04/15/2014 07:00 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2014

Heavy And Extended Bouts Of Bleeding Are Common In Menopause, Study Says

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Women may welcome menopause, thinking they can finally bid farewell to tampons, maxi pads, and Midol. But a new study shows recurring and prolonged bleeding is actually a common side effect of going through "the change."

Researchers from the University of Michigan studied over 1,300 women ages 42 to 52 for a decade, and found menopause doesn't necessarily mean a sudden halt to periods. The majority of women, regardless of race, reported symptoms like long occurrences of heavy bleeding, frequent spotting, and a heavy flow during menopause.

"For most women in their 30s, menstrual periods are highly predictable," researcher Sioban Harlow said in a release. "With the onset of the menopausal transition in their 40s, women's menstrual periods can change dramatically. These dramatic changes can be disconcerting and often provoke questions about whether something is wrong."

The average age for women to experience menopause is 51, but many women go through it even earlier, according to the National Institutes of Health. Menopause is defined as the phase in a woman's life where she goes 12 consecutive months without having a period, but many menopausal women have been surprised to find sporadic bleeding or spotting can still happen.

Over 90 percent of participants in the study said they'd experienced between one and three bouts of bleeding that lasted 10 days or more in the past three years. Just under 90 percent said they'd had six or more days of spotting, and over three-quarters said they'd had three or more days of heavy bleeding.

Hot flashes, changes in mood, and changes in sex drive are the most commonly known symptoms of menopause. But according to Harvard Medical School, only about 10 percent of women are able to transition into menopause without any irregularity in their cycles.

But researchers say the most important result of the study is understanding the importance of educating menopausal women on what to expect and to help give them an understanding of what is normal.

"Women need more descriptive information about the bleeding changes they can expect. We need clear guidance to help women understand what changes in bleeding patterns do and do not require medical attention," Harlow said.



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