Many women experience irregular periods, especially in the first few years of menstruation or during perimenopause. The length of your cycle and amount of bleeding can vary greatly from one month to the next. But when is irregular menstruation really abnormal uterine bleeding?
Defining Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
The length of your cycle and amount of bleeding can vary greatly from one month to the next. But when is irregular menstruation really abnormal uterine bleeding?
- Heavy Periods: One type of abnormal uterine bleeding is menorrhagia, or abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. The normal range of menstrual fluid is one to six tablespoons during the course of a single cycle. Abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding may leave you
consistently soaking through multiple tampons or sanitary pads every hour or passing blood clots for multiple days.
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles: While some variation in your menstrual cycle can be normal, certain types of irregular periods may be considered to be abnormal uterine bleeding. If your cycle length is longer than 38 days or shorter than 24 days, it is outside
of the normal range. Also, a cycle that varies seven to nine days in length is also abnormal. Tracking your periods can help you identify abnormal menstrual cycles and provide your OBGYN with valuable information.
- Breakthrough Bleeding: Any bleeding outside of your period is typically considered to be abnormal. This is often referred to as breakthrough bleeding and is characterized by bleeding or spotting between periods. This includes bleeding that occurs after sexual intercourse when not during menstruation. While some birth control can cause breakthrough bleeding, you should track all episodes of abnormal uterine bleeding and discuss them with your gynecologist.
Causes of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Abnormal uterine bleeding is generally a symptom of another gynecologic problem, which your OBGYN can diagnose. It may be caused by one of the following:
- Miscarriage: Many women may not even know they are pregnant at the time of miscarriage, which is defined by loss of pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation.
- Ectopic Pregnancy: When a fertilized egg attaches itself anywhere outside of the uterine cavity, for example the fallopian tubes, this is called an ectopic pregnancy. While rare, it is one cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Conditions affecting ovulation, such as PCOS, can interrupt egg maturation and release and result in abnormal menstrual cycles.
- Abnormal growths: Fibroids and polyps are non-cancerous growths on your uterus that can cause abnormal cycles and menorrhagia.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Prior to your appointment, you should track the dates, length and flow volume over several months. In addition to taking your menstrual cycle and health history, your gynecologist will perform a physical exam and other tests, such as a pregnancy test or ultrasound.
Depending on your diagnosis, your OBGYN may recommend medication or birth control to regulate your menstrual cycle. Good nutrition and exercise can naturally improved your symptoms, as well.
Call our office if you are experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding.