What abnormal bleeding might mean

Abnormal bleeding can be worrying, whether it’s in the form of frequent or infrequent periods. However, there can be several causes, and many are treatable.

Taking a new contraceptive

If you’ve started using a contraceptive such as the combined pill, transdermal patch or progestogen pill, your hormones may take a few months to adjust. Bleeding between periods can also occur if you miss your pill or are sick or experience diarrhoea.

If you haven’t been ill or missed taking your pill, but still continue to experience abnormal bleeding, see a doctor.

Miscarriage or abortion

If you’ve recently miscarried or had an abortion, this could be another reason. However, excessive bleeding should always be discussed with a doctor.


If you have other symptoms such as a rash, lumps or sores on the vagina, or experience an unusual discharge, it could be an STI, such as chlamydia. This is a bacterial condition passed on through sex, but it is treatable with a course of antibiotics.

More serious conditions

Although in most cases, the explanation is something easily treatable, abnormal bleeding can sometimes be a sign of cancer.

Vaginal cancer shares some symptoms with chlamydia (discharge, itching, a lump, pain when urinating).

If your periods are heavier than normal and/or you have bleeding between periods, this could be a sign of womb cancer. Other symptoms to look out for include nausea, back or pelvic pain, tiredness or a loss of appetite.

Cervical cancer is another possibility. It occurs mainly in women aged between 30-45 who are sexually active. However, it can affect women outside of this age range and it’s important to get seen by a doctor just to be sure.

While abnormal bleeding is not always an indication of cancer, you should be aware of your body and any symptoms. If in any doubt at all, medical advice should be sought. It’s always better to eliminate cancer as the problem, than risk the chance of finding something that could have treated you if you had gotten help sooner.