A normal menstrual cycle is typically between 24 days and 38 days. A typical menstrual period lasts up to 8 days.
What is ‘abnormal’?
Bleeding in any of the following situations is considered abnormal uterine bleeding:
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- Heavy bleeding during your period (menorrhagia)
- Menstrual cycles that are longer than 38 days or shorter than 24 days
- Irregular periods in which cycle length varies by more than 7–9 days
- Bleeding after menopause
- Bleeding or spotting after sex
Abnormal bleeding can occur at any age. However, at certain times in a woman’s life it is common for periods to be somewhat irregular. Periods may not occur regularly when a girl first starts having them (around age 9–14 years). During perimenopause (beginning in the mid–40s), the number of days between periods may change. It also is normal to skip periods or for bleeding to get lighter or heavier during perimenopause.
Abnormal bleeding can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Problems with ovulation
- Fibroids and polyps
- Bleeding disorders
- Problems due to some birth control methods (intrauterine device (IUD) or birth control pills)
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Certain cancers
Menorrhagia is the term used to define menstrual periods when bleeding is overly heavy or extended for an atypical amount of time. Medically, menstrual periods are considered heavy if they prevent a woman from doing her daily activities.
- Hormonal imbalance of estrogen or progesterone
- Pregnancy complications
- Some medications
- Certain cancers
Bleeding is considered heavy when:
- Soaking through one or more sanitary product during an hour
- Bleeding for more than seven consecutive days
- Passing large blood clots during her menstruation
- Daily routine during is adversely impacted
Women experiencing any of these symptoms or heavy bleeding after going through menopause should schedule an appointment with a physician.
Your physician will make a diagnosis after process of elimination that includes a series of questions about medical history and previous menstrual periods. Your physician also may recommend a blood test, a pap test, an endometrial biopsy, a hysteroscopy or a gynecologic ultrasound.
Treating heavy periods typically involves medication. These include iron supplements to prevent anemia, oral contraceptives to regulate the menstrual cycle or progesterone, which is the hormone that can become unbalanced and cause heavy bleeding.
If you have problems with abnormal bleeding or heavy periods, call Longstreet Clinic Obstetrics & Gynecology at 770-297-2200 to schedule an appointment with an experienced provider.