During perimenopause, your periods may become less predictable. These changes are common. But some changes are not normal. Women with abnormal bleeding during perimenopause should see a health care provider. After menopause, you should not have any bleeding. A health care provider should always check bleeding that occurs after menopause.

This page explains:

If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of this issue, or have questions, you can schedule an appointment with us at our Baldwin Park office in Orlando, FL.

Perimenopause and Menopause 

Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 1 year. The average age is 51 years, but the normal range is 45 years to 55 years. 

The years leading up to this point are called perimenopause. This term means “around menopause.” This phase can last for up to 10 years. During perimenopause, shifts in hormone levels can affect ovulation and cause changes in the menstrual cycle. 

How to Tell if Bleeding is Abnormal 

Any bleeding after menopause is abnormal and should be reported to your health care provider. But during perimenopause, changes in menstrual bleeding are common. 

During a normal menstrual cycle, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase and decrease in a regular pattern (see the figure). Ovulation occurs in the middle of the cycle, and menstruation occurs about 2 weeks later. During perimenopause, hormone levels may not follow this regular pattern. As a result, you may have irregular bleeding or spotting. Some months, your period may be longer and heavier. Other months, it may be shorter and lighter. The number of days between periods may increase or decrease. You may begin to skip periods. 

Although these changes are normal in perimenopause, abnormal bleeding sometimes can signal a problem not related to perimenopause. A good rule to follow is to tell your health care provider if you notice any of the following changes in your monthly cycle:

Menstrual cycle illustration

Causes of Abnormal Bleeding 

If you have any bleeding after menopause, or if you have any of the abnormal changes in your monthly cycle listed previously, it is important to see your health care provider to find out the cause. Many things can cause abnormal bleeding. Some are more serious than others. 

Polyps 

Polyps usually are noncancerous growths that develop from tissue similar to the endometrium, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. They either attach to the uterine wall or develop on the endometrial surface. They may cause irregular or heavy bleeding. 

Polyps also can grow on the cervix or inside the cervical canal. These polyps may cause bleeding after sex. 

Thinning of the Endometrium 

After menopause, the endometrium may become too thin as a result of low estrogen levels. This condition is called endometrial atrophy. As the lining thins, you may have abnormal bleeding. 

Endometrial Hyperplasia 

In this condition, the lining of the uterus thickens. Endometrial hyperplasia can cause irregular or heavy bleeding. In some cases of endometrial hyperplasia, the cells of the lining become abnormal. This condition, called atypical hyperplasia, can lead to cancer of the uterus. 

Endometrial hyperplasia most often is caused by excess estrogen without enough progesterone. Diagnosis and treatment of endometrial hyperplasia allows for prevention of the most common form of endometrial cancer. 

Endometrial Cancer 

In the United States, endometrial cancer is the most common type of cancer of the female reproductive system. Listed are some risk factors for endometrial cancer:

Endometrial cancer also can occur in the absence of any of these risk factors. 

Bleeding is the most common sign of endometrial cancer in women after menopause. When diagnosed early, most cases of endometrial cancer can be treated successfully.

Other Causes 

Other causes of bleeding after menopause include: 

Diagnosis 

To diagnose the cause of abnormal perimenopausal bleeding or bleeding after menopause, your health care provider will review your personal and family health history. You will have a physical exam. You also may have one or more of the following tests:

Some of these tests can be done in your health care provider’s office. Others may be done at a hospital or surgical center. 

Treatment 

Treatment for abnormal perimenopausal bleeding or bleeding after menopause depends on its cause. If there are growths (such as polyps) that are causing the bleeding, surgery may be needed to remove them. Endometrial atrophy can be treated with medications. Endometrial hyperplasia can be treated with progestin therapy, which causes the endometrium to shed. Thickened areas of the endometrium may be removed using hysteroscopy or D&C. 

Women with endometrial hyperplasia are at increased risk for endometrial cancer. They need regular endometrial biopsies to make sure that the hyperplasia has been treated and does not return. 

Endometrial cancer is treated with surgery (usually hysterectomy with removal of nearby lymph nodes) in most cases. Discuss your options with your health care provider. 

Finally

Changes in bleeding patterns during perimenopause are normal, but they should be tracked and possibly evaluated. Bleeding after menopause, though, may be a sign of cancer. If you have any bleeding after menopause, see your health care provider. The earlier the cause of bleeding is found, the better it can be treated. 

If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of this issue, or have questions, you can schedule an appointment with us at our Baldwin Park office in Orlando, FL.

Glossary 

Source: acog.org