Abnormal vaginal bleeding is any vaginal bleeding unrelated to normal menstruation. This type of bleeding may include spotting of small amounts of blood between periods — often seen on toilet tissue after wiping — or extremely heavy periods in which you soak a pad or tampon every one to two hours for two or more hours.
Normal vaginal bleeding, or menstruation, occurs every 21 to 35 days when the uterus sheds its lining, marking the start of a new reproductive cycle. A menstrual period may last for just a few days or up to a week. Your flow may be heavy or light and still considered normal. Menstrual cycles tend to be longer for teens and for women nearing menopause, and menstrual flow may also be heavier at those ages.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding can relate to an issue with your reproductive system (a gynecologic condition) or to other medical problems or certain medications. If you have reached menopause — defined as 12 consecutive months, give or take, without a menstrual period — subsequent vaginal bleeding may be a cause for concern and should be evaluated.
Possible causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding include:
If you're pregnant, contact your doctor immediately if you notice vaginal bleeding.
In general, anytime you experience unexpected vaginal bleeding, consult your doctor. Whether or not vaginal bleeding is normal depends on your age and the circumstances.
Contact your doctor in the following situations:
The following situations are likely normal, but talk to your doctor if you're concerned: