According to the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center, ʺover 100 million women worldwide currently use an oral contraceptive, the pill, to prevent pregnancy. The pill is also widely used to regulate menstrual periods, reduce menstrual cramps, and treat hormonal imbalances and ovarian cysts. The pill is a combination of estrogen and progestin. These are the same hormones that are naturally produced in the ovaries and are responsible for ovulation and the menstrual cycle.ʺ
One of the side effects of may be spotting or bleeding while on the pill. Bleeding while on birth control is also known as vaginal bleeding, irregular bleeding, intermenstrual bleeding or metrorrhagia.
The McKinley Health Center website said, ʺspotting/bleeding while on active pills [is] very common in the first cycle of pills or if pills are missed or taken late. Bleeding may be very light or as heavy as a period and may occur anytime in the cycle of active pills. Be sure to take your pill at the same time every day. Spotting will usually improve as you continue additional cycles of pills and should not be occurring by the end of the third cycle.ʺ
The Planned Parenthood website verified similar information, stating, ʺIn the first few months of taking birth control pills, many women have some light bleeding or spotting between periods. Taking your pills at the same time each day can help this. If this continues after the first few months, call your health center. Missing pills can also cause spotting or bleeding between periods. Remember to keep taking your pills every day, at the same time – even if you are spotting or bleeding.ʺ
If you have heavy bleeding contact your health care professional immediately. Inform your health care provider if you missed any pills.
If you are spotting or bleeding, it is important to take a measurement and verify if it is coming from the vagina, for example, by inserting a tampon. If the tampon has blood, this verifies it is vaginal bleeding and rules out that the blood is coming from the rectum or passing with the urine.
Your doctor or health care professional may ask you how much spotting is occurring. To determine the measurement of the spotting keep a record of how many tampons or pads you have used.
Do not use aspirin as this may prolong your bleeding.
FAQs for Birth Control Users - Planned Parenthood - Maryland. Sexual & Reproductive Health - Sex Education - Planned Parenthood. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from
The Pill - McKinley Health Center - University of Illinois. McKinley Health Center - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/pill_the.html
Vaginal bleeding between periods: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from
Reviewed March 1, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith