Abnormal menstrual or vaginal bleeding can be alarming, but the good news is, it’s not uncommon and the cause is often benign. But abnormal bleeding can be a sign of a more serious problem, so have it evaluated to determine the cause and find out how to treat it.
Although most women menstruate at some point during their lives, many aren't sure what bleeding is normal and what’s not. Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines that can help.
As a leading urogynecologist in South Miami, Florida, Rafael J. Perez, MD, FACOG, uses simple examinations, lab work, and other tests to get to the root cause of abnormal bleeding for our patients at the Center for Urogynecology and Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery.
In this post, you’ll learn what constitutes abnormal bleeding, along with some of its common causes.
Deciding if your bleeding is abnormal
Most women of childbearing years have a lot of experience with vaginal bleeding during their regular menstrual cycles. This bleeding occurs when the thickened uterine lining sloughs off, preparing the way for another menstrual cycle.
A typical period happens every 28 days or so, although the frequency can range from 24-38 days. Most periods last about 3-7 days on average.
Most bleeding that falls within those ranges is considered normal, although if your cycle tends to vary a lot from one month to the next, you should talk to Dr. Perez about it.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding is bleeding that falls outside the parameters listed above. That includes:
- Periods that last longer than seven days
- Periods that happen more than 38 days apart
- Periods that happen less than 24 days apart
- Bleeding between periods
- Bleeding or spotting after intercourse
- Bleeding during menopause
- Missing three or more periods consecutively
- Very light menstrual bleeding
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding
Some women with abnormal bleeding have other symptoms, like headaches, severe cramps, or nausea, while others have no other symptoms.
Causes of abnormal bleeding
Hormonal fluctuations are a common cause of abnormal bleeding. Birth control methods, underlying medical issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and menopause are all hormone-related causes of unusual vaginal bleeding.
In fact, many women experience extremely heavy bleeding in the months and years leading up to menopause, a time known as perimenopause.
This type of heavy bleeding is called menorrhagia, and in some cases, the bleeding can be so heavy that it can make it difficult to travel, run errands, and even get a good night’s sleep. Excess blood loss can eventually lead to anemia and other medical problems.
Other potential causes of abnormal bleeding include:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Uterine fibroids
- Benign tumors
- Uterine, cervical, or ovarian cancer
Dramatic weight loss and prolonged strenuous exercise can also alter your periods and cause abnormal changes.
Treating abnormal bleeding
Diagnosing the cause of your abnormal bleeding begins with a review of your symptoms and your medical history, along with a pelvic exam. Depending on your specific symptoms and other factors, Dr. Perez may recommend additional testing, lab work, or diagnostic imaging.
Once your evaluation is complete, Dr. Perez designs a treatment plan that could include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Change in birth control method
- Medications, including hormone therapy
- Minimally invasive procedures for endometriosis or other issues
- Endometrial ablation for menorrhagia and other causes
Your treatment plan is based on your unique needs and focused on relieving your symptoms and improving your overall health and wellness.
Don’t ignore abnormal bleeding
Abnormal bleeding should always be medically evaluated, even if it seems minor. To find out what’s causing your symptoms, call us at 305-240-6047 today to book an appointment with Dr. Perez and our team at the Center for Urogynecology and Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery.