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Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding

written by: weborglodge • edited by: BStone • updated: 10/21/2010

Most women will experience abnormal menstrual bleeding at some point in their lives due to the multitude of issues that can cause changes in menstruation patterns. Some causes are benign and may correct themselves. Others may signal more serious health conditions which warrant a doctor's guidance.

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    Biological Causes

    stomach Several life events may trigger disruptions in normal menstrual flow. If you become pregnant, your periods will cease during the duration of your pregnancy. You may experience heavier than normal bleeding following delivery as your body adjusts to the changes occurring within your body.

    You may also experience a variety of abnormal menstrual symptoms as you enter perimenopause, explains Mayo Clinic. As with pregnancy, your body is coping with hormonal changes. Your periods may fluctuate between light and heavy, and you may even skip a month or two as your body enters menopause.

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    Other Triggers

    Other life experiences may affect your menstrual flow. If you lose weight rapidly, your body may respond by ceasing regular periods. Some oral contraceptives may affect your periods, causing a host of symptoms including spotting between periods. Infections and sexually transmitted diseases may also cause abnormal menstrual bleeding.

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    Complications

    hanges in your menstruation are a symptom, not a cause of themselves. The complications you may experience are determined by what is triggering the changes in your body. Heavy bleeding, for example, may cause iron deficiency anemia. You may also experience weakness and fatigue easily.

    Because menstruation is triggered by hormonal changes, abnormal menstrual bleeding may indicate changes in your hormone levels. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding may occur at the beginning or end of your reproductive life when hormone levels are in the greatest flux, explains Merck and Company.

    While you may not want to consider it, abnormal bleeding may indicate more serious conditions such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or cancer of the uterus. If your bleeding is abnormal, you should consult your doctor.

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    Diagnosing Issues

    Your diagnosis will begin with a detailed history of your menstrual patterns. Every woman is different. You may normally have shorter or longer periods. Your body may be more sensitive to the effects of birth control. Your doctor may also question you about other symptoms such as pelvic pain which may lead to a diagnosis.

    You should expect tests such as a Pap smear, pelvic ultrasound, or endometrial biopsy. Your doctor will order tests based upon your symptoms. Your doctor may also look for other causes by testing thyroid function.

    Your course of treatment will depend upon the cause and whether you wish to become pregnant. In cases of hormonal issues, your doctor may use hormones to stabilize your body. The preliminary testing will give your doctor a wealth of information to proceed with a treatment course.

    Many times abnormal bleeding will not indicate anything serious. Abnormal, after all, is subjective and dependent upon your body and its particular patterns. Awareness of what is normal for you is essential for alerting you to possible problems.

    Photo by Gail Rau

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Menorrhagia (Heavy Menstrual Bleeding) – www.mayoclinic.com

    Merck and Company: Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding – www.merck.com

    National Institutes of Health: Menstrual Periods - Heavy, Prolonged, or Irregular – www.nlm.nig.gov