Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Abnormal uterine bleeding can occur for a number of reasons, including problems with ovulation, a hormonal imbalance or abnormalities of the vagina, cervix or uterus.

Abnormal bleeding may be:

  • Prolonged — longer than a woman's normal menstrual period
  • Frequent — less than 21 days from the first day of one bleeding episode to the first day of the next
  • Heavier than usual — requiring more than a pad every hour during the heaviest time

Common reasons for abnormal uterine bleeding include:

  • Anovulation — Lack of normal menstrual bleeding due to problems with hormone secretion by the ovary. A doctor can usually diagnose anovulation by taking a medical history and performing a physical examination. Blood tests for hormone levels are sometimes helpful. Treatment usually involves medication to correct the hormone imbalance.
  • Abnormalities of the vagina and cervix — Infections or other conditions of the vagina and cervix can cause bleeding, though the bleeding is usually light and may be associated with intercourse. Post-menopausal women may have thinning of the vaginal walls, which can lead to light bleeding. Abnormalities of the cervix, including cervical cancer, also can cause bleeding. These conditions can be diagnosed by physical examination and office tests.
  • Show More

A medical history and gynecologic examination are useful in identifying the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding. Other tests may include endometrial biopsy, in which a small amount of tissue is removed from the uterine cavity to assist in making a diagnosis; hormone tests; or ultrasound. Hysteroscopy, a procedure during which a tiny "telescope" is placed into the uterine cavity to examine the cavity, can also be helpful.

Abnormal bleeding may be treated with hormones such as oral contraceptive pills. Sometimes hysteroscopy is required to remove a polyp or small fibroid.

Heavy bleeding often can be decreased or stopped by endometrial ablation, a procedure in which the uterine lining is removed or destroyed. Some women choose hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, as the most definitive way of ending abnormal bleeding once and for all.

Learn More

UCSF Research & Clinical Trials

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Obstetrics & Gynecology Services at Mission Bay - Owens Street
1500 Owens St., Suite 380
San Francisco, CA 94158
Gynecology: (415) 353-4600
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Fax: (415) 353-2288
Appointment information

Obstetrics, Gynecology & Perinatal Specialties at Mission Bay - Fourth Street
1825 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Gynecology: (415) 885-7788
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Gynecology Fax: (415) 353-9550
Obstetrics Fax: (415) 353-2496
Appointment information

Obstetrics & Gynecology Services at Mount Zion
2356 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94143
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Gynecology: (415) 885-7788
Obstetrics Fax: (415) 353-2496
Gynecology Fax: (415) 353-9550
Appointment information

Obstetrics & Gynecology Services at Serramonte
333 Gellert Blvd., Suite 120
Daly City, CA 94015
Gynecology: (415) 885-7788
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Fax: (650) 991-2748
Appointment information

Key Treatments