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Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

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Updated April 08, 2014

Most women experience abnormal uterine bleeding at least once during their reproductive years. The most common times that women experience heavy menstrual periods are during the first few years of menstruation during adolescence and during the final two to three years of menstruating before menopause.

How Do I Know When Menstrual Bleeding is Abnormal?

You may be experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding if you're change pads or tampons more often than every one or two hours, or having a period that lasts over seven days.

While it sounds unlikely, abnormal uterine bleeding is also used to describe amenorrhea or absence of menstruation.

Uterine bleeding is always abnormal when:

Some women are concerned, needlessly, by clots in their menstruation. In most instances, brown, black, or red menstrual blood clots are normal. These blood clots are part of the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus that is shed during menstruation.

What Causes Abnormal Uterine Bleeding?

Abnormal uterine bleeding, or heavy menstruation, which is called menorrhagia by the medical community, is usually the result of a hormonal imbalance in adolescents during the years following the onset of menstruation, or in women who are approaching menopause. Menstruation is often irregular or heavy during these times because, depending on hormonal levels, the ovaries may or may not release an egg. Another common cause of abnormal uterine bleeding is fibroid tumors. Other causes of excessive bleeding that your healthcare provider should consider include:

Women using intrauterine devices (IUDs) for birth control, may also experience excessive or prolonged periods. If you experience excessive uterine bleeding while using an IUD, the IUD should be removed and replaced with an alternative birth control method.

Usually detected soon after menstruation begins, platelet disorders are the most common blood disorder which causes excessive bleeding; the most common platelet disorder is von Willebrand's disease. Women with von Willebrand's disease commonly will experience not only heavy menstrual bleeding, but nosebleeds, easy bruising, and blood in the stool.

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