Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding
What is Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding?
Abnormal menstrual bleeding also called abnormal or irregular periods, is when a woman experiences bleeding that differs from her normal menstrual cycle.
In general, menstrual bleeding:
- Occurs every 28 days
- Lasts about 5 days
- Involves the loss of 2 to 8 tablespoons of blood
All women are different and many variations in the timing, duration and amount of bleeding are considered normal.
However, in some cases, differences or changes in your menstrual bleeding are considered abnormal and may be a sign of another condition.
Examples of abnormal menstrual bleeding include:
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after sex
- Unusually heavy or unusually light flow during periods
- Periods that are longer or shorter than normal
- Menstrual cycles that occur less or more frequently than normal
- Bleeding after menopause
- Missing periods
What Causes Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding?
There are many possible causes of abnormal menstrual bleeding, including:
- Menstrual dysfunction
- Change in hormone levels
- Tumors, polyps or fibroids of the vagina, cervix, uterus or fallopian tubes
- Endometrial hyperplasia (thickening/buildup of the lining of the uterus
- Cervical disorders
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Vaginal injury
- Pregnancy complications
- Use of an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
- Certain medications
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Birth control pills
How is Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding Diagnosed?
Diagnosing the cause of abnormal menstrual bleeding starts with a thorough physical exam and medical history, including detailed information on your menstrual bleeding. Keep a record of when your period begins and ends, the amount of flow, other instances of bleeding, and any other symptoms.
Depending on the suspected cause, other testing may include:
- Blood work and urine test
- Endometrial biopsy – Involves taking a tiny sample of tissue from your uterus for testing.
- Laparoscopy – Looks for abnormalities of the reproductive organs using a tiny lighted instrument inserted through a small incision in the abdomen.
- Diagnostic hysteroscopy – An office procedure that uses a small, lighted telescope (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina and cervix to examine inside the uterus.
How is Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding Treated?
Treatment of abnormal menstrual bleeding will depend on the cause, patient's age and other factors. Treatments can range from lifestyle changes to medical options to surgery.
Treatment options include:
Medical treatment. Using birth control pills or hormones to control bleeding
Surgical treatment. To remove growths such as polyps or fibroids that can cause abnormal bleeding. Surgery can often be performed using hysteroscopy, a minimally invasive approach to examine and treat the inside of the uterus.
How is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Diagnosed?
Diagnosing the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding starts with a complete medical history, including detailed information on your normal menstrual cycle and the abnormal bleeding you are experiencing. Keep a record of the dates, duration, and amount of abnormal bleeding.
A physical exam, pelvic exam, and Pap smear should also be conducted.
Additional tests may include:
- Screening for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound - To take images of your pelvic organs.
- Endometrial biopsy - To obtain and analyze a tissue sample from the lining of your uterus.
- Sonohysterography - An ultrasound using sterile saline to expand the uterine cavity for easier imaging.
- Hysteroscopy - An office procedure using a small, lighted telescope (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina and cervix to see the inside of the uterus.
- Hysterosalpingography - An x-ray is taken after injecting dye into the uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Dilation and curettage (D&C) - To obtain tissue from the lining of the uterus for examination under a microscope.
- Laparoscopy - A thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end (laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision, allowing the surgeon to see inside the abdomen.
Make an Appointment
To schedule an appointment with a Baylor Medicine physician specializing in abnormal uterine bleeding, call the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at 832-826-7500.