Why am I Spotting? Irregular Periods Explained

By: Women's Care Staff

Let’s be frank… Most women do not like having their period. Period. A report put out by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals states that 77 percent of women view it as “something they simply have to put up with.” Cramps, moodiness, bloating – who wants to think about that? Well, there’s a good reason you should. Irregular periods have many different causes that can range from simple reasons to more complex issues.

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Explained

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or irregular periods is what HealthTap defines as bleeding that occurs:

  • When you are not expecting your menstrual period.
  • When your menstrual flow is lighter or heavier than what is normal for you.
  • At a time in life when it is not expected, such as before age 9, when you are pregnant, or after menopause.

To better understand the difference between abnormal vaginal bleeding and your menstrual period, it’s important to know what’s considered “normal.” Keep in mind, menstruation is not the same for every woman. A process regulated by the hormones of your pituitary gland, the when and how long of your irregular periods is as unique as your height and weight — but it will most likely fall within certain averages.

Normal Periods vs Irregular Periods

The length of a menstrual cycle is the time between the first day of one period to the first day of the next. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but that number can vary widely (21 – 45 days). The average menstrual period lasts 3 to 5 days. On average, girls in the United States get their period at age 12, but it can start anywhere between the ages of 8 and 15. The average age for a woman to stop menstruating at menopause is 50 but occurs anytime between the ages of 45 and 55.

Women lose, on average, 3 tablespoons of blood during a menstrual cycle. By understanding and keeping accurate track of your menstruation cycle, you’ll be better able to identify abnormal vaginal bleeding. A number of period tracker apps have come on the market in the past few years to aid women in monitoring their cycle and health. Whether you chose to use one of these products or prefer to use another method, we recommend you maintain a watchful eye and be sure to contact your Women’s Care physician about any bleeding that seems out of the ordinary.

Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Bear in mind, there are a number of causes for abnormal vaginal bleeding, each with varying levels of concern. The Mayo Clinic identifies these causes in the following groups:

  • Cancerous and precancerous conditions, such as cervical or ovarian cancer
  • Endocrine system factors, including the withdrawal bleeding caused by the stopping or changing of birth control pills
  • Fertility and reproduction factors; it’s not uncommon for women to bleed during the first few days of pregnancy
  • Infection, including naturally occurring and sexually transmitted infections
  • Medical conditions such as Celiac disease and blood clotting disorders
  • Medications and devices, including IUDs, birth control pills and forgotten tampons
  • Noncancerous growths and uterine conditions; uterine fibroids are common in women during childbearing years
  • Trauma occurring from injury to the vagina

There are a number of ways your Women’s Care physician can diagnose abnormal bleeding. Blood tests, Pap smears, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are useful tools in assessing both cause and treatment. But it all begins with awareness.

Keep track of your menstrual cycles and keep in touch with your OB/GYN! You can find a physician here. Women’s Care’s experts have helped thousands of women prepare for their deliveries.

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