Irregular Bleeding: When should I be concerned?

Woman laying on a bed with her hands covering her face in a concerned way.

Lots of women experience irregular uterine bleeding. The term we generally use for it is “abnormal bleeding.” But this does not mean your experience with bleeding is not normal—actually, the opposite is true. Almost all women will experience abnormal bleeding at some point during their lives.

It is also normal to feel a little concern when you experience uterine bleeding at a time you are not expecting or in a way that is unusual for your body. So it is important to know what abnormal bleeding means and when to come in and talk to your provider about it.

What is abnormal bleeding?

For those who regularly menstruate, abnormal bleeding refers to bleeding that occurs at irregular intervals or in excessive amounts.

  • Irregular intervals include bleeding in between periods, after sex, or in menstrual cycles that are longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days. It is also considered abnormal to not bleed for more than a few months at a time if you are not pregnant.
  • Bleeding in an excessive amount would mean more than one tampon/pad every hour or for more than 7 days.

For those who have yet to get their first period or those who are postmenopausal, any bleeding is considered abnormal.

When should I talk to my provider?

You should always see your doctor if the bleeding is notably different from what you’ve experienced before and you are feeling concerned. But there are some times when bleeding is likely just your body experiencing some natural irregularity; after all, the body is not a machine. These times include:

  • When a young person is in the first few months or years after her first period, she may notice some spotting or bleeding in between periods
  • When using birth control (pills, ring, patch), you may see some spotting between periods in the first few months of use (but if this persists, check in with your doctor)
  • When implanted with an IUD that uses progestin, irregular bleeding is common at first and may continue later on as very light spotting
  • When approaching menopause—around your 50s—it is common to miss periods or for bleeding to become lighter or heavier
  • After rough sex, especially near the beginning or end of a period, some light bleeding may occur

That said, there are also times when you should absolutely get in touch with your doctor no matter what. Those times include:

  • If you are pregnant and there is enough blood that you need a liner or pad to keep it from soaking into your clothes
  • If you are postmenopausal and:
    • Not taking hormone therapy
    • Taking cyclic hormone therapy
    • Taking continuous hormone therapy
  • If you are a girl with no signs of puberty or under 8 years of age

Abnormal bleeding is very common because it is caused by a wide range of situations. Though in some cases the bleeding is not related to any underlying issues, you can always check in with your provider to make sure the uterus is looking healthy. They can run tests that will check for things like fibroids, cancers, thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, or clotting disorders.

To book an appointment with Brandon M. Lingenfelter, DO, PhD, Megan Lingenfelter PA, or one of our other providers, call us at 681 282 5591 or use our scheduling portal.

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