Menopause is defined as the moment when a woman hasn't had a period for 12 months, signaling the definitive end of ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It is therefore not possible to have a period during postmenopause. In the months and years preceding menopause, known as the perimenopause phase, a woman may experience irregular periods as the body prepares to stop menstruation.
For example, you may think that you have stopped menstruating, but you have a period 6 months later. This bleeding is an irregular period, and there is no cause for concern.
However, some women experience bleeding during postmenopause. It is highly unlikely that this bleeding is a period. It is important to see a doctor if you have spotting or bleeding 12 months after your last period, as it could signify a health problem. Keep reading to discover the five main causes of postmenopausal bleeding.
1. Hormonal Imbalance
It is possible that postmenopausal bleeding is simply the result of imbalanced hormones. During perimenopause, the levels of the hormones controlling menstruation go through many changes. During postmenopause, the levels of these hormones could remain imbalanced, and may result in occasional spotting or bleeding.
2. Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness, or atrophic vaginitis, is caused by a diminished level of estrogen in the body. It is a common symptom of perimenopause, which often continues into postmenopause. Vaginal dryness can lead to bleeding of the vaginal wall, particularly during intercourse.
3. Weight Loss
Dramatic weight loss can cause postmenopausal bleeding. One of the components of estrogen is reliant on fat for its production. When there is sudden or drastic weight loss, there is a shift in the relationship between fat and hormone levels. This may cause period-like bleeding. In this case, the bleeding is symptomatic of an unhealthy weight loss, and medical advice must be sought.
4. Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the process of introducing hormones into the body to combat the effects of menopause, or to regulate other hormonal imbalances. HRT varies according to the type of hormone, and on the method of administration. Different kinds of HRT will have different effects on perimenopausal and postmenopausal bleeding. If you experience unexpected bleeding patterns, you should speak with your doctor.
5. Abnormal Uterine Cells
Postmenopausal bleeding could be a sign of endometrial hyperplasia, or abnormal or excessive growth of uterine cells. The development of these abnormal cells could be cancerous. When identified early enough, there are treatments available for uterine abnormalities. Any bleeding during postmenopause should be examined immediately by a doctor to rule out this possibility, or to allow early treatment.
There are a number of possible reasons behind postmenopausal bleeding. Some are a result of natural hormone fluctuations, while others are more serious, and should be brought to the attention of a doctor immediately. Click here for further information about postmenopausal treatments.