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What is menopausal bleeding?

Post-menopausal bleeding is a serious concern and can indicate a uterine abnormality.

Menopausal bleeding is any vaginal bleeding that occurs after you have completed menopause. Menopausal bleeding has many potential causes, including endometrial cancer. Risk factors for this form of cancer include age, irregular menstrual periods, tamoxifen treatment, infertility, obesity and smoking. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding cigarette smoking can help to prevent endometrial cancer. Other menopausal bleeding causes include uterine polyps and endometrial hyperplasia.

Menopausal bleeding can affect the body negatively, particularly if your flow is heavy. You lose red blood cells from heavy bleeding. Red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. If you lose red blood cells more quickly than you can replenish them, you may become anemic, which can cause you to feel dizzy, irritable, weak or cold. You should speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Menopausal bleeding is responsible for one out of 20 visits to doctors specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. In many cases, bleeding after menopause is related to a pathological process occurring in the uterus. Atrophic endometriosis, or thinning of the inner uterine lining, accounts for 45 percent of these cases. In 15 percent of cases, women have overgrowth of the cells in the uterine lining, also called endometrial hyperplasia. Cancer accounts for 10 percent of cases of menopausal bleeding.

If you start to experience vaginal bleeding after you have completed menopause, you should speak to your doctor. An accurate and timely diagnosis of the underlying condition is important so that you can be properly treated.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

A woman who has gone 12 months without vaginal bleeding is considered to be fully in menopause. Any bleeding after this time period is called menopausal, or more exactly post-menopausal bleeding. It always needs to be investigated. While it may be due to a temporary resurgence of hormonal activity, not indicating anything wrong, it also may be a sign of serious illness. One estimate is that 35-40% of women who have post-menopausal bleeding have abnormal cells within the uterus causing that bleeding. With early detection, this situation is highly curable. A woman who has post-menopausal bleeding should contact her healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.