Against the Flow: Dealing with Abnormal Bleeding
Women deal with bleeding for most of their lives. From the time menarche begins, monitoring your bleeding and caring for your body as it loses blood is a monthly task. Some women may bleed during pregnancy, too. If you have bled during pregnancy before, have heavy periods, or are otherwise used to bleeding, determining what is and isn’t normal can be difficult. However, knowing what’s normal can help your doctor help you.
During a normal menstrual period, you will lose between 4 and 12 teaspoons of blood. Menstrual cycles generally last 28 days but can vary widely, especially if you’re a young adult (between 17-25). Many women have one thick, heavy day, and if your period is naturally heavy you may see more clots. If your blood is expelled too quickly, it may not clot well. If you have consistently heavy periods – if you’re filling a pad or tampon every hour – see a doctor right away.
If you are pregnant, you may bleed, especially during the first trimester. Do not panic. Blood is not always a sign of miscarriage. If the flow is slight or light brown in color, you might be spotting, which is quite common. Many women bleed about two weeks after conception due to implantation. Bleeding in the second or third trimester can be normal too, but your OB-GYN should examine you to be sure. If you begin bleeding near pregnancy’s end, it might be a signal your labor is starting, especially if there is mucous in the blood.
Bleeding that is painful, unusually heavy, or causes you to feel weak, dizzy, or ill is never normal and should be treated professionally.
Causes of abnormal menstrual bleeding:
- Your cycle is irregular. If you consistently have heavy weeks of bleeding, or if you skip cycles and then have heavy ones, your doctor may place you on birth control or other treatment.
- Your hormones aren’t balanced. Your doctor can prescribe supplements and pills to help.
- Polyps or fibroids. These are benign growths on the uterus that can throw your hormones off-balance.
- Pregnancy complications. Heavy periods during a pregnancy can signal ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. See the doctor right away.
Causes of abnormal pregnancy bleeding:
- Sex. This is one reason your doctor may tell you to avoid intercourse at first, especially if your pregnancy is already risky.
- Internal exams. Sometimes your monthly exam will result in light bleeding; don’t panic.
- Chemical, subchronic, or eptopic pregnancies. Your egg may be outside the uterus, may not have been fully fertilized, or may otherwise be in trouble. See your OB-GYN to determine treatment.
- Miscarriage. If you are bleeding in the first 20 weeks, or if the blood accompanies cramping or pain, you may have lost the baby. Seek emergency treatment.
If you have any concerns about bleeding, be sure to talk with your physician at your next appointment.