There are many different causes of bleeding between periods. Some may not be anything to worry about, but seek medical advice if you're concerned.
- combined oral contraceptive pill
- progestogen-only contraceptive pill
- contraceptive patch (transdermal patch)
- contraceptive implant or injection
- intrauterine system (IUS)
If you're concerned about bleeding or it lasts longer than a few months, you should seek medical advice.
You may also bleed between periods if you:
- miss any combined pills
- miss any progestogen-only pills
- have a problem with your patch or vaginal ring
- are on the pill and are also sick or have diarrhoea
Some other causes of bleeding between periods include:
- taking the emergency contraceptive pill
- injury to the vagina – for example, from having penetrative sex
- recently having an abortion – seek medical advice if you're bleeding heavily
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia – it's a good idea to get tested if you've recently had unprotected sex with a new partner
- recently having a miscarriage
- reproductive hormones not working normally – this is common in women approaching the menopause or in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- vaginal dryness
- harmless changes to the neck of the womb (cervix) – this may be called cervical ectropion or cervical erosion
- cervical cancer – if you're aged 25 to 64, you should be having regular cervical screening tests to detect any changes to your cervix; even if you're up-to-date with screening tests, you should see a GP about irregular bleeding, particularly bleeding after sex, to eliminate the possibility of cervical cancer
- womb (uterus or uterine) cancer – this is more common in post-menopausal women and most cases of endometrial cancer are diagnosed in women over the age of 50; see a GP if you're over 40 and have bleeding between periods to eliminate the possibility of uterine cancer
- vaginal cancer or vulval cancer
- cervical or endometrial polyps – non-cancerous (benign) growths in the womb or the lining of the cervix
Using sexual health clinics during coronavirus
Call a sexual health clinic if you need help or advice. Only go to a clinic if you’ve been told to.
When to seek medical advice
If you're concerned about bleeding between periods, you should:
- see a GP
- visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic
A healthcare professional will talk to you about your symptoms. Depending on your situation, they may suggest doing some tests, such as:
- tests for STIs, which may include an examination of your genitals
- a pregnancy test
- a cervical screening test, if you're aged 25 to 64 and not up-to-date with these
- a pelvic ultrasound scan
To diagnose some conditions, you may need an examination, such as:
- a speculum examination – a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) is inserted into your vagina to examine your vagina and cervix
- an internal examination of your vagina with gloved fingers (bimanual examination)
Find out the answers to more questions about women's health
- Am I pregnant?
- Does the pill interact with other medicines?
- Heavy periods
- The menstrual cycle
- Period pain
- Stopped or missed periods
- Find services: sexual health
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Page last reviewed: 5 November 2019
Next review due: 5 November 2022