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Females and Bleeding Disorders

The diagnosis of bleeding disorders in females is often met with surprise. Many people think that females do not have bleeding disorders. It is true that one type of inherited bleeding disorders called hemophilia mainly affects males. However, a number of other bleeding disorders affect both females and males. Moreover, some women who carry the gene for hemophilia may have bleeding symptoms even though they do not have the disease. Many of these bleeding disorders have only been identified in the past 30 to 40 years.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Females with bleeding disorders often have gynecological symptoms, in addition to easy bruising, nose bleeds, gum bleeds or bleeding with injury or surgery. About 1/5 of females with prolonged, excessive menstrual bleeding actually have an inherited bleeding disorder. Other women bleed between cycles or continuously through the month. Because the uterus is capable of losing a great deal of blood in a short period of time, females with these symptoms may have low iron levels. Additionally, prolonged bleeding after delivery of a child also may be a symptom of bleeding disorders in women.

Diagnosis of a bleeding disorder is sometimes delayed for females who do not have a family member with a known bleeding disorder. The use of birth control pills and other hormone therapies can affect the testing for some inherited bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand Disease. Additionally, some girls with bleeding disorders may ask other female family members about their symptoms. Since the disease is inherited and often unrecognized, family members may reassure the girl by telling them "it’s normal for our family to have very heavy periods." Unfortunately, undiagnosed bleeding problems may lead to surgical treatment such as a hysterectomy that may not be the best treatment of the bleeding problem.

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Treatment and Care

Several types of bleeding disorders affect females, and the treatment depends on the exact type of disorder and the type of bleeding. The treatment may involve replacing the missing clotting protein, such as von Willebrand factor, by infusion of a blood product. In other cases, natural or synthetic hormone replacement and other oral medications may control the bleeding.

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VCU Health System | Central Virginia Center for Coagulation Disorders
P.O. Box 980461 | Richmond, VA | 23298-0461
phone: (804) 827-3306 | toll free: (866) 288-2516 | fax: (804) 692-0291

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last updated: 02/17/2014
Central Virginia Center for Coagulation Disorders