One of the most common signs of menopause is Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB) also referred to as Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding (DUB). Both of these names are somewhat misleading. There is no one ‘normal’ uterine bleeding process for all women.
What is abnormal uterine bleeding?
Caused by changes in hormonal levels, abnormal uterine bleeding or dysfunctional uterine bleeding is anything outside a woman’s personal menstrual cycle. The general guidelines indicate that the average woman has a menstrual period every 28 days, and lasts for between 4-7 days.
But many women do not fall into this range and yet are still perfectly normal. Some women may have shorter or longer cycles outside the 28 day range; periods may last as little as three or as long as ten days.
Symptoms of dysfunctional uterine bleeding
*Periods may come more or less frequently than usual – less than 28 days or more than 35 days
*Menstrual periods are longer than normal but may be shorter in length for some women
*Spotting may occur in between periods
*Heavier amounts of blood during menstruation requiring frequent pad or tampon changes, pads or tampons may be soaked right through
During adolescence and later in menopause, most women will experience some erratic menstrual cycles. Teen girls’ bodies often take a few years to settle down into a personal normal menstrual routine. By the time perimenopause or menopause begins, those hormone levels affect menstrual cycles in much the same way as younger women.
Many of the common menopausal symptoms may be present including fatigue, hot flashes, and genital dryness, loss of libido, breast tenderness, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability.
When do I know if it is menopause or something more serious?
Start by keeping a series of notes about any changes to the menstrual cycle. Each month, record details including how many days in between menstrual periods, and how long the periods have lasted.
Keep track of increased or decreased use in the amount of pads or tampons - fewer or more than usual? How frequently do pads or tampons need to be changed? Are heavier or lighter absorbencies used?
Be on the lookout for any spotting outside of the menstrual period. All of this information, along with any menopause symptoms, will help a healthcare professional make a proper diagnosis. In addition, a doctor will perform a pelvic examination and may test for estrogen, progesterone, and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.
Regular medical physicals and careful symptom monitoring will help patients and doctors determine whether unusual uterine bleeding patterns are due to menopause or another condition. Menstrual cycles may settle into a new norm, or they may continue to be unpredictable for many years. The key to safeguarding health is to look for and report to a physician any signs of bleeding outside of the menstrual period.
Need help keeping track of those menstrual period changes? Menopause, Your Doctor, and You is a great tool to record all your health information for your next doctor’s appointment!