Some women can set a clock by their menstrual cycles, while others have irregular, unpredictable menstruation. There is nothing unusual with having a cycle that doesn’t always occur like clockwork, but when you have abnormal or irregular bleeding, you certainly should see your doctor.
So what exactly is abnormal bleeding? It is when a woman experiences vaginal bleeding at a time when she should not be menstruating (such as between periods, when she is pregnant, when she is postmenopausal, or when she is too young to menstruate).
Abnormal bleeding might occur following intercourse and be accompanied by pain or discomfort. At other times, it can occur for seemingly no reason and with symptoms that you might not associate with the bleeding right away (such as fever or fatigue).
Whatever the case, abnormal bleeding should never be ignored: It could be your body’s way of indicating something is awry. You should make an appointment with your doctor and start keeping track of when you see the bleeding and whatever symptoms you might be experiencing. (And, if you are pregnant and experiencing abnormal bleeding, you should call your doctor right away. In rare cases, it could be a sign of a serious condition like ectopic pregnancy or placenta previa.)
Here are some of the most common causes for abnormal bleeding:
Sexually transmitted infections/diseases: Several STI/STDs can cause abnormal bleeding that occurs outside of a normal menstrual cycle. If you have an STI, you might also have other symptoms like unusual or foul-smelling discharge and burning during urination, as well as pain during intercourse. There is no way to know for sure if you have an STI other than by getting tested. The good news is that many STIs can be cured, but it’s important to catch them early before they do harm to your reproductive health.
Birth control pills: If you don’t take the pill at the same time each and every day, you can have abnormal spotting between your periods. Additionally, if you are just starting birth control pills or just switched to a new brand or dosage, some spotting might occur as a result.
Intrauterine device (IUD): The IUD can cause unusual or abnormal bleeding. Talk to your doctor to find out if you should be concerned or if the device should be removed.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This is a condition that causes an imbalance in a woman’s hormones. It can cause irregular bleeding, as well as changes in weight, hair, and skin. Talk to your doctor if you have these symptoms.
Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous tumors develop on the uterus and can cause irregular bleeding as well as other symptoms like cramping and a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): PID is a disease of the female reproductive organs and is generally caused by an untreated sexually transmitted infection. It can cause irregular bleeding, fever, and pain.
These are the most common causes of abnormal bleeding, but there are also other possibilities like cervical or uterine cancer. Talk to your doctor to find out what could be the cause for your abnormal bleeding.