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Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

A Symptom All Women Should Know About


Updated June 02, 2014

Abnormal vaginal bleeding is a common symptom to several types of disease and conditions, including most types of gynecological cancer (cancer of the female reproductive system). Because abnormal vaginal bleeding is not specifically associated with a single disease or condition, medical tests and evaluations are vital for an accurate diagnosis.

In relation to cervical cancer, abnormal vaginal bleeding is a commonly experienced cervical cancer symptom. Most women with cervical cancer do not experience symptoms until the later stages of the disease, however. Since cervical cancer usually does not present early stage symptoms, it is vital for women to have a regular Pap smear to detect abnormal changes.

What is Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding?

Vaginal bleeding is considered abnormal when a person has:

  • Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

    Heavy periods lasting more than two cycles need to be reported to your doctor. So, how do you know if you are experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding? Women who have heavy bleeding may have to wake up during the night to change sanitary protection or need to use two sanitary napkins to avoid leakage. Menstrual flow also may include large blood clots and last longer than seven days. If you experience a sudden onset of heavy bleeding that requires you change a sanitary napkin or tampon every hour for a few consecutive hours, alert your doctor immediately.

  • Bleeding Between Menstrual Periods
  • Heavy spotting, or an additional cycle in a month that occurs for more than two cycles, should be evaluated by a doctor. This can happen for many reasons-- from something as simple as contraceptive use to cervical cancer and other types of gynecologic cancer.

  • Vaginal Bleeding During or After Sex
  • Women may experience vaginal bleeding during and after sexual intercourse for several reasons. Some women chalk it up to having "rough sex," but there are several medical reasons related to the cervix that explain why bleeding may occur. They include:

    • cervical inflammation (cervicitis)
    • cervical polyps
    • cervical dysplasia
    • cervical cancer

    Other possible reasons for vaginal bleeding after intercourse include sexually transmitted diseases and pelvic inflammatory disease. Remember that vaginal bleeding after intercourse is not normal and should be reported to your doctor.


    "Medical Encyclopedia". Vaginal bleeding between periods. May 26, 2007. Medline Plus.

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