New Moon greetings! This month, let’s clear up the idea of “unusual bleeding,” or bleeding that isn’t a true menstrual period.
We always consider days of “unusual bleeding” to be fertile, because bleeding that isn’t a true menstrual period can be associated with ovulation. But how do you know if a bleed is “unusual”? It’s up to you, really – trust your awareness of your own body, your own experience.
When you have bleeding or spotting that is not like your usual menstrual period, you know. It might be heavier, or lighter, or only spotting. It might be brownish, nearly black, or an unfamiliarly bright red. Sometimes it’s thicker and more sticky or pasty than menstrual flow.
Bleeding or spotting associated with ovulation often shows up in the form of a red, pink, or brown tinge or streak in your cervical mucus. Ovulatory spotting or bleeding can also happen just after cervical mucus has disappeared. This type of bleeding is associated with the rise and fall of estrogen when you’re ovulating, and it’s the main reason we consider days of unusual bleeding to be fertile.
Some women typically have spotting on the days just before or at the end of their menstrual periods. This wouldn’t be “unusual bleeding” if it’s normal for you (though if it does consistently happen, it’s worth looking into whether you might have some hormonal imbalances going on). It would be unusual bleeding, though, if your typical spotting has stopped, and then you have spotting again after a day or more without any.
“Unusual bleeding” might happen at any time in your cycle, pre- or post-ovulation. It might happen after intercourse or a gynecological procedure. Though sometimes it’s not associated with ovulation, it very often is. So, in the interest of not missing any fertile days, we consider all days of unusual bleeding to be fertile and do a Count of 3 more fertile days after the bleeding has ended.
If you are having unusual bleeding in many of your cycles, talk to your gynecologist to rule out any serious conditions. The 2015 edition of Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility has a helpful chart in Chapter 19 on the potential causes of unusual bleeding.