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Why am I spotting between periods? Plus 9 other female health questions answered

Blog post | 04 May 2023

Not sure how to handle the symptoms of endometriosis or bleeding between your periods? Chief Medical Officer Dr Nirvana Luckraj answers these questions and others you may have right now.

Should I be worried about pain under my left boob?

Pain under the breast can have many possible causes. This can include pain linked to structures around the breast, such as pain from muscle strain or cardiac causes.

Breast tenderness can be due to hormonal changes, benign cysts or infections. Although breast pain isn't a common symptom of breast cancer, it can be a possible sign. If you have persistent breast pain, it's important to see your GP to help determine the cause.

What are some of the symptoms of endometriosis?

A common symptom of endometriosis is painful periods, with menstrual cramps usually starting a few days before your period and lasting several days. Other symptoms include chronic pain in the pelvic area, painful intercourse, heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding and difficulty falling pregnant.

Symptoms can vary from person to person. The severity of symptoms doesn't indicate how serious the disease is, but the location of the endometriosis.

If you're experiencing any endometriosis symptoms, especially if they're interfering with your daily activities, you should see your GP. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to manage the symptoms.

Smegma around the vulva — is it normal?

Smegma is a natural secretion of the glands around the genitals. A build-up of smegma is due to poor personal hygiene practices and not washing your genitals. It's important to practise good hygiene.

Clean the vulva regularly with warm water and mild soap to prevent smegma from building up. If the build-up doesn't clear up or it worsens, see your GP to ensure it's not a sign of an infection or any other condition.

Is it normal to pee a little when I laugh?

Leaking small amounts of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump is called stress urinary incontinence. It occurs when the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urethra weaken, causing urine to leak out during sudden movements that increase pressure on the bladder.

It's more common in females who have given birth or experienced hormonal changes due to menopause. It can also happen in people who have diabetes, a chronic cough (due to asthma, smoking or bronchitis), constipation or obesity.

You can manage stress urinary incontinence through lifestyle changes such as pelvic floor muscle exercises, weight management and bladder training. In some cases, medical treatments such as medications or surgery may be necessary.

I want to try to have a baby soon. What's the best way to stop birth control?

If you wish to conceive and are using some form of contraception, it's important to talk to your GP about your situation and medical history. Your GP may recommend extra steps or precautions to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

It may take a few months for your menstrual cycle to return to its natural rhythm after stopping hormonal birth control.

I have spotting 4 days after my period has ended. Is this OK?

Causes of bleeding or spotting between periods may include hormonal changes, use of hormonal contraception or contraceptive devices, ovulation or inflammation of the cervix.

If you experience any other symptoms, such as pain, heavy bleeding or unusual discharge, it may be a good idea to see your doctor to rule out potential issues. If you have recently begun using a new form of birth control, spotting may be a common side effect in the first few months.

What are the major side effects of the morning after pill?

Some of the possible side effects of the ‘morning after' pill include nausea, vomiting, sore breasts, headache, dizziness and abdominal pain.

Taking a morning after pill might mess up the timing of your periods. Your next period might be early, on time or late. If you have taken the morning after pill, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about longer-term contraception.

How do I choose a method of birth control?

Your choice of contraception may be one you make on your own or with your partner. There are many forms of contraception including the combined oral contraceptive pill, progestogen-only pill, vaginal ring, contraceptive injection, contraceptive implant, intrauterine device, diaphragm and condom.

When making your contraceptive choice, consider how easy it is to use and reverse, its effectiveness, whether it protects against sexually transmitted infections and the cost. Some options aren't suitable for everyone, for example, some types of hormonal contraception aren't recommended for people with a history of blood clots, migraines or high blood pressure.

Your doctor can give you more information and suggestions about which contraception may be right for you.

My breasts are different in size. Is this normal?

It's common for women to have asymmetrical breasts, meaning that one breast is a different size or shape than the other.

There are several factors that can contribute to breast asymmetry, including genetics, hormonal changes, weight fluctuations and pregnancy.

It's important to remember that breast asymmetry is typically not a cause for concern. It doesn't usually indicate a serious medical problem. But if you're experiencing pain, tenderness or any other unusual symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.

Is bacterial vaginosis a type of sexually transmitted infection?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) isn't technically considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because it's caused by an imbalance of the bacteria normally found in the vagina. BV can be triggered by several factors, including douching, sexual activity and being a smoker.

Having BV may increase your risk of contracting certain STIs. BV doesn't necessarily have to be treated if there are no symptoms. If you have symptoms, especially if you're pregnant, it's important you get treatment to avoid complications.

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