I thought I was in menopause because I haven't had a period in three years. But then last month, I suddenly got my period again. What's up? I'm 50 years old.

Answers from Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.

Menopause is the end of menstruation. In clinical terms, you reach menopause when you haven't had a period for 12 months.

Vaginal bleeding after menopause isn't normal and should be evaluated by your doctor.

For example, postmenopausal vaginal bleeding can be caused by:

  • Thinning of the tissues lining the uterus (endometrial atrophy) or vagina (vaginal atrophy)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Uterine polyps
  • Infection of the uterine lining (endometritis)
  • Medications such as hormone therapy and tamoxifen
  • Pelvic trauma
  • Bleeding from the urinary tract or rectum
  • Cancer of the uterus, including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma
  • Cancer of the cervix or vagina

The cause of your bleeding may be entirely harmless. However, postmenopausal bleeding could result from something serious, so it's important to see your doctor promptly.

Aug. 14, 2012 See more Expert Answers