, but this usually stabilizes within 2 to 6 months. For women taking birth control pills, Healthline explains that breakthrough bleeding is more likely to occur if someone forgets to take their pills regularly. 

There are several other contributors to breakthrough bleeding. For example, it's possible to experience breakthrough bleeding due to sexually transmitted infections. Women with inflammatory conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), could also experience it. In addition, smoking can increase the risk. 

Breakthrough bleeding can be scary, and someone who finds it happening to them may not know what to do. For someone experiencing breakthrough bleeding, they may wonder, "Should I be going to the doctor?" 

When is it time to see a doctor if you have breakthrough bleeding?

If you're experiencing any kind of abnormal bleeding that is outside the scope of your normal cycle, it would be wise to consult with your doctor. Although some instances of breakthrough bleeding could be considered normal, such as when first starting on birth control pills, the Mayo Clinic suggests speaking with your doctor whenever you are feeling concerned about your breakthrough bleeding.

Dr. Elise Schrop shared with Integris Health that abnormal bleeding in women is more common than one might initially consider. In fact, abnormal bleeding accounts for about one-third of all gynecologist visits. Although many of these circumstances are temporary and tend to go away on their own, Henry Ford Health explains that breakthrough bleeding can sometimes be a warning signal for a more serious health condition, such as diabetes, cancer, or liver disease. 

If you're experiencing any pain accompanying your breakthrough bleeding, are bleeding for more than five days, suspect that you might have a sexually transmitted infection, are postmenopausal, or are pregnant, you should consult your doctor right away for an evaluation, Dr. Jennifer Roelands tells PopSugar. In addition, Dr. Schrop notes that any breakthrough bleeding associated with feelings of lightheadedness, unintentional weight gain or weight loss, fever, and nipple discharge may be a cause for concern and should be evaluated by a gynecologist (per Integris Health).