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    Postmenopausal Bleeding: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

    Updated 23 April 2020 |
    Published 04 May 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Once you’ve entered menopause, you start to get used to not having your period. So what happens when you experience bleeding or spotting after menopause? There are many different causes of postmenopausal bleeding, and some of them might be a sign that something more serious is going on.

    Read this article to learn more about postmenopausal bleeding.

    Is postmenopausal bleeding a reason to worry?

    Menopause is the phase of your life when you’re over the age of 45 and haven’t had a period for a year. It can be a little scary if you’ve gotten used to not having your period and are unexpectedly bleeding after menopause. However, not all causes of postmenopausal bleeding are serious.

    No matter what, make sure to talk to your doctor about your postmenopausal bleeding. Regardless of what’s causing your symptoms, you’ll need to go in for a checkup to get a definitive diagnosis.

    Perimenopausal bleeding or spotting

    Perimenopause is the period that leads to menopause. It’s usually characterized by menopausal symptoms and irregular periods. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years. During perimenopause, it’s normal to experience heavier periods or irregular spotting due to hormonal changes.

    Talk to your doctor if your perimenopausal bleeding:

    • lasts longer or is heavier than expected
    • occurs more often than normal (three weeks or less between periods)
    • occurs after intercourse

    Vaginal bleeding after menopause: main causes 

    There are many conditions that can cause bleeding after menopause. Here we’ve listed the most common causes of postmenopausal bleeding.

    Endometrial atrophy

    The endometrium is the innermost layer that covers your uterus. This is the same layer that sheds each month during menstruation. Once you’re going through menopause, hormonal changes tend to make this layer thinner. If it becomes too thin, it can become unstable and trigger postmenopausal spotting or bleeding.

    Endometrial hyperplasia

    This condition is the opposite of endometrial atrophy. It occurs when your estrogen levels are too high and your progesterone is too low, which can be caused by hormone replacement therapy. The thickened endometrium is more prone to bleeding; if left untreated, the endometrial cells can proliferate abnormally and lead to cancer. However, an early diagnosis is very effective in preventing endometrial cancer.

    Polyps

    Polyps are non-cancerous tissue growths that usually attach to the uterine wall and develop from the endometrium. Polyps can also develop on the cervix, causing bleeding after sex. Polyps can cause irregular and brown bleeding after menopause.

    Vaginal atrophy

    As your estrogen levels drop, the tissues in your vagina can change and become brittle, thin, dry, and inflamed. This can cause painful intercourse, urinary symptoms, discharge, and bleeding or brown spotting after menopause.

    Cancer

    Vaginal bleeding after menopause is one of the first symptoms of certain types of cancer. The most common types of gynecological cancers include endometrial and uterine cancer; however, cervical and vaginal cancer also affect many women. Although postmenopausal spotting or bleeding is a common symptom of cancer, only 9 percent of women who experience postmenopausal bleeding have cancer.

    An early diagnosis can make a world of difference when treating cancer. So if you’re bleeding after menopause, going to the doctor quickly can ensure that you get the right diagnosis as soon as possible.

    Bleeding after menopause: how to get a diagnosis

    No matter the cause of your postmenopausal bleeding, it’s important to visit the doctor. In most cases, this symptom is caused by a minor condition; however, all possible causes must be ruled out. There are several different tests and/or procedures your doctor might recommend to discover the cause of postmenopausal bleeding.

    Transvaginal ultrasound

    An ultrasound will allow your physician to look closely at any abnormal or new growths inside your uterus that might be causing the bleeding. A transvaginal ultrasound can also determine the thickness of your endometrium. This procedure is carried out by placing a small ultrasound probe inside your vagina, which allows the ultrasound machine to produce images of your reproductive organs. Keep in mind that a thickened endometrium doesn’t automatically mean that you have endometrial cancer.

    Endometrial biopsy

    If yo