What is Metrorrhagia?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Metrorrhagia refers quite simply to any bleeding that occurs between a woman’s normal menstruation periods. There are numerous causes for vaginal bleeding, and many of them are benign. Taking birth control pills, for instance, and forgetting to take one might cause a day of spotting. Sometimes metrorrhagia is actually an irregular period. Though cause may not often be of no concern, there can be serious conditions that have spotting as a symptom and it’s important to note spotting to doctors, particularly if it is happening regularly.

Missing a daily birth control pill can cause spotting, or metrorrhagia.
Missing a daily birth control pill can cause spotting, or metrorrhagia.

Some of the causes of metrorrhagia include vaginal trauma as from a gynecological exam, stress, vaginal dryness, having an IUD in place, or starting or stopping hormonal birth control. Occasionally some medications besides birth control pills may result in spotting. If a woman takes anticoagulants like aspirin or warfarin she may be more prone to metrorrhagia.

Abnormal bleeding between periods could indicate endometriosis or another underlying cause.
Abnormal bleeding between periods could indicate endometriosis or another underlying cause.

Alternately, vaginal bleeding between periods may indicate serious conditions. It could suggest there is infection in the vagina, or that thyroid hormone levels are too low. Some women have metrorrhagia as a result of having endometriosis. In some cases spotting is a sign of very serious cancers. Any of these conditions require treatment right away, and may impair health, or in the case of cancer be life threatening, without medical care.

A routine gynecological exam can be the cause of metrorrhagia.
A routine gynecological exam can be the cause of metrorrhagia.

When a woman notices spotting, she will usually assume the bleeding is vaginal. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes bleeding comes from the anus, and it could indicate an anal fissure or presence of a polyp in the colon, particularly if it is occurring regularly. Rectal bleeding should be cause for concern, though it can also be benign.

Bleeding between periods can be a sign of cancer.
Bleeding between periods can be a sign of cancer.

It may be possible to identify source of bleeding by simply wiping the anus carefully to look for traces of blood, and then with a separate cloth or piece of tissue paper, wiping the vagina. Sometimes a tiny amount of blood is present on the anus after passage of a large or hard bowel movement, but if larger amounts of blood are present or if bleeding continues, women should contact their physicians.

When the bleeding clearly seems to come from the vagina, it’s also important to get in touch with a doctor if it starts to occur on a regular basis. All women are likely to experience spotting at least once or twice in a lifetime without any problems. When spotting occurs often, it could suggest serious conditions, though this is not always the case.

It’s important to understand that metrorrhagia is a condition that occurs between periods. Any bleeding from the vagina that occurs in girls who are not yet menstruating or in women who are post-menopausal is considered abnormal bleeding. People should not wait for a second occurrence of vaginal bleeding in these cases and should get medical help right away.

Treatment for metrorrhagia may not be necessary. Doctors will look for potential causal factors, and might want to check for presence of infection or evaluate blood for hormone deficiencies. Sometimes cause is easily explained by an ongoing condition or situation, such as forgetting to take birth control pills or being on anti-coagulants. Other times, spotting is a sign of real problems, and treating these underlying conditions may eliminate the spotting.

An ultrasound can be used to detect a colon polyp.
An ultrasound can be used to detect a colon polyp.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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