Vaginal bleeding normally occurs during a woman's menstrual cycle, when she gets her period. Every woman's period is different. On average, a woman's period occurs every 28 days. Most women have cycles between 24 and 34 days apart. It usually lasts 4 - 7 days.
Young girls may get their periods anywhere from 21 to 45 days or more apart. Women in their 40s will often notice their period occurring less often.
Some conditions can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. This article discusses heavy, prolonged, or irregular periods.
For vaginal bleeding due to changes in hormone levels, see: Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB)
A change in hormone levels is a common cause of abnormal menstrual bleeding. For information on this cause, see: dysfunctional uterine bleeding
Other causes of heavy, prolonged, or irregular menstrual bleeding include:
Symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding include:
Bleeding from the rectum or there is blood in your urine may be mistaken for vaginal bleeding. To know for certain, insert a tampon into the vagina and check for bleeding.
Keep a record of your symptoms and bring these notes to your doctor. Your record should include:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam. Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment depends on the cause and may include pain medication, hormonal medications, and possibly surgery. For treatment information, see:
Call your doctor if:
Aspirin may prolong bleeding and should be avoided if you have bleeding problems. Ibuprofen is usually works better than aspirin for relieving menstrual cramps. It also may reduce the amount of blood you lose during a period.
Irregular menstruation; Heavy, prolonged, or irregular periods; Menorrhagia; Polymenorrhea; Metrorrhagia and other menstrual conditions; Abnormal menstrual periods; Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Casablanca Y. Management of dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2008 Jun;35(2):219-34.
Lobo RA. Abnormal uterine bleeding: Ovulatory and anovulatory dysfunctional uterine bleeding, management of acute and chronic excessive bleeding. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2007:chap 37.
[No authors listed] ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 110: noncontraceptive uses of hormonal contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jan;115(1):206-18.
Marjoribanks J, Proctor M, Farquhar C, Derks RS. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD001751.
Damlo S. ACOG guidelines on endometrial ablation. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Feb 15;77(4):545-549.
Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.