The natural biology of a woman’s body is an amazing thing. Every month during the childbearing years, her body prepares for the opportunity to bring a new life into the world. Each month the lining of the uterus thickens as it prepares to receive a fertilized egg.
If conception doesn’t happen, the uterine lining is shed, which is known as menstruation or “getting your period.“ However, for the 1% of American women who suffer from abnormal uterine bleeding, the experience is not so simple.
Abnormal uterine bleeding explained
When it comes to menstrual cycles, what’s normal for one woman isn’t necessarily normal for another. This makes it especially important to track the duration, frequency, and heaviness of your periods, so you can easily recognize when bleeding is abnormal.
There are a number of kinds of abnormal vaginal bleeding. It may be bleeding that’s too heavy or that happens between your monthly periods. Bleeding for too long or too short of a time during your period counts, too. Spotting after sex or after menopause may also be considered abnormal bleeding.
Causes of abnormal uterine bleeding
Abnormal uterine bleeding can have a variety of causes, and our expert OB/GYN, Dr. Brandon Lingenfelter, outlines some of them here.
1. Thyroid or sex hormone imbalances
The body regulates hormones to keep them in a balance that promotes good health and normal menstrual periods. But sometimes hormonal imbalances can affect the menstrual cycle and lead to irregular types of bleeding. This is common in teenage girls and perimenopausal women and in women with thyroid disease.
2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
With polycystic ovary syndrome, a woman has higher levels of male hormones which can cause abnormal bleeding. An estimated one in 10 women of childbearing age suffers from PCOS. The condition puts women at a higher risk of developing other symptoms, such as ovarian cysts and abnormal hair growth on the body and face.
3. Issues with birth control or hormone replacement therapy
At times, there’s purposeful tinkering with hormone levels for the purpose of birth control or hormone replacement therapy for menopause treatment — and sometimes this can lead to abnormal vaginal bleeding. The good news is that there are numerous options to remedy this side effect.
4. Noncancerous fibroids and polyps
Abnormal bleeding may be caused by growths in the muscle of the uterus known as fibroids, or by polyps, which are growths found on the lining of the uterus and cervix. Fibroids are generally benign (noncancerous) growths while polyps sometimes develop into cancer.
5. Issues with pregnancy
Sadly, problems with a pregnancy, such as miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, can also lead to abnormal bleeding. In a vast majority of ectopic pregnancies – more than 90% – the fertilized egg attaches in a fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies can lead to life-threatening bleeding and require immediate medical care.
6. Cancer of the cervix, uterus, vagina, or ovaries
Sometimes abnormal uterine bleeding is a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition like cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society an estimated 90% of women with one type of cancer called endometrial cancer have abnormal vaginal bleeding.
If you’ve noticed changes in your periods or something seems off, make an appointment to see Dr. Lingenfelter right away so he can figure out what’s going on. Schedule your appointment by using the online booking tool here on the website, or call our office in Princeton, West Virginia.