What is vaginal bleeding?

Vaginal bleeding is bleeding that flows from the vagina. Bleeding can originate in the vagina, cervix or uterus.

Abnormal or unexpected vaginal bleeding that occurs outside your normal menstrual cycle or causes extreme symptoms during your period can be caused by a wide variety of abnormal conditions, including hormonal imbalances, infection, complications of pregnancy, malignancy, trauma, and certain medications. However, many underlying causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as vaginal dryness and cervical dysplasia, are very treatable if promptly diagnosed and treated.

Treatment of vaginal bleeding varies and is tailored to the individual case, the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and the presence of any complications.

Sometimes bloody urine, which is due to bleeding from the urinary tract, or bloody stools, which is due to bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, can be mistaken for vaginal bleeding. Any unexplained bleeding should be evaluated by your health care professional.

Some types of vaginal bleeding can be caused by serious, even life-threatening conditions, such as an ectopic pregnancy, uterine cancer, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Seek prompt medical care if you have vaginal bleeding that is different than your normal menstrual period. Early diagnosis and treatment of vaginal bleeding reduces the risk of serious complications, such as infertility and metastatic uterine cancer.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are pregnant and have vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain.

What are the different types of vaginal bleeding?

Vaginal bleeding can be described in various terms, such as vaginal bleeding after menopause and oligomenorrhea. The terms applied to vaginal bleeding include:  

  • Bloody vaginal discharge

  • Dysfunctional uterine bleeding, a general term for abnormal uterine bleeding that is not caused by the menstrual cycle

  • Menorrhagia, unusually heavy menstrual periods

  • Menstrual bleeding, vaginal bleeding that occurs due to a normal menstrual period

  • Oligomenorrhea, which is menstrual bleeding that occurs more than 35 days after the last menstrual period (less than 10 periods a year)

  • Polymenorrhea, which is menstrual bleeding that occurs less than 21 days after the last menstrual period (more than 12 periods a year)

  • Spotting, a type of vaginal bleeding that is light and irregular

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse

  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause

  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy or labor

  • Vaginal hemorrhage, which is very heavy vaginal bleeding

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with vaginal bleeding?

Vaginal bleeding may occur with other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, excessive vaginal bleeding due to hemophilia (a bleeding disorder) may occur in conjunction with other bleeding symptoms, such as difficulty controlling bleeding from a small hand laceration.... Read more about vaginal bleedingsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes vaginal bleeding?

Normal vaginal bleeding occurs every 21 to 35 days during menstruation. Your menstrual period may last for just a few days or for more than a week. A normal menstrual flow can differ greatly from woman to woman and also varies in different phases of life, such as adolescence and perimenopause. Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be due to a range of different conditions, from mild vaginal irritation during sexual intercourse to a serious or life-threatening condition, such as cervical cancer, an ectopic pregnancy, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).... Read more about vaginal bleedingcauses

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian MD Last Annual Review Date: Feb 9, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.