Bleeding disorders refer to conditions that keep your blood from clotting properly after a cut or injury.   Women generally notice a problem because of heavy or abnormal menstrual periods.  Heavy bleeding or menses is one of the most common problems women report to their doctors.   In the U.S., one out of every five women report heavy bleeding.

Signs of a possible bleeding disorder include:

  • menstrual periods that last more than 7 days, gushing of menstrual blood that limit daily activities, passing of clots bigger than a quarter, and the need to change a tampon or pad every hour or more.
  • low blood iron or anemia
  • heavy bleeding after dental or other surgery, or during childbirth
  • frequent nose bleeds (10 minutes or more)
  • bleeding from cuts (longer than 5 minutes)
  • easy bruising (weekly, raised, and larger than an inch).
  • having one or more of the above symptoms plus a family member with a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand disease or hemophilia.

If you have any of these symptoms, they should be discussed with your doctor.   Bleeding disorders are common in women but many women are too embarrased to talk with their provider about it.   They can be dangerous if not treated.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) supports a network of specialized healthcare centers to prevent and reduce complications experience by people with certain blood disorders.  Visit their site for more information.

On a personal note, one of my college professors was the doctor who developed one of the first tests (Quick Bleeding Time) used to help diagnose  bleeding disorders and my first job after college was at a university that was researching blood disorders.    At that time, we had a female teenager whose blood platelets (an irregular, disc-shaped element in the blood that assists with blood clotting; during normal clotting, the platelets clump together to trap fibrin threads that form a clot) were "slippery" and did not form clots when she experienced a cut.      She was one of the very first identified cases of a condition that was given the name von Willebrand disease.    We've come a long way in the last 4 decades in understanding and treating these and other diseases like hemophilia.  In fact, many young people today do not even know what hemophilia is, yet is was a debilitating and deadly condition that played a major role in ending some historical Russian dynasties and often affects certain animals like thoroughbred horses.  To read about its fascinating history click HERE.

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Comments

It worries me that many of the symptoms you quote are quite normal bleeding processes which only become symptoms of something serious when "excessive". I think many women are reluctant to be seen as complainers and are, as you say, embarrassed to bother a doctor about them (especially in the case of heavy menstrual bleeding - and particularly with a male doctor!!) So I appreciate your advice to discuss symptoms properly with a doctor. For myself, I always belief it's better to risk annoying a doctor by wasting his time, than it is to "not bother", and therefore to risk dying of embarrassment.

Bleeding disorders must be so difficult to live with. I wonder how serious a small cut is to someone whose blood doesn't clot properly.

This reminds me of when my daughter was on blood thinners after having a pulminary embolism. It's a worrisome condition to conrol. Thanks for the great info.

As a Dentist I do sometimes come across women who have clotting issues but, as you note, they are often to embarrassed to go to their doctor with menstrual problems, naturally I refer them to their Doctors when these issues are picked up. But I wonder how many more women would be picked up early if Doctors made a point of asking female patients about these problems during routine appointments?

I like the helpful information you provide for your articles.I appreciate your advice to discuss symptoms properly with a doctor.

In cases where a woman with a <a href="http://www.hemofoundationblog.org/" rel="nofollow">bleeding disorders</a> becomes pregnant, she should see an obstetrician as soon as possible. This will ensure that the doctor can consult with the local hemophilia treatment center to provide pre- and postnatal care for the woman and her baby. Decisions about what medical and surgical options to pursue should be based on personal preference, family planning goals and severity of bleeding problems.

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