I started birth control pills a few weeks ago and today I noticed a little bit of blood in my underwear. I don’t think it’s my period though. Is that normal?

Yup! Spotting (when you bleed a little in between your normal periods, also called breakthrough bleeding) is common when you start hormonal birth control, or change your birth control method. As your body gets used to your new birth control, the spotting should stop. This can take up to three months, but often it’s shorter.

Hormonal birth control can cause spotting because most methods have very little or no estrogen in them. The hormone estrogen (among other things) helps keep your uterine lining (or endometrium) stable. When there’s very little estrogen, the uterine lining may shed a little at a time (spotting) instead of all at once (your period).

To help with spotting…

  • Keep a panty liner or two in your bag to avoid staining your underwear.
  • Make sure you take your pill at the same time every day, since taking your pill at different times each day can cause spotting.
  • If you currently use your birth control pills to skip your period, think about stopping. Even though it’s completely fine to skip your period using birth control, it can sometimes cause spotting.

If you still experience spotting after three months, talk to your health care provider.

Switching birth control methods (even to a different pill) can help.

It’s also possible that something besides your birth control is making you spot. Sometimes, spotting can be a sign of an infection or pelvic inflammatory disease. If your vaginal discharge is different than normal, it burns when you pee or after you have sex, or you have abdominal pain, talk to your health care provider.

Spotting can also be a sign of pregnancy. If there’s a chance you could be pregnant (you had unprotected penis-in-vagina sex before going on the pill, the condom broke or slipped off, or you missed a pill or two), grab a pregnancy test at a drug store or grocery store.

If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for confidential health care, including birth control, STI testing and treatment, and pregnancy testing—all at no cost to you.