Abnormal uterine bleeding is any vaginal bleeding or spotting that happens between menstrual periods. Typically, women of childbearing age who are not pregnant experience vaginal bleeding for a few days each month during menstruation as the uterus sheds its lining.
Any uterine bleeding that occurs independent of menstruation, or bleeding that is heavier or lasts longer than usual, is referred to as abnormal uterine bleeding (or dysfunctional uterine bleeding). It can sometimes be a sign of a serious medical condition.
Our expert gynecologists at Dignity Health offer personalized care for your unique women’s health needs. Find a Doctor near you to discuss symptoms like abnormal uterine bleeding.
The primary symptoms associated with abnormal uterine bleeding include:
- Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods
- Spotting or bleeding after sex
- Spotting or bleeding after menopause
- Menstrual periods that last longer than seven days
- Soaking a tampon or pad in one hour or less during your menstrual period
Other symptoms can be present that have nothing to do with bleeding. They include:
- Tender breasts
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic region
- Dizziness or fainting
- Low blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Pale skin
- The passage of large blood clots
- Bleeding heavily enough to soak a pad every one to two hours
Abnormal uterine bleeding is often a signal that something unusual is going on in your body. Causes include:
- Ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg implanted outside the uterus)
- Birth control, including IUDs and birth control pills
- Changing methods of birth control
- Hormone therapy during menopause
- Sexual intercourse
- Hormone swings in puberty and perimenopause
- Thyroid problems (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism)
- Adenomyosis (tissue that normally lines the uterus grows into the muscular wall of the uterus)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Uterine polyps or fibroids
- Infections that affect the reproductive system or are sexually transmitted
- Celiac disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Blood clotting disorders or medications
- Infection or inflammation of the cervix or lining of the uterus
- Cancer of the cervix, vagina, ovaries, or uterus
Most cases of abnormal uterine bleeding are not cancer. However, because abnormal bleeding may be a sign of cancer, especially in postmenopausal women, it is essential to see your care provider to determine what is causing the bleeding.
There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of abnormal uterine bleeding. These include:
- Age: The risk is higher in adolescents and women over the age of 45.
- Obesity: The risk is higher in women who are overweight or obese.
- Medication: Women who take blood thinners, anti-inflammatory medications, or cancer medications are at a higher risk.
- Birth control: Women who take birth control or use an IUD have an increased risk.
There are no concrete preventive measures you can take for abnormal uterine bleeding. You can mitigate the risk factors though, and here are some ways to do that:
- Change your method of birth control if it is the suspected cause of your abnormal uterine bleeding.
- If you are on a medication that may be causing the bleeding, talk with your doctor about changing it if possible.
- Eat a diet full of whole, fresh foods and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body and weight
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.