Breakthrough Bleeding

Definition - What does Breakthrough Bleeding mean?

Breakthrough bleeding is vaginal bleeding that occurs mid-cycle and is often a side-effect of oral or hormonal contraceptives. In most situations, it is a light bleeding experienced at the initiation or withdrawal of hormonal birth control and is due to hormonal influence over the endometrial lining of the uterus. The bleeding tends to normalize over a period of time but if persistent, may require a different type of birth control.

FertilitySmarts explains Breakthrough Bleeding

Most women have a monthly period of bleeding but in some situations, menstruation may want to be suppressed or pregnancy avoided and this is commonly achieved through the use of hormonal contraception.

The hormone estrogen is responsible for helping the endometrial lining thicken in preparation for pregnancy, while progesterone is responsible for stabilizing it. Any hormonal state that decreases progesterone has the ability to destabilize the lining and cause breakthrough bleeding.

Most hormonal birth control methods contain the combination of these two hormones in the least amount needed to be effective, but if not taken as prescribed or stopped abruptly, there can be breakthrough bleeding as progesterone levels are lowered thus destabilizing the lining. Even one missed pill can cause breakthrough bleeding.

Women just starting out on birth control can have breakthrough bleeding as their bodies adjust to the new levels of hormones being introduced and this tends to normalize. If bleeding is persistent or becomes heavy, a different type of birth control may be necessary.

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