Abnormal bleeding is a key symptom of three out of the five gynae cancers – womb, cervical and vaginal -which together affect 12,750 women each year.
An abnormal bleed is often the first symptom that a woman notices, and although it is easy to spot, sadly it is all too often still easy to ignore. Eve research for Go Red found that 80% of women we surveyed (Freeda Media poll) wouldn’t get an unexpected vaginal bleed investigated immediately.
Women can be hesitant to get bleeding checked for a number of reasons, from not realising it is a potential symptom, to embarrassment, fear, or difficulty getting to the GP. And now women have another barrier in getting bleeding checked, the covid pandemic. NHS urgent cancer referrals are down 20% and fear of going to the GP during coronavirus is just another thing that may prevent women from getting this red flag symptom investigated.
72% of women surveyed were also not taught how to spot when something is wrong with their periods at school, we are Going Red through the ‘hole’ of September, yes ‘hole’, so that every woman knows how to spot abnormal bleeding and can go get checked as soon as possible.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding sounds pretty vague doesn’t it, so what is it?
- Bleeding in between periods
- Bleeding after sex
- Bleeding after the menopause
- Bleeding that is much heavier or more painful than what is normal for you
Bodies vary hugely, and periods and vaginal bleeding are no exception in this, so to be able to spot when something is abnormal you first need to have a good idea of what is normal for you. To help you do that we have produced a set of tips in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to help track vaginal bleeding in a way for you to know your normal, spot when something is abnormal for you and get bleeding checked.
Track your bleeding to know your normal and spot anything abnormal.
- There are many apps to track your period/any vaginal bleeding or just make a note in your diary. For example, you could use one red dot for ‘light flow’, two red dots for a ‘medium flow’ and so on. Regularly check back over your last few entries to keep an eye on any gradual changes and spot abnormalities.
What to track and look out for:
- Very heavy and/or very painful periods. Everyone’s period is different but generally ‘very heavy’ is:
- Heavy bleeding for 7 days or more
- Pain/heavy flow that disrupts your daily activities
- If you need to change your tampon/pad every hour or so
- Bloody discharge- Discharge is a perfectly normal part of having a healthy vagina, but if you have any pink, red or brown ‘bloody’ discharge note it down
- Surely all bloody discharge is abnormal? Some people get a bit of bloody discharge/light bleeding/spotting in between their periods called ‘ovulation bleeding’. If this isn’t part of what you would consider ‘your normal’ then speak to your doctor
- It’s ‘normal’ to have ‘abnormal bleeding’ through the menopause- Going through the menopause for most people means a few years of irregular bleeding. But if any bleeding doesn’t seem right to you, seek medical advice
- There is no such thing as a post-menopausal period- Once you have not had a period for 12 months you have gone through the menopause. Any vaginal bleeding after this is an abnormal bleed
- Remember that post-menopausal bleeding can mean anything from a bit of pink-ish discharge through to a heavy bleed.
- Bleeding after sex is more common than people might think (if pre-menopausal). Again, most of the time it isn’t something to worry about but do still note it down and get checked
- If you bleed during/after sex, also note down whether or not you are in pain. Sex isn’t supposed to be painful, and whilst something benign like a cervical ectropian can cause bleeding or soreness, do get it checked.