Any type of vaginal bleeding that occurs outside of your normal menstrual cycle can be considered abnormal. Although it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, it’s always a good idea to have abnormal uterine bleeding checked, as certain causes require prompt medical attention. Daniel Richards, MD, FACOG, and the team at Darin Swainston, MD, FACOG, in Las Vegas, Nevada, specializes in diagnosing and treating patients affected by abnormal uterine bleeding. To find out more, call or book your appointment online today.
A regular menstrual cycle lasts anywhere between 21-40 days from start to finish. Sometime during that cycle, the uterus sheds its lining and causes a normal “period” of bleeding. Normal uterine bleeding generally lasts no longer than one week; menstrual flow can be light or heavy and still be considered normal.
Uterine bleeding is considered abnormal when it occurs outside of your regular period or if your regular period doesn’t fit the normal definition. This includes:
Having a menstrual cycle that’s longer than 40 days or shorter than 21 days also qualifies as abnormal uterine bleeding.
Abnormal uterine bleeding may occur at any time in a woman’s life and can be the result of a wide range of underlying factors or problems, including:
Abnormal bleeding can be the result of a thyroid condition, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or stopping hormonal birth control medications or post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy.
Endometrial, uterine, and cervical polyps can cause spotting or heavy bleeding, as can uterine fibroids.
Abnormal bleeding is sometimes a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, or it may occur during early pregnancy when your hormone levels are shifting. Any uterine bleeding during pregnancy is a reason to see your obstetrician.
Gonorrhea, chlamydia, vaginitis, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), among others, may result in abnormal bleeding.
Cancer and precancerous conditions: Abnormal bleeding can be a symptom of cervical, uterine, ovarian, or vaginal cancer; it may also be a sign of a precancerous condition like endometrial hyperplasia.
Because proper treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis, Dr. Richards begins by taking your medical history, performing a comprehensive physical exam, and conducting any necessary lab and imaging tests.
In some cases, hormonal birth control can help regulate an abnormal menstrual cycle and eliminate bleeding between periods. In other cases, medications designed to control heavy bleeding or a diagnosed bleeding disorder may be beneficial. Problems that don’t respond to medication, such as large uterine fibroids, may require surgery.
There are certain times in a woman’s reproductive life when abnormal uterine bleeding may be expected, although it tends to resolve itself fairly quickly.
Short-term abnormal uterine bleeding is more common when a period first begins in adolescence; it’s also more common as women approach menopause and their bodies begin the transition into menopause.
For expert care and advice on abnormal uterine bleeding, call Dr. Richards and the team at Darin Swainston, MD, FACOG, today or book an appointment online.