Experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding? Call your gynae, now
Menstrual bleeding, commonly referred to as a woman’s monthly period, is a healthy and natural part and function of the female reproductive system. During the span of a woman’s childbearing years, the body undergoes a cycle to prepare the womb for pregnancy. The endometrium (lining of the womb) thickens in the process, and breaks down when it is no longer needed. A woman menstruates as this excess build-up is shed and discharged, along with some blood, through the vagina.
What is abnormal?
Menstruation is an experience unique to every woman. This means that understanding your individual routine is key to knowing what to expect. In general, menstrual periods can be characterised by its frequency (how often), duration (how long), and volume (how much). Abnormal vaginal bleeding may be regarded as any form of vaginal bleeding outside of a woman’s usual menstrual patterns, such as –
- Prolonged, excessive or heavy bleeding during period (menorrhagia)
- Irregular bleeding, including spotting or bleeding between periods (metrorrhagia)
As a woman reaches menopause, the female ovaries begin to slowdown in hormone production. This may lead to gradually shorter periods, and women who have not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months are presumed to have completed menopause. Any vaginal bleeding after menopause is considered abnormal and warrants an appointment with your gynaecologist.
Symptoms and causes
Abnormal vaginal bleeding can occur due to a number of different reasons and symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. Causal factors range from improper diet and use of certain prescription drugs, to physical trauma and psychological stress.
Menstrual irregularities often relate to hormonal imbalances or benign growths in the reproductive organs. Medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can cause cysts to develop in the ovaries and disrupt the normal activity of female hormones regulating the menstrual cycle. This may result in infrequent or absent periods, and could make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant.
Irregular bleeding or a heavier than normal menstrual flow could be a sign of cervical polyps or uterine fibroids (tumours in the cervix or the womb). Occasionally, these tumours may present as cancerous. It is vital to seek medical attention as soon as possible as early detection will ensure timely treatment and improve your chances of recovery.
Cervical Cancer FAQ by Singapore Cancer Society, Dr Wong Wai Loong [Q&A about Cervical Cancer]
Treatment for abnormal vaginal bleeding is case-specific and your doctor will be able to perform a thorough medical evaluation to find the root cause of the problem and provide a precise cure.
This article has been fact-checked by Dr Timothy Lim, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at Timothy Lim Clinic for Women & Cancer Surgery, Mount Alvernia Hospital.