Irregular vaginal bleeding, known among doctors as menorrhagia, is an understandable cause for concern. Before alerting your doctor about abnormal bleeding, take note how far apart your menstrual cycles fall and how long they last. Note if there is any bleeding in between normal cycles. This is important to help your doctor diagnose the cause of intermittent or unusually heavy bleeding.
- Any bleeding outside of a regular menstrual cycle
- Abnormally heavy bleeding during menses noted by an increase in the number of tampons or pads used during a menstrual cycle
Who is at risk?
Women, ages 13 through 65, depending on the onset of menses and menopause. African American women tend to experience a greater share of dysfunctional uterine bleeding, as well as women approaching menopause. Adolescents in the first two years of menstruation commonly experience heavy bleeding. Women using IUDs might experience trauma (injury to the vaginal wall) that is inflicted by the device itself.
At home, make sure the bleeding is coming from the vagina and not from the rectum or urine. eMedicine suggests inserting a tampon to confirm the vagina as the source of bleeding. If bleeding is heavy, your physician may sometimes suggest bed rest. Avoid aspirin, as it thins the blood and prolongs the bleeding. The first line of medical treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding is often the prescription of hormones, such as birth control pills or progesterone, to lessen the bleeding. If this is ineffective, other causes for the bleeding will be investigated. In some cases, excessive bleeding caused by fibroid or other tumors will require surgical correction.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
Abnormal bleeding in a pregnant woman or a woman who could potentially be pregnant should be reported to a doctor immediately. Heavy bleeding or excessive clotting noted by an increase in the use of feminine products or frequent accidents should be reported to your regular OB/GYN, who might recommend hormone therapy and check your blood for anemia. Bleeding in excess of 1-2 soaked pads per hour must be evaluated immediately.
For more information on vaginal bleeding, see the following websites:
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