Abnormal bleeding affects 10-30% of all premenopausal women. Because it's such a common problem — and every woman's periods are different — many women aren't sure when they should seek medical care for their periods.
Your periods can temporarily change or stop for many reasons, ranging from profound stress and intense exercise to eating disorders and illnesses. However, abnormal bleeding is one of the top signs of gynecological problems.
As a specialist in abnormal bleeding, Karen F. Brodman, MD, treats the underlying cause and helps women restore normal periods. But before you can seek her help, you need to recognize the signs of abnormal uterine bleeding. In this blog post, she gives you guidelines to follow.
Typical menstrual cycles
Your monthly cycles may not be regular if your periods just started or you're within several years of menopause. Beyond those life stages, menstrual cycles typically fall into a pattern.
Menstrual cycles run from the first day of bleeding for one period to the first day of your next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, meaning there are 28 days between the first day of one menstrual period and the first day of the following one.
However, menstrual cycles are considered to be normal if they fall anywhere between 21 and 35 days. Additionally, most periods last up to 7 days, often with the heaviest bleeding in the first few days.
Abnormal menstrual bleeding
Some women identify abnormal menstrual bleeding when their typical period changes. But if your periods have always been heavy or seem to last forever, it's hard to know the difference between normal bleeding and abnormal menstrual periods.
You have abnormal menstrual bleeding when:
- Your bleeding lasts longer than 7 days
- Your periods were regular, and then changed
- You need to wear more than one pad (or a tampon plus a pad)
- Your bleeding soaks through one or more pads or tampons every hour
- You need to change your pad or tampon during the night
- You pass blood clots the size of a quarter or larger
Losing too much blood every month is one of the top causes of iron deficiency anemia. And abnormal menstrual periods often signal an underlying gynecological problem.
Abnormal uterine bleeding
Heavy menstrual bleeding is one sign of abnormal uterine bleeding, but it's not the only one. Abnormal uterine bleeding also includes the following symptoms:
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Bleeding or spotting after sex
- Bleeding after menopause
- Not having a period for 3-6 months
- Menstrual cycles shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days
If you have any problems with menstrual cycles or bleeding, you should schedule a pelvic exam. We identify the underlying cause and create a personalized treatment plan to restore your reproductive health.
Gynecological causes of abnormal bleeding
Several gynecological conditions frequently cause abnormal bleeding. The most common include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine polyps
- Copper intrauterine device (IUD)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Any condition that interferes with ovulation (releasing an egg every month) may lead to abnormal bleeding. Anovulation (not releasing an egg at all) often occurs due to PCOS. However, other conditions, such as hypothyroidism and being underweight or overweight, can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to anovulation.
If you have questions about your menstrual periods or need help with abnormal bleeding, call Karen F. Brodman, MD, PLLC, or book an appointment online.