If you‘ve ever shared the details of your period with a close friend or two, you’ve probably noticed that they may be quite different in each of us.
There is a wide range rather than a single pattern in what is "normal" for periods: they can take from 3 to 10 days, and happen every 3 to 6 weeks. In each of us individually, period fluctuations can be the effect of age, stress, diet, exercise, and other medical conditions.
However, in some women, bleeding from the vaginal area can happen when not caused by the menstrual cycle. Any bleeding from a woman’s private parts that is not part of a regular period is called abnormal (or dysfunctional) vaginal (or uterine) bleeding. Most of us are aware of what is normal for us, so any signs of blood on underwear or bedding, as well as on toilet paper after peeing, can cause alarm for many.
Gynecologists have noticed many women experience abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods sometime in their lives. They say such bleeding is one of the most commonly encountered problems in caring for their patients.
When is Bleeding Considered Abnormal?
Vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal if it occurs:
- When you’re not expecting your menstrual period.
- When your menstrual flow is lighter or heavier than what is normal for you.
- At a time in life when it is not expected: e.g., before age of 9, when you are pregnant, or after menopause.
Frequently, the likely cause of abnormal uterine bleeding depends on your age and hormonal imbalance caused by maturity-caused body transformations. Such bleeding is more common in teenagers and women who are about to have menopause: it often accompanies their menopausal transition.
In others, the causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding may be related to irregular ovulation, issues with reproductive system, early pregnancy and complications of pregnancy, problems with a contraceptive coil or IUD, vaginal trauma or injury, certain medications (such as aspirin when used as a painkiller), haemophilia and other inherited bleeding disorders, other medical conditions, or excessive psychological stress.
Sometimes, women who are ovulating normally can also go through light bleeding between their periods. This is called intermenstrual bleeding or „spotting“. It may be resulted by hormonal birth control methods (oral contraceptive pills or patches), as well as IUD use for contraception. Psychological stress, medications such as anticoagulant drugs, and hormonal levels fluctuations may all be causes of such spotting.
Tell Your Doctor Immediately
If you have abnormal vaginal bleeding, inform your doctor right away. You never know the cause of the bleeding, which might be serious. Especially if you’re pregnant and have abnormal uterine bleeding, see your doctor as soon as possible. Any grave symptoms in addition to bleeding – such as pain, fatigue, dizziness, or fever – may also be signs you need emergency medical attention.
Any woman who experiences abnormal vaginal bleeding will help her doctor enormously by giving every possible detail about her menstrual history. That’s why we will always emphasize the need of keeping a record of your cycle. Note down the dates when your periods start and end, the duration and heaviness of your flow, any other symptoms that you’re feeling, and any medications you’re taking.
At a visit to your doctor concerning abnormal vaginal bleeding, be ready to answer questions about your symptoms. Your doctor may want to examine your medical history and general health, give you a blood test for anemia, thyroid function blood tests, a physical exam, including a pelvic exam, or an ultrasound of the abdomen. These and other diagnostic tests can help your doctor find the cause of the bleeding and give you treatment, which will vary depending on what exactly is causing your abnormal vaginal bleeding.