Vaginal bleeding can be a symptom of menstruation or be caused by medical conditions, hormonal changes or pregnancy. Symptoms of vaginal bleeding can often be treated with medication like birth control pills.
Vaginal bleeding is any bleeding from your vaginal area. It can refer to bleeding related to menstruation or bleeding unrelated to menstruation such as from trauma or a medical condition. In most cases, vaginal bleeding refers to bleeding that’s not related to menstruation (your period).
Bleeding between periods or bleeding outside of a normal menstrual cycle is abnormal (irregular) vaginal bleeding. This type of bleeding can be random, impossible to predict and may be accompanied by pain or other symptoms. Vaginal bleeding not caused by menstruation can be caused by many factors like:
You may experience spotting or vaginal bleeding at some point in your life. Usually, it’s not a cause for worry. However, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to be sure. In some cases, vaginal bleeding is a sign of a serious condition.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Unusual vaginal bleeding may occur at any age. When a person first begins having periods, they may not always occur on a regular schedule. The same is true in the years leading up to menopause. During this time of perimenopause, the number of days between periods may change, be skipped altogether or bleeding may be unusually heavy or light.
There are many causes of vaginal bleeding other than menstruation. You should always work with a healthcare provider to determine the cause of your bleeding. Some of the more common causes are medical conditions, hormones and pregnancy complications.
Yes, stress can affect your hormone levels and contribute to irregular vaginal bleeding or irregular menstruation.
If you’re bleeding but not on your menstrual period, it can be caused by several factors. Some reasons you may be bleeding could include infection, an underlying medical condition, medication or hormonal imbalance.
It’s best to keep a record of your symptoms and contact a healthcare provider for an exam and any necessary tests.
Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. They’ll perform a physical exam and pelvic exam. You can expect your provider to ask some of the following questions:
Your provider may order the following tests to help them find the cause of your vaginal bleeding:
Treatment for vaginal bleeding depends on the cause of the bleeding, your age and if you wish to become pregnant. If a hormonal imbalance is the cause, your provider may recommend lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, reducing stress and losing weight.
Other times, medication or surgery is needed to treat vaginal bleeding.
Some vaginal bleeding is necessary, such as with your menstrual period. However, abnormal vaginal bleeding can be inconvenient and negatively impact your life. Most often, vaginal bleeding is beyond your control and not caused by anything you’re doing wrong.
It’s best to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. Talking to them about when your bleeding is happening, what it looks like and how it feels can help them figure out the problem.
The following symptoms of vaginal bleeding should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Vaginal bleeding is usually defined as any bleeding from your vagina that’s not part of a menstrual period. There are many reasons you may be bleeding. In most cases, it’s not life-threatening and not a cause for concern. Most vaginal bleeding can be attributed to medical conditions, pregnancy or hormonal changes. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re bleeding from your vagina and not on your menstrual period. They can evaluate your symptoms, perform an exam and order additional tests to determine a cause for your bleeding.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/09/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.