About Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

The menstrual period is the time during a woman's cycle when bleeding occurs. Bleeding may last up to seven days. When the menstrual cycle is not regular, bleeding lasts longer or is heavier than normal, or bleeding occurs between periods, it is known as abnormal uterine bleeding.

About The Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual period begins with the first day of the bleeding of one period and ends with the first day of the next period. An average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days.

Causes of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

It is normal for menstrual periods to be irregular at certain times of life. For the first few years after a girl begins to have periods (around age 9 to 16), they are often irregular. As women approach menopause (around the age of 50), their periods once again may become irregular. Menstrual cycles that are longer than every 35 days (bleeding too seldom) or shorter than every 21 days (bleeding too often) are not normal. Women with such cycles should be checked by a doctor.

Abnormal or heavy uterine bleeding may occur because of hormonal problems. The most common result of a hormone imbalance is anovulation — when the ovaries do not release an egg and a woman does not have a period. Anovulation may occur if the ovaries produce too much androgen — a male hormone. Often, when anovulation occurs, the ovaries develop many cysts. This condition is known as polycystic ovary syndrome.

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include:

  • Irregular uterine bleeding
  • Irregular periods from an early age
  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • Excessive facial hair or hair on the abdomen or chest

Other causes of abnormal uterine bleeding include medications, other hormonal conditions, fibroids, uterine polyps and other anatomic conditions, coagulopathy, and pregnancy.

Diagnosis for Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

To diagnose abnormal uterine bleeding, your doctor will obtain a history of your health. It is helpful for you to keep track of the dates and length of your periods by marking them on a calendar.

Your doctor also will do a physical exam. You may have blood tests to check your blood count and hormone levels and to see if you are pregnant. Other tests may be needed based on your symptoms.

Treatments for Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding will depend on the cause:

Hormone Therapy

Your doctor may prescribe hormones, such as birth control pills, progesterone or thyroid medication. These hormones will cause your periods to be more regular and may improve other symptoms. After a few menstrual cycles, your doctor should be able to judge how well treatment is working.

Other Medications

Some medications, such as antiinflammatory drugs (for instance, ibuprofen), may be helpful for heavy bleeding. They also may be used to relieve menstrual cramps. If you have an infection, you will be given antibiotics.

Mirena IUD - a progesterone IUD that can effectively improve menstrual bleeding.

Surgery

Some women with abnormal uterine bleeding will have surgery to remove growths (such as polyps or fibroids) that are causing the bleeding.

Endometrial ablation is another method for treating abnormal uterine bleeding.

Hysterectomy — removal of the uterus — also may be used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding.

Finally ...

If you notice that your cycles have become irregular, you should see your doctor. Abnormal uterine bleeding has a number of causes. There is no way of telling why your bleeding is abnormal until your doctor examines you. Once the cause is found, abnormal uterine bleeding often can be treated with success.

What our patients say:

I had a great experience at this clinic. Couldn't ask for more, I had really great supportive staff and nurses. I would come back next time for my prenatal. Thank you everyone! :)
Z.V. - Minnesota