Ovulation Spotting: Everything You Need to Know
Hey Siri, is it normal to bleed in the middle of my menstrual cycle? When you’re tracking your cycle closely — especially if you’re actively trying to conceive — it’s natural to assume every drop of blood is a sign. Is it a good sign? A bad sign? Siri, are you listening?
Ovulation spotting is slight bleeding during the middle of your menstrual cycle. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but if it does, there’s no reason to stress. In fact, ovulation spotting can be a sign you’re in your fertile window — and that you’re on track to getting pregnant.
So before you follow any more drops of blood down the internet rabbit hole, let’s discuss the one you’re seeing now. Read on to learn about ovulation spotting and see if it’s what you’re experiencing.
When Does Ovulation Spotting Occur?
Ovulation is the part of the menstrual cycle when the ovaries release an egg. The day you ovulate can be different each month, but it typically occurs 14 days before your next period. For example, if you have a 24-day cycle, you ovulate around day 10.
Ovulation spotting occurs around the time the egg is released. Here are some signs you’re ovulating:
- Cervical mucous. Look for clear, stretchy cervical mucous (similar to a raw egg white).
- Basal body temperature spikes. A temperature increase of 0.5-1 degree indicates ovulation.
- An luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. LH triggers the release of the egg. You can use an at-home test kit to monitor LH surges and confirm ovulation. Learn more about LH here.
At-home test kits are beneficial but can become confusing when it confirms ovulation even though you're also spotting. In moments like these, you're probably left wondering, Can I get pregnant when I'm spotting?
Ovulation spotting may be a sign that you’re in your fertile window, which is the best time to get busy! Although it’s rare – affecting only about 5-10% of women – ovulation spotting is nothing to stress over. 
Let’s talk about what ovulation spotting looks like compared to other types of bleeding.
Understanding Ovulation Spotting and Bleeding
It’s usually pretty obvious when you get your period. After battling tender breasts, chocolate cravings, and the occasional urge to scream — you bleed. Period blood is typically thick, dark red blood and lasts around 5 days.
Spotting, on the other hand, can be more difficult to identify. Bleeding anytime outside of your period is considered spotting. But what does it mean to spot at different parts of your cycle?
The typical menstrual cycle is 21-35 days long. It moves through these parts:
- The menstrual period
- The follicular phase
- The luteal phase
Spotting can mean different things based on which part of the cycle you’re in.
Before ovulation, estrogen peaks signal LH, which triggers the release of an egg. Afterward, estrogen drops, and progesterone levels rise. In the case of ovulation spotting, the sudden change in hormones may cause bleeding to occur.
Ovulation spotting usually only lasts a day or two. It’s typically lighter in color (pink or red) and not nearly as heavy as a period.
There are many other reasons to explain other moments of spotting throughout your cycle, so let’s talk about those.
Other Causes of Spotting Between Periods
Spotting between periods is also called abnormal uterine bleeding. About 10-35% of women have spotting at some point in their cycle. Here’s what the color of your vaginal bleeding means:
- Light pink spotting means there’s a clear fluid mixed with blood. It’s common for people with an IUD to have pink spotting.
- Red or brown spotting is usually indicative of blood. Brown discharge can indicate your period is ending, or it could be leftover blood from your period. It can also be the result of changes during menopause. Brown discharge with a foul odor may be a sign of an infection. 
Here are some common reasons you may experience vaginal bleeding when you’re not on your period: 
- Having an IUD (intrauterine device). Harmless bleeding is common for women with an IUD.
- Hormonal changes. Sudden changes to your hormones can cause bleeding. Starting and stopping hormonal birth control can also cause abnormal bleeding.
- Injury. You can have bleeding from minor trauma to the vagina from sex or a gynecological exam.
- Pregnancy complications. Light spotting in the first trimester of pregnancy is common. However, if you have any bleeding during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. Abnormal bleeding could be a sign of pregnancy complications or miscarriage. 
Abnormal bleeding throughout your menstrual cycle may also be a sign of an underlying condition. Let’s go over some health conditions that can cause spotting when you’re not on your period.
Health Conditions and Bleeding Between Periods
There are many reasons spotting can occur throughout the menstrual cycle. Most of the time it’s not a major issue, but bleeding can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition.
Here are some underlying conditions that cause bleeding between periods: 
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI). Symptoms of many STIs cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. If you’re sexually active, talk to your doctor about getting screened for STIs. Untreated STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which also causes unusual vaginal bleeding.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS causes irregular and unpredictable periods. It’s common for people with PCOS to have spotting between periods due to hormonal imbalances.
- Menopause. Menopause is the period of time that marks a woman’s last menstrual cycle. Hormonal changes throughout menopause can cause occasional spotting.
- Uterine fibroids or polyps. These are harmless growths that show up in the uterus. They’re noncancerous but can be painful and cause problems with fertility.
- Cancer or pre-cancer. In rare cases, vaginal bleeding can be a sign of reproductive cancer. Possible types of cancers that cause bleeding are uterine, vaginal, cervical, or ovarian. Talk to your provider about getting screened for reproductive cancers.
If you feel like you may have one of the conditions above, you’re not alone — many women face these issues. It’s important to talk with your provider and get tested to make sure your health is being taken care of.
Is It Ovulation Spotting, Implantation Spotting, or Regular Spotting?
Understanding your body’s patterns throughout your menstrual cycle can help you narrow down the reasons why you’re spotting. Getting in flow with your menstrual cycle is the first step. You can start by charting your period and taking notes of how you feel at different parts of your menstrual cycle.
How can you tell the difference between ovulation, implantation, and regular spotting? It depends on which day of your cycle it occurs.
Ovulation spotting typically occurs in the middle of your cycle, which is around 14 days before your next period.
If the egg is fertilized, you may experience implantation spotting 10-14 days after ovulation. It usually happens around the time of a missed period — and many women mistake it as a sign of a nearing period. Some people have mild cramping with implantation.
Regular spotting is more likely to occur close to your period. It’s common for women to have brown discharge leading up to their period or as it’s ending. If you have spotting or bleeding that’s unusual for you, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know so you can rule out any underlying conditions.
Take Charge of Spotting
Spotting is common for women and can happen for many reasons. You can keep your hormones in check by living a healthy lifestyle and incorporating supportive foods and supplements into your diet.
If you’re having spotting during your fertile window, don’t rule out your chances of getting pregnant — ovulation spotting may be the sign you’re looking for to confirm ovulation.
And if you’re not trying to conceive, take it as a sign to keep your partner away for a few days. Hey Siri, tell my husband to keep it in his pants tonight.
*The content in this article is provided for informational purposes only. This is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or consultation. Talk to your doctor before making changes to your healthcare regimen.
- Menstrual Bleeding Patterns Among Regularly Menstruating Women
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Brown discharge: 4 causes and what it means
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- What is Implantation Bleeding?
- Spotting during pregnancy
By Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN
Alexa is a registered nurse and freelance health writer. As a nurse, she spent over a decade taking care of sick babies in neonatal and pediatric cardiac intensive care units.
After earning a master’s degree in nursing education, Alexa began teaching associate degree nursing students. Now she’s teaching everyday readers about their health through copywriting.
Alexa believes health information should be accessible to anyone. She’s focused on writing approachable content that empowers women to take control of their reproductive health.
As an emerging FemTech copywriter, Alexa’s work is featured on product blogs like the Inito Fertility Monitor. She’s also a nurse writer and subject matter expert at NurseJournal, Working Nurse Magazine, and Indeed.
When she’s not writing, Alexa is probably in the kitchen. Her specialty is making healthy versions of comfort foods. Black bean brownies, anyone?