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Healthcare: Women's Health & Maternity

Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding

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Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding

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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.

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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
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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
  • Cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Vaginal injury
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Use of an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
  • Certain medications
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Birth control pills
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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
  • Ultrasound
  • 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.
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Hos 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.

Additional options when other forms of treatment have failed or aren't viable include endometrial ablation (to destroy the lining of the uterus) and hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus).

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Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

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What Is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding?

Abnormal uterine bleeding is bleeding that is different from a woman's normal menstrual cycle, unrelated to menstruation, or unusual for her age. It is one of the most common health issues for women.

Examples of abnormal uterine bleeding include:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Spotting anytime in the menstrual cycle
  • Bleeding heavier or for more days than normal
  • Bleeding after menopause
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What Causes Abnormal Uterine Bleeding?

Abnormal uterine bleeding can have many causes and can occur at any age. It may be a sign of a gynecologic condition or other medical problem. Possible causes include:

  • Pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Problems linked to birth control methods
  • Infection of the uterus or cervix
  • Fibroids or polyps
  • Problems with blood clotting
  • Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or vagina
  • Chronic medical conditions such as thyroid problems and diabetes
  • Endometrial hyperplasia
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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.
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Hos is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Treated?

Treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding depends on the cause, patient's age and other factors. Treatment options include:

  • Wait and watch approach
  • Medical treatment. Using hormones such as oral contraceptives, estrogen and progestins, and other medications.
  • Surgical treatment. To remove growths such as polyps or fibroids that can cause bleeding. Surgery can often be performed using hysteroscopy, a minimally invasive approach to examine and treat areas of concern inside the uterus.

Additional options when other forms of treatment have failed or aren't viable include endometrial ablation (to destroy the lining of the uterus) and hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus).

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Amenorrhea

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What is Amenorrhea?

Amenorrhea, also known as missed periods, is the absence of a normal monthly period or menstrual cycle.

There are two types of amenorrhea:

Primary amenorrhea. When a young woman has not had her first period by age 16.

Secondary amenorrhea. When a woman who was previously menstruating stops having periods for three months or more. This is the most common type of amenorrhea.

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What Causes Amenorrhea?

In addition to normal conditions such as pregnancy or menopause, amenorrhea can be caused by a number of changes in the organs, glands and hormones involved in menstruation.

For primary amenorrhea, possible causes include:

  • Failure of the ovaries
  • Problems in the nervous system or the pituitary gland
  • Poorly formed reproductive organs
  • Sudden or extreme weight gain or loss
  • Long-term illness
  • Extreme exercise
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For secondary amenorrhea, possible causes include:

A-O

  • Breastfeeding
  • Certain drugs
  • Depression
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Ongoing illness
  • Over-exercising
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P-Z

  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with hormone-making glands, including the thyroid (rare)
  • Some birth control methods
  • Stopping the use of birth control pills
  • Stress
  • Tumors on the ovaries (rare)
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How is Amenorrhea Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosis is to determine if you are not having periods because of a normal condition such as pregnancy or menopause. Your doctor will ask about your medical history, including changes in your menstrual cycle, diet, exercise, medications, and emotional stress.

Determining the underlying cause of amenorrhea may involve a series of tests, including:

  • Pregnancy test
  • Pelvic exam
  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Progestin challenge test (to check for lack of estrogen)
  • Imaging tests
  • Laparoscopy or hysteroscopy, to view internal organs
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Hos is Amenorrhea Treated?

Treatment for amenorrhea will depend on the cause and may include lifestyle changes and medical treatment, including:

  • Dieting and exercise to lose or gain weight
  • Stress management
  • A change in physical activity levels
  • Hormone therapy or other medications
  • Surgery, in rare cases
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How Can I Prevent Amenorrhea?

Secondary amenorrhea can be prevented in some cases through a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Preventative steps include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain a healthy balance in work, recreation and sleep
  • Get annual pelvic exams and Pap smears
  • Manage stress levels
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Texas Children's MyChart

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Easy, convenient access to your obstetrics and gynecology medical records. Learn more.