Some women have much heavier periods than normal. It’s more common in teenagers and as you approach menopause.
Heavy vaginal bleeding can also happen between periods. In about half of cases, heavy bleeding is caused by a problem with the lining of the womb (the endometrium), including endometriosis or polyps. In some women, it’s caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, an intrauterine device (IUD) or an injury to the vagina. Heavy vaginal bleeding can also be a complication of pregnancy.
If you are bleeding very heavily or you feel faint or as if you might pass out, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try calling 112.
It’s very important to seek medical advice if you have any vaginal bleeding while you are pregnant or you have been through menopause.
Managing your bleeding
If you are bleeding heavily from your vagina, you may want to use a pad. Don’t use a tampon if you have a vaginal injury or you think something may be inside your vagina. Make sure you change your pad at regular intervals, at least every 3 to 4 hours.
See your doctor if:
- you are bleeding so heavily that you have to change your pad every hour
- the bleeding is not contained with a pad/tampon
- you're passing clots that are larger than a 50 cent piece
- your bleeding lasts for more than 7-8 days
- you are in a lot of pain
Your doctor may give you medicines to help with the bleeding, pain and inflammation. If medicines can’t control the bleeding, or if it keeps happening, your doctor may do a cervical screening test and swab your vagina, order blood tests and possibly a pelvic ultrasound to find out the cause. They may send you to a specialist for more tests.
How to look after yourself
There are other things you can do to look after yourself:
- get plenty of rest to help ease any discomfort caused by your bleeding
- keep well hydrated
- if you have an injury and the vaginal area is painful and swollen, using a cold compress or covered ice pack may help to relieve the pain and swelling. Don’t keep the ice pack on the area for more than 30 minutes
- wash your hands with soap and water then dry thoroughly before touching or cleaning the area
- do not apply any creams or lotions to your genitals without discussing your problem with a pharmacist first
- if you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take. You could try using a heat pack or hot water bottle on your abdomen, doing some gentle exercise or relaxing to relieve pain
- make sure your iron levels don’t get too low. If you’re feeling very tired, talk to your doctor about whether you need an iron supplement
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about vaginal bleeding, use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2019