Chicago OBGYN explains potential causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding
Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be related to issues with the reproductive system, medical issues, or medications. If you experience abnormal bleeding, you want a team you can trust. With offices in Chicago and Glenview, the OBGYN team at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates offers feminine health care to patients from Chicago to Northwest Indiana and the surrounding areas. During your appointment, our Chicago OBGYN team explains causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding and helps you find a solution for your case.
Normal menstruation occurs every 21 to 35 days. This happens when the uterus lining sheds to start a new reproductive cycle. A normal period may last for a few days or for up to a week. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is defined as any bleeding that is not related to normal menstruation. This may include spotting between periods or even extremely heavy bleeding during periods in which a pad or tampon is soaked in one to two hours. Vaginal bleeding for a woman who has reached menopause is abnormal and should be cause for concern as well.
Possible causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding
If you are experiencing abnormal bleeding, consult your Northwestern OBGYN to discuss potential causes and to determine a treatment plan. Several factors may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. These may include:
- Cancer or precancerous conditions – This includes cervical, endometrial, ovarian, or vaginal cancer. Endometrial hyperplasia may cause abnormal bleeding as well.
- Endocrine system factors – Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, or starting or stopping birth control medication can impact vaginal bleeding.
- Fertility or reproductive factors – Changes in your reproductive system such as pregnancy, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, perimenopause, or vaginal atrophy are causes of abnormal bleeding.
- Infections – Some STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervicitis may cause bleeding.
- Medications – Side effects of birth control, hormone therapy, or intrauterine devices include spotting between periods or abnormal bleeding as your body adjusts to the hormonal change.
- Noncancerous growths – Cervical or uterine polyps or uterine fibroids can cause bleeding.
- Trauma or sexual abuse can lead to damage or bleeding.
For patients who experience unexpected bleeding, it is important to consult with your doctor to determine the cause. For some patients, vaginal bleeding may be normal based on age or circumstances. During your appointment, your physician will discuss your medical history and current circumstances to determine the testing necessary to assess your situation.
Certain circumstances may help you determine how quickly to contact your physician.
- Patients who are pregnant should contact their Chicago OBGYN immediately if they notice vaginal bleeding.
- Postmenopausal women who do not take hormone therapy and experience vaginal bleeding should contact a doctor.
- Postmenopausal women who do use cyclic hormone therapy may experience vaginal bleeding that resembles a period. This is known as withdrawal bleeding. Patients who experience more bleeding than the anticipated withdrawal bleeding should consult a physician.
- Postmenopausal women who take continuous hormone therapy may experience light bleeding for the first six months. Bleeding that lasts longer than six months or that is heavy may be abnormal.
- Young girls who have not yet shown signs of puberty but are experiencing any vaginal bleeding should see a doctor.
Diagnosing abnormal bleeding
When you consult with your Northwestern OBGYN, your physician will review your medical history, age, current symptoms, and health. This helps determine the necessary tests to diagnose the exact cause of your symptoms. It is crucial to properly diagnose the cause of your abnormal bleeding to ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment. Diagnostic tools may include:
- Blood work to check for pregnancy. This also ensures your blood count is not too low if you have been bleeding heavily.
- An ultrasound may show problems with the ovaries and uterus.
- An endometrial biopsy removes a tiny piece of the uterine lining for laboratory testing.
- Sonohystogram is an ultrasound, which fluid is inserted into the uterus
- A hysteroscopy is performed by inserting a thin, lighted tube through the vagina to examine the cervix and uterus
Once your condition has been diagnosed, your OBGYN team can work with you to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Let your Northwestern GYN know if you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. Contact our Chicago office today for an appointment with our experienced team. Call 312-440-9400.