Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding & Birth Control

Abnormal vaginal bleeding & birth control at a glance:

  • Vaginal bleeding that is considered abnormal occurs when a woman is not expecting her menstrual period, when the flow is lighter or heavier than normal, or when spotting occurs between periods.
  • Sometimes birth control pills, patches, injections, rings and implants can cause spotting between periods or abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • In other situations, these hormone-based birth control methods are used to treat abnormal vaginal bleeding that result from other medical conditions.
  • Women who experience abnormal vaginal bleeding should consult their physician, as it can signal a serious underlying disorder.

When birth control causes abnormal vaginal bleeding

Birth control pills, patches, implants, injections and rings that contain hormones can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding as a side effect. This can occur:

  • During the first few months when a woman begins using hormone-based birth control.
  • When changing the type of birth control pill or the dose of estrogen.
  • When a woman does not take her birth control pill correctly, missing doses or not taking them at the same time each day.
  • After using birth control for a long time, which can affect the lining of the uterus and cause bleeding.
  • During the first few days of using an intrauterine device (IUD), one either with or without the synthetic hormone progestin; some women continue to experience spotting between periods with an IUD.
  • When using the Depo-Provera birth control injection.
  • When using a birth control implant.

It is important to check with a health care provider to determine the cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding. It may be due to one of the birth control issues above, which should be monitored.

Using birth control to treat abnormal vaginal bleeding

Abnormal vaginal bleeding may be caused by more serious factors, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic organ infections or certain cancers. Birth control pills, patches, implants, injections or rings that contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and a synthetic form of progesterone may be used to treat the abnormal vaginal bleeding caused by these conditions. These low doses of hormones regulate the menstrual cycle, reducing or eliminating the abnormal bleeding.

Can I use birth control pills if I have abnormal vaginal bleeding?

Check with your doctor first. Report any bleeding that occurs while taking birth control pills then follow your health care provider’s advice. In many instances, it is normal to continue with your current method of birth control.

When to see a doctor

It is important to see a physician for medical advice if abnormal vaginal bleeding increases or becomes severe. Other signs that medical attention is needed include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Unusually heavy bleeding
  • Fever
  • Increase in the frequency or severity of symptoms

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