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Counting five days from spotting

3 September, 2014

Question:

I'm wondering if I can be "lenient" in two directions. This is a bit complex:

As I've approached the age of 50 I've had changes in my period, though I still get it regularly. Most recently, I have a few days of "spotting" before my period. I have some brownish discharge, which I see on the colored toilet paper that I use, and I wear colored underwear, so that I don't consider myself "niddah" until I need a pad and am actually bleeding.

Now, my period is also getting shorter. For example, this month, I started bleeding on Monday morning and today, Wednesday, it is just about finished. I will probably be able to get a clean hefsek taharah on Thursday afternoon. However, because of having to wait five days, if I count my period as having begun on Monday, Thursday is too soon and I have to wait until Friday.

My question is:

Is it possible to count Sunday as my period, since I was spotting (brownish – not red), though I didn't consider myself a niddah then as I wore colored underwear, used colored toilet paper, it was intermittent and I didn't need a pad. I knew that it was a sign that my period is coming. This way, I could get to the mikveh next Thursday night, rather than Friday night? It would be much too stressful to go that Friday due to family commitments, so I would have to push it off til Saturday night.

If I can do this, does this mean that I always have to start counting my period when these early spotting experiences happen?

I hope this makes sense. Thanks in advance.


Answer:

Shortened bleeding as you describe is fairly typical at your age.

It is plausible to have regular non-niddah spotting before the flow begins and not to become niddah from it.  For more information about this, please see our site's articles "Toilet Paper" and "Ketamim."  

Please note that we advise women to abstain from relations for 24 hours when they have non-niddah spotting, as a precuation against having a flow begin during relations.  This is not a strict halachic requirement, however.

The five day minimum begins when a woman becomes niddah, or acts as though she is in niddah (including abstention from relations and all the harchakot) out of doubt. (For more information, please see our article "Beginning the Five Day Minimum".)  A woman who has short flows and is interested in beginning the five days early may sometimes choose to perform a bedikah in order to begin–and therefore end–niddah status earlier.  Even that might not work when the color is a non-niddah shade of brown. 

In short, being "lenient in two directions" doesn't work in cases like yours.  The five-day minimum isn't shortened; it is just begun either earlier or later, with very limited control over the timing.  

At this point in your cycle, your flexibility is limited.  Perhaps you could revisit the possibility of immersing on Friday night.  Otherwise, if your husband agrees, you can delay to Saturday night.

Please write back with any further questions.


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