Irregular periods are a common symptom of menopause. As every woman's menstrual cycle is different, irregular periods are defined as any menstrual activity that differs from your usual cycle and its symptoms. You may experience irregularities in the length of your menstrual cycle, intensity of bleeding, cramping, and other symptoms that typically occur before or during your period.
Irregular periods occur in the perimenopause phase, the stage right before menopause. Most women experience irregular periods and other perimenopause symptoms from anywhere between two and ten years prior to reaching menopause. Menopause can be defined as the time after which a woman has gone through 12 consecutive months without a period. Irregular periods, therefore, can last five to ten years, and will stop when a woman has reached menopause.
In some cases, however, a woman may experience bleeding after menopause.
Postmenopausal Bleeding: Why Does it Occur?
Postmenopausal bleeding may be suggestive of other health issues. Read on to learn about irregular periods during postmenopause.
Abnormal uterine cells
The presence of abnormal uterine cells is one of the possible causes of postmenopausal bleeding. This commonly points to a minor abnormality, such as a uterine hyperplasia, a condition that can occur before or after menopause, in which the lining of the uterus becomes too thick. Hyperplasia is often caused by too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, which can be a result of the end of ovulation in menopausal women. It can be benign, but it can also lead to cancer. When these health problems are identified early, there are many effective treatments available. See a doctor as soon as you experience any postmenopausal bleeding.
Postmenopausal bleeding could signify unbalanced hormone levels. Hormones are compounds that regulate many of the body's functions. During menopause, the level of these hormones can fluctuate greatly and cause a woman to experience irregular bleeding. This should stop after the menopause transition has been completed.
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom of menopause that can continue into postmenopause as a result of low hormone levels. Vaginal dryness can cause the vaginal wall to bleed, especially after sex. While this symptom may be uncomfortable, it can be treated with creams, gels, lubricants, and medication.
Consult with your doctor as soon as possible to identify the source of your postmenopausal bleeding and develop the appropriate treatment plan. Click on the following link for more information on treatments for irregular periods.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Newell, S. & Overton, C. (2012). Postmenopausal bleeding should be referred urgently. The Practitioner, 256(1749), 13-15, 2. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22662514
- The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. (2012). FAQ: Endometrial Hyperplasia. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from https://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq147.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20160111T0935153708.