• Question: what causes breakthrough bleeding while on the pill?

    Asked by da celeb to Sammy, Marta, Mark, Derrick, Caroline on 11 Jul 2017.
    • Photo: Marta Maia

      Marta Maia answered on 11 Jul 2017:

      Can you rephrase the question? Do you mean irregular bleeds while taking family planning contraceptive pills?

    • Photo: Sammy Wambua

      Sammy Wambua answered on 11 Jul 2017:

      Especially for first time users, breakthrough bleeding (spotting) is attributed to insufficient estrogens associated with contraceptive use. Bleeding results from excessive thickening of endometrium (uterine lining). This is not a dangerous condition, though the unpredictable and often lengthy periods of bleeding are unpleasant. Breakthrough bleeding may also be caused by hormonal effects of ovulation. Breakthrough bleeding may also itself be a symptom of pregnancy.

    • Photo: Caroline Ogwang

      Caroline Ogwang answered on 12 Jul 2017:

      Hi da celeb,

      Normally, when a woman takes the contraceptive pill she has a week off where she either doesn’t take anything or takes “dummy” pills that are inactive. During this time she will have her normal period. After these seven days, she resumes taking the active pill.

      Sometimes, bleeding may occur at other times during the cycle(between periods) while she is taking the pill. This is called “breakthrough bleeding”. This is particularly common during the first three months of taking a contraceptive pill, during which your body adjusts to the hormones. You may also notice this side effect after more than three months of taking the pill.

      If one is concerned about the bleeding or it lasts longer than three months, you should seek medical advice. Other causes of breakthrough bleeding include:

      • missed pills
      • taking the emergency contraceptive pill
      • injury of the vagina
      • sexually transmitted infections
      • reproductive hormones not working normally
      • stress
      • vaginal dryness
      • harmless changes to the neck of the womb (cervix) – this is called a cervical erosion
      • cancer of the cervix and the uterus(womb)
      • cervical or endometrial polyps (these are non-cancerous growths in the womb or the lining of the cervix)