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Vaginal Bleeding

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Quick Overview

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any bleeding that occurs outside of the expected time of menstruation.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding can include
    • excessive or heavy bleeding,
    • prolonged periods,
    • bleeding or spotting between periods,
    • menstrual periods that occur too frequently,
    • bleeding after sex,
    • bleeding after menopause, or
    • vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
  • Women who are not ovulating regularly may have abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • There are many causes of vaginal bleeding, and treatment depends upon the underlying cause.
  • It is important to visit a health-care professional for any abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • Women approaching menopause may have irregular periods or may miss periods. This can begin several years prior to actual menopause.

What is abnormal vaginal bleeding?

Unexpected bleeding is always a concern for a woman at any stage of life. Bleeding other than a normal menstrual period and even an abnormally heavy period can be a cause for alarm. The medical term for excessive or prolonged vaginal bleeding that occurs at the regular time of the menstrual cycle is known as menorrhagia. Metrorrhagia is the term used to refer to uterine bleeding at irregular intervals, particularly between the expected menstrual periods. Menometrorrhagia is the combination of the two, that is, excessive uterine bleeding, both at the usual time of menstrual periods and at other irregular intervals.

It is important to understand exactly what is causing the bleeding, its origin (uterus, vagina, or some other organ or tissue), and to make decisions about how to control or stop the bleeding.

  • A woman's normal menstrual cycle involves a complex series of hormonal events. An egg is released from the ovary; either the egg is fertilized by a sperm and implants in the uterus, or the lining of the uterus is shed each month as the menstrual period. This shedding causes normal menstrual bleeding.
  • A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days plus or minus 7 days.
  • A menstrual period generally lasts from 2-7 days and has a typical volume of blood and fluid loss of about 2 to 8 tablespoons. This corresponds to about eight or fewer soaked pads per day with usually no more than 2 days of heavy bleeding.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

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Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Home Treatment

There is no home treatment for abnormal vaginal bleeding. With some types of vaginal bleeding, it may be okay to wait to see if the bleeding stops on its own. Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor. If the bleeding continues or gets worse, a visit to a doctor is needed to determine the reason for the bleeding.

If you are using tampons for abnormal vaginal bleeding, be sure to change them often, and do not leave one in place when the bleeding has stopped. A tampon left in the vagina may put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but life-threatening illness that develops suddenly after a bacterial infection rapidly affects several different organ systems.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding »

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB) is irregular uterine bleeding that occurs in the absence of pathology or medical illness.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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