Women's Health Data Verified

Withdrawal Bleeding

Published on Mar 31, 2022 and last reviewed on Apr 25, 2023   -  5 min read


Are you using any hormonal birth control? Here is what you have to know about hormonal contraception and withdrawal bleeding.


Every new menstrual cycle begins with a period, and this bleeding is triggered by certain hormones that cause the uterine lining to shed when implantation of a fertilized egg has not happened. And when the woman is on hormonal birth control, there can be spotting or light bleeding different from that of the regular menstrual period. This withdrawal bleeding happens when there is a change in the hormone levels.

What Is Withdrawal Bleeding?

Withdrawal bleeding refers to the bleeding that women experience while using hormonal birth control methods such as pills, patches, or vaginal rings. It may seem like menstrual bleeding, but it is not actually the same as a period. It is different from the menstrual period.

Usually, monthly courses of hormonal birth control are given for three weeks or for 21 days with a break for one week. During this break, the women can experience bleeding. This bleeding may resemble menstruation bleeding.

Women may also experience withdrawal bleeding when they discontinue or switch the methods of hormonal birth control. After they discontinue a certain contraceptive medication, it may take several months for the periods to regularize after discontinuation.

What Does Withdrawal Bleeding Look Like?

Withdrawal bleeding is not the same as a regular menstrual period. It is generally lighter and shorter. Some women experience menstruation-like symptoms while taking hormonal birth controls. Some of which include:

Are Clots Normal During the Withdrawal Bleeding?

Generally, clots are seen when the bleeding is heavier. In the case of withdrawal bleeding, if the person takes several birth control packs back-to-back with breaks, this can make the withdrawal bleeding to be heavier with more clots than usual.

Why Does Withdrawal Bleeding Happen?

In a normal menstrual cycle, when the woman is not using any hormonal birth controls, the fluctuating hormone levels cause thickening of the uterine lining, preparing the uterus for a possible pregnancy. And if the pregnancy does not occur, this uterine lining or the endometrium sheds along with the blood.

In women who are on hormone birth control, the hormone levels do not fluctuate throughout the 28-day period, and the uterine lining does not thicken and also does not shed. This is because the hormones in birth control prevent that from happening. And so, when the hormones are cut off during the break period, some blood mixed with mucus is shed out through the vagina.

Similarly, like a regular menstrual period, withdrawal bleeding is also caused due to drop in the hormone levels in the body. This drop in hormone levels triggers the release of some blood and mucus from the lining of the uterus out through the vagina.

How Long Does Withdrawal Bleeding Last?

The time period for withdrawal bleeding differs from person to person. And if the person is taking the medications as instructed, the bleeding should stop within a few days.

What Are the Birth Control Methods That Cause Withdrawal Bleeding?

There are a few birth control methods that have the potential to cause withdrawal bleeding. Here are a few:

  • Pills.

  • Vaginal rings.

  • Patches.

  • Injections.

Birth Control Pills:

The birth control pills come in different doses of hormones and as 21-day, 28-day, or 90-day packs with a break usually prescribed between these doses. These contraceptive pills cause withdrawal bleeding during the break week if taken as instructed.

Vaginal Rings:

Vaginal rings are also a 21-day estrogen and progestin vaginal ring. It is instructed to be worn for 21 days and causes withdrawal bleeding when removed.


Patches contain estrogen and progestin. These are to be applied on the chest, abdomen, buttocks, or upper arm every week for three weeks, and the fourth week is left free before the cycle starts. So during this break week, withdrawal bleeding occurs.


Injections that contain progestin are advised to be taken once every three months. These injections do not cause any withdrawal bleeding when taken as prescribed.

Birth Control methods causing withdrawal bleeding

Does Ovulation Occur Even With Contraceptive Methods?

No, ovulation does not occur if the contraceptive method is used consistently and correctly. During the normal cycle, when the contraceptive method is not used, the body’s reproductive hormones fluctuate and prepare the body to release eggs, whereas on taking the contraceptive pill, the hormones in the pills prevent the ovaries from preparing and releasing eggs. Hence ovulation does not occur.

What Kind of Bleeding Is Considered Normal While on Contraception?

  • Spotting for the first few months on taking birth control.

  • Withdrawal bleeding that is lighter and shorter than the actual menstrual bleeding.

  • Having little or no withdrawal bleeding during the placebo week after taking birth control correctly.

What Does It Typically Mean When There Is No Withdrawal Bleeding During the Placebo Pill Week?

If withdrawal bleeding does not occur, it does not mean anything, but it could also be a sign of pregnancy. So, in that case, if you are not planning for pregnancy and if you do not have withdrawal bleeding, it is wise to take a pregnancy test.

Is It Safe to Have Sex During the Withdrawal Bleeding?

It is safe to have sex during the withdrawal bleeding if you have taken the hormonal birth control method as advised. If in case, the person uses patches, rings, or 21-day pills pack properly, the person is protected from unplanned pregnancy even during the break week. If in the case the person has missed any doses, it is always better to use a backup birth control method during the break week.

When Can the Regular Periods Be Expected After Stopping the Birth Control Method?

After discontinuing the birth control method, women will have withdrawal bleeding for two to four weeks. After the withdrawal bleeding, the natural regular menstrual period should resume the following month. The period in the following month will be heavier and longer than usual. And it may take several months for the period to regularize and become a monthly occurrence after the discontinuation of the birth control.


Spotting or light bleeding is fairly normal when being on hormonal birth control. This bleeding should not last longer than a couple of days. Having prolonged withdrawal bleeding or heavy bleeding that starts to interfere with everyday life may require medical attention.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
25 Apr 2023  -  5 min read




Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

Related Questions & Answers

My girlfriend took an emergency contraceptive pill due to a broken condom incident, and since then, she has had withdrawal bleeding. Please help.

Query: Hello doctor, My partner and I had sex nine days ago. The condom slipped, but its opening was outside and I removed it carefully. But, just to be sure, she had Unwanted-72 immediately after. Today, she had period-like bleeding. Is it a side effect of Unwanted-72 or was it something else?  Read Full »

I did not have withdrawal bleeding even after eight days of taking Unwanted 72. Why?

Query: Hello doctor, I had sexual intercourse with my fiance on the fifth day of my periods, and we used a condom, but the condom tore. I took Unwanted 72 within three hours, after which I experienced no side effects of the pill. I did not have any withdrawal bleeding, and today is the eighth day after tak...  Read Full »

How long does it take for periods to come after withdrawal bleeding?

Query: Hello doctor, I and my friend involved in physical intimacy a few days back and there was no ejeculation and penetration was only for 2 minutes. After that considering precum she took Unwanted 72 within 3 hours. She had bleeding after six days. She has regular cycle of 28 to 30 days and her last pe...  Read Full »

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on Withdrawal Bleeding or ?

Ask a Doctor Online

* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.