Vaginal Bleeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Pelvic Pain and Vaginal Bleeding

Depending on the cause, pelvic pain can be acute and sudden in onset, or the pain can be chronic and longstanding. The characteristics of the pain -- location, timing, duration, etc., are important in diagnosing its cause along with any associated symptoms such as vaginal discharge or bleeding. Some types of pelvic pain may only be apparent at certain times, such as during sexual activity or during urination. Persisting pelvic pain should be evaluated by a physician.

Quick GuidePelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?

Vaginal bleeding facts

  • Normal vaginal bleeding is the periodic blood flow from the uterus.
  • Normal vaginal bleeding is also called menorrhea. The process by which menorrhea occurs is called menstruation.
  • In order to determine whether bleeding is abnormal, and its cause, the doctor must answer 3 questions: Is the woman pregnant? What is the pattern of the bleeding? Is she ovulating?
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are ovulating regularly most commonly involves excessive, frequent, irregular, or decreased bleeding.
  • There are many causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding that are associated with irregular ovulation.
  • A woman who has irregular menstrual periods requires a physical examination with a special emphasis on the thyroid, breast, and pelvic organs.
  • Treatment for irregular vaginal bleeding depends on the underlying cause. After the cause is determined, the doctor decides if treatment is actually necessary.

What is normal vaginal bleeding?

Normal vaginal bleeding is the periodic blood that flows as a discharge from the woman's uterus. Normal (menstrual) vaginal bleeding is also called menorrhea. The process by which menorrhea occurs is called menstruation.

Normal vaginal bleeding occurs as a result of cyclic hormonal changes. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. The hormones also regulate the menstrual cycle. The ovary, or female gonad, is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and female hormones. During each monthly menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one ovary. The egg travels from the ovary through a Fallopian tube to the uterus.

Unless pregnancy occurs, the cycle ends with the shedding of part of the inner lining of the uterus, which results in menstruation. Although it is actually the end of the physical cycle, the first day of menstrual bleeding is designated as "day 1" of the menstrual cycle in medical jargon.

The time of the cycle during which menstruation occurs is referred to as menses. The menses occurs at approximately four week intervals, representing the menstrual cycle.

Menarche is the time in a girl's life when menstruation first begins. Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the function of the ovaries ceases and menstrual periods stop. Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. The average age of menopause is 51 years old.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/21/2016

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