Regular monthly vaginal bleeding, known as periods or menstruation, is a normal part of life for many individuals. This natural process is typically predictable in its pattern and duration, and it plays a vital role in reproductive health. However, it’s crucial to understand that changes in your bleeding pattern can sometimes signal an underlying issue. These changes might include alterations in the timing, or flow of your periods, and they can be indicators of various health conditions.

Why Monitoring Your Menstrual Cycle is Important

The menstrual cycle is often referred to as a “vital sign” in women’s health because it provides valuable insights into overall health and well-being. Regular cycles can indicate that your body is functioning normally, while irregularities may point to hormonal imbalances, reproductive health issues, or other medical conditions. Understanding what is normal for your body and recognising when something is off can help you seek timely medical advice.

Common Changes in Bleeding Patterns

Changes in menstrual bleeding can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Frequency: More frequent, less frequent or missed periods
  • Flow: Heavier or lighter than usual
  • Duration: Longer or shorter bleeding days
  • Intermenstrual Bleeding: Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Post-coital Bleeding: Bleeding after penetrative sexual intercourse

Each of these changes can be associated with different underlying causes, ranging from benign to serious health concerns.

Potential Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

There are numerous reasons why someone might experience changes in their menstrual bleeding patterns:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, or perimenopause can cause hormonal fluctuations that affect your cycle.
  • Contraceptive Use: Birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other forms of contraception can influence bleeding patterns.
  • Infections: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other infections can cause irregular bleeding.
  • Abnormalities of the uterus: Conditions such as fibroids, polyps, endometriosis, and adenomyosis can alter menstrual bleeding.
  • Cancers: Cervical, uterine, and vaginal cancers can cause abnormal bleeding, particularly in postmenopausal women.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Stress, significant weight loss or gain, and intense exercise can impact menstrual cycles.

When to Seek Medical Advice

While occasional irregularities in menstrual cycles can be normal, persistent or severe changes should not be ignored. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe pain: Intense menstrual cramps that disrupt daily activities
  • Heavy bleeding: Soaking through sanitary products every hour for several consecutive hours, clots, leakage through clothes
  • Prolonged bleeding: Bleeding that lasts longer than seven days
  • Intermenstrual or post-coital bleeding: Unexpected bleeding between periods or after sex respectively
  • Absence of periods: Missing periods (if not pregnant)
  • Symptoms of anaemia (low blood count): Fatigue, dizziness, pins and needles, or shortness of breath often due to heavy bleeding

Paying attention to your body and seeking medical advice when needed is essential for maintaining your health. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing potential health issues effectively. Remember, your menstrual health is a vital aspect of your overall well-being, and addressing any concerns with a healthcare professional is a proactive step towards maintaining optimal health.

Throughout June and July, we will be running the complete series on Vaginal health. So if you have found this blog useful why not check out our videos here and follow us on Instagram for insightful and helpful tips on female health.

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