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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
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Many women experience abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods sometime in their lives. Vaginal bleeding is considered to be abnormal if it occurs:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding has many possible causes. By itself, it does not necessarily indicate a serious condition.
Other less common causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding that may be more serious include:
Heavy bleeding during the first few weeks after delivery (postpartum) or after an abortion may occur because the uterus has not contracted to the prepregnancy size or because fetal tissue remains in the uterus (retained products of conception).
If you are age 40 or older, abnormal vaginal bleeding may mean that you are entering perimenopause. In a woman who has not had a menstrual period for 12 months, vaginal bleeding is always abnormal and should be discussed with your doctor.
Treatment of abnormal vaginal bleeding depends on the cause of the bleeding.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Severe vaginal bleeding means that you are soaking 1 or 2 pads or tampons in 1 or 2 hours, unless that is normal for you. For most women, passing clots of blood from the vagina and soaking through their usual pads or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours is not normal and is considered severe. If you are pregnant: You may have a gush of blood or pass a clot, but if the bleeding stops, it is not considered severe.
Moderate bleeding means that you are soaking more than 1 pad or tampon in 3 hours.
Mild bleeding means that you are soaking less than 1 pad or tampon in more than 3 hours.
Minimal vaginal bleeding means "spotting" or a few drops of blood.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause changes in vaginal bleeding. A few examples are:
Pain in adults and older children
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
There is no home treatment for abnormal vaginal bleeding. With some types of vaginal bleeding, it may be okay to wait to see if the bleeding stops on its own. Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor. If the bleeding continues or gets worse, see your doctor to find out the reason for the bleeding.
If you are using tampons for abnormal vaginal bleeding, be sure to change them often, and do not leave one in place when the bleeding has stopped. A tampon left in the vagina may put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but life-threatening illness that develops suddenly after a bacterial infection rapidly affects several different organ systems.
If you are age 40 or older, you may be experiencing perimenopause. For more information, see the topic Menopause and Perimenopause.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
You may be able to prevent abnormal vaginal bleeding.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
October 19, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: October 19, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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