What is vaginal bleeding?
Vaginal bleeding is when you pass blood from your vagina (birth canal).
Is vaginal bleeding normal?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Vaginal bleeding is normal during your monthly period. Your period usually starts every 21 to 35 days (or up to 45 days in teenagers). Bleeding during a period usually lasts for 3 to 7 days. Girls usually get their first period when they are between 10 and 16 years old.
Newborn girls may have a little bit of vaginal bleeding for up to 2 weeks after being born—this is normal too. If the bleeding continues in newborns for more than 2 weeks, they should be seen by a doctor.
When is vaginal bleeding abnormal?
Bleeding is considered abnormal when you bleed:
Before you get your very first period
Between your periods
While you're pregnant
Bleeding during your period may also be considered abnormal if your period:
Lasts more than 7 days
Is very heavy (you use more than 1 or 2 tampons or pads in an hour)
Happens too frequently (starting fewer than 21 days apart)
Happens too infrequently (starting more than 90 days apart)
Is abnormal vaginal bleeding serious?
It can be serious if you have a lot of bleeding. It can also be serious even if there's not much bleeding but the cause is serious (for example, cancer).
If you have bleeding that goes on for a long time, your blood count will be low (anemia Overview of Anemia Anemia is not having enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all of your other organs. Hemoglobin is the substance inside your red blood cells that... read more ). Anemia makes you look pale and feel tired all the time. Your body will also be low on iron, because red blood cells have iron in them. If you have a lot of bleeding all at once, your blood pressure may become dangerously low (a condition called shock Shock Shock is a medical emergency caused by your organs not getting enough blood and oxygen. It has nothing to do with the "shock" we feel when something scares or upsets us. When your body can't... read more ) and you may pass out.
What causes abnormal vaginal bleeding?
Common causes of abnormal bleeding depend on how old you are.
Little girls may be hurt or have something stuck in their vagina, like toilet paper or a toy. Girls younger than 8 years old may be starting puberty too early. Sexual abuse can also be a cause of vaginal bleeding.
Girls just starting to have periods or women just ending their periods may have abnormal bleeding because of changes in their hormones. Some girls or women may have an inherited problem with blood clotting.
Young and middle-aged women may have:
Pregnancy problems (miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage is when your pregnancy ends before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding and cramping are common signs of miscarriage If you... read more , pregnancy in the wrong place [ ectopic pregnancy Ectopic Pregnancy An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg attaches in the wrong place, such as in the fallopian tubes An ectopic pregnancy does not result in a baby being born If not diagnosed and treated... read more ])
Fibroids Fibroids A fibroid is a tumor in a woman's uterus (womb). The uterus is the organ where babies grow before they are born. Fibroids aren't cancer, but they can be painful and cause bleeding and other... read more (tumors in the uterus that can be painful but don’t cause cancer)
Spotting due to birth control pills
In older women who no longer get periods, bleeding can be caused by hormone problems or cancer.
When should I see a doctor?
See a doctor right away if you have vaginal bleeding and any of these warning signs:
Fainting, weakness, dizziness, cold and sweaty skin, trouble breathing, or a heart beat that is weak or very fast
Bleeding during pregnancy
Bleeding too much during your period—using more than 1 pad or tampon in an hour for a few hours
Passing large blood clots or clumps of tissue
You should also see a doctor right away if you have signs of a bleeding disorder:
You bruise easily
You bleed a lot when you brush your teeth or get a small cut
You have tiny reddish-purple dots or larger splotches on your skin
See a doctor within a week if you don’t have any warning signs but have abnormal bleeding, including if you have vaginal bleeding before your menstrual periods start (before puberty) or after they stop (after menopause Menopause Menopause is when women stop having periods (stop menstruating) and can no longer get pregnant. Menopause usually happens after age 40. In the United States, the average age for menopause is... read more ).
A newborn girl who bleeds for more than 2 weeks should be seen by a doctor.
What will happen when I go to the doctor?
Doctors will ask questions about your vaginal bleeding, other symptoms, and your usual monthly period.
Doctors typically do a pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, your doctor looks inside your vagina and cervix (the lower part of your uterus). In order to see inside, your doctor will hold your vagina open with a small instrument called a speculum.
They may do a urine pregnancy test, blood tests, and maybe an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more (using sound waves to create moving pictures of the insides of your pelvic area).
How do doctors treat abnormal vaginal bleeding?
Doctors will treat the cause of your bleeding. For example, if you have a tumor or other growth, doctors may do surgery to remove it.
If the bleeding has caused you to have too little iron in your blood, you may need to take iron pills.
If you’ve lost too much blood all at once and are in shock Shock Shock is a medical emergency caused by your organs not getting enough blood and oxygen. It has nothing to do with the "shock" we feel when something scares or upsets us. When your body can't... read more , doctors will give you IV fluids or blood transfusions (fluid or blood that goes directly into your vein). This will help raise your blood pressure.