Menstrual Bleeding: The 9 Most Common Causes

Vaginal bleeding is a normal part of life for people with a uterus. This natural phenomenon occurs when the uterine lining thickens and breaks down in the absence of fertilization. The duration and intensity of menstrual bleeding can vary greatly from person to person, ranging from a few days to a week and from a light spot to a heavy flow. Let's explore together the different causes of vaginal bleeding and the factors that can influence them.

Common causes of vaginal bleeding

Illustration of a uterus and vagina with bleeding

1. Rules

Menstrual bleeding is caused by the breakdown of the uterine lining in the absence of fertilization. Periods are therefore the most common cause of menstrual bleeding, and can last from a few days to a week.

2. Ovulation

Ovulation can also cause light bleeding or spots in some women. This blood loss is due to a drop in estrogen and usually occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle.

3. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from implantation bleeding benign to more serious complications such as miscarriage. Implantation bleeding occurs when the embryo implants in the uterine wall and can be confused with light periods. However, it is important to contact your doctor in the event of bleeding during pregnancy, even if it seems light, to avoid any risk of complications.

4. Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. Vaginal bleeding is a common symptom, but it is important to contact your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and receive appropriate care.

5. Childbirth

After giving birth, women have vaginal bleeding for several weeks, called lochia. This bleeding is caused by the healing of the uterus and the loss of uterine lining built up during pregnancy.

6. Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can affect periods and cause irregular bleeding. Women who are breastfeeding may have shorter or longer menstrual cycles than usual.

7. Birth control

Birth control methods such as the birth control pill and IUD can also cause irregular bleeding.
  • The bleeding caused by birth control pills are generally lighter and shorter than normal periods.
  • The bleeding caused by the IUD may be more abundant and longer.

8. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, which can cause pain and bleeding. Heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding is a common symptom of endometriosis.

9. Endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the uterus. Vaginal bleeding after menopause or unusual vaginal bleeding between periods may be a sign of endometrial cancer.

Other possible causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding

Other factors can cause vaginal bleeding in addition to the causes previously mentioned:
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Some STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex, or even during pregnancy.
  • Uterine fibroids: These are benign tumors developing in the uterus, which can cause heavy or prolonged periods, spotting outside the rules and pelvic pain.
  • Cervical polyps: These benign growths on the cervix can sometimes cause irregular bleeding, especially after sex or douching.
  • Vaginal atrophy: Common after menopause due to decreased estrogen levels, this condition can lead to vaginal irritation, dryness and occasional bleeding after sex.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Conditions like syndrome polycystic ovaries (PCOS) or thyroid disorders can disrupt menstrual cycles and lead to irregular bleeding.
  • Medicines: Some medications, including blood thinners and some hormonal treatments, can cause side effects such as breakthrough bleeding (bleeding outside of your period).
  • Injuries: Trauma to the vagina or cervix caused by vigorous intercourse, accidents, or medical procedures can sometimes lead to vaginal bleeding.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): This infection of the reproductive organs can cause a variety of symptoms, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, and abnormal vaginal discharge.

The importance of medical advice in the event of unusual vaginal bleeding

Although this list presents the most common causes of menstrual bleeding, it is not exhaustive and should in no way replace medical advice. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional as soon as you notice abnormal or unusual vaginal bleeding. A doctor will be able to carry out a thorough examination, take into account the medical history and prescribe additional tests if necessary to determine the cause of the bleeding and offer appropriate treatment. Self-diagnosis can be dangerous and delay adequate treatment.

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The articles on the site contain general information which may contain errors. These articles should in no way be considered as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or doubts, always make an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist.

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