Postmenopausal bleeding is bleeding from the vagina after a woman has stopped having menstrual cycles due to menopause. Because perimenopause can last several years, periods may be irregular for months. Once a woman has gone 12 months without a period, she is considered to be in menopause. Vaginal bleeding that occurs after that 12-month timeframe is considered postmenopausal bleeding.
Women with postmenopausal bleeding should always see a doctor, in order to rule out serious medical problems.
Causes of Postmenopausal Bleeding
Bleeding can occur in postmenopausal women for several reasons. For example, women who take hormone replacement therapy may have vaginal bleeding for a few months after starting the hormones. It is also possible a woman who was believed to be in menopause may ovulate. If this occurs, bleeding may also occur.
Additional causes of bleeding after menopause include uterine polyps, which are non-cancerous growths in the lining of the endometrium. Another possible cause is endometrium hyperplasia, which is the thickening of the endometrium.
Bleeding may also develop due to thinning of the vaginal tissues. This is common in women who are postmenopausal. Thinning often develops due to a decrease in estrogen.
Although bleeding after menopause is often harmless, postmenopausal bleeding can be a sign of cancer. According to Harvard Health Publications, about 10 percent of women who have postmenopausal bleeding have endometrial cancer. (Harvard Health Publications)
The Symptoms of Postmenopausal Bleeding
Many women who experience postmenopausal bleeding may not have other symptoms. But symptoms may be present and depend on the cause of bleeding. Women that have postmenopausal bleeding due to thinning of the vaginal tissues may experience pain with intercourse.