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Are women affected by bleeding disorders?

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A carrier is a female who has the genetic mutation for hemophilia on one of her X chromosomes.  Carriers with clotting factors levels of less than 50% of normal may have symptoms similar to a male with mild hemophilia. They are often called symptomatic carriers or are diagnosed with mild hemophilia.  Approximately one-third of carriers experience bleeding symptoms. By definition, if a woman has clotting factor levels less than 50%, she has mild hemophilia.

Von Willebrand Disease (vWD), the most common inherited bleeding disorder in the US, and is a cause of heavy menstrual bleeding and other bleeding problems in women and adolescent girls. Women can also have other rare blood disorders like factor deficiencies I, II, V, VII, X, XI, XII, XIII and types of platelet disorders.

Bleeding disorders among females may cause special challenges because of the bleeding associated with menstruation and childbirth. Menorrhagia is abnormally heavy and prolonged menstrual period and is the most common symptom among females with a bleeding disorder.

Signs of menorrhagia include:

  • Soaking through one or more pads or tampons every hour
  • Needing to wear two or more pads and tampons at a time to control bleeding
  • Needing to change pads or tampons more than once during the night
  • Passing blood clots the size of a quarter or larger.
  • Having a menstrual flow so heavy that it keeps you from your usual activities

Menorrhagia can cause health problems such as anemia, or having too few red blood cells in the blood making you feel tired and have less energy.

Other symptoms common to females with a bleeding disorder include:

  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Prolonged bleeding from minor cuts
  • Large bruises
  • Easy bruising (unexplained bruising)
  • Excessive bleeding with dental work or tooth extraction
  • Post-partum bleeding (excessive bleeding after giving birth)

Treatment is available for females with bleeding disorders.

There are two types of doctors that often treat women:

  • Hematologist: a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders.
  • Gynecologist: a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive system.

Depending upon the type and severity of the disorder and the life-stage of the patient, either or both kinds of doctors may be involved in treating a female with a bleeding disorder.

Females with untreated bleeding disorders are at risk for:

  • Unnecessary medical procedures including hysterectomies and ablations
  • Postpartum hemorrhage
  • Recurring anemia
  • Having to limit or change activities because of heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding

If you have symptoms of menorrhagia, and would like help opening a dialogue with your doctor about the symptoms and a possible underlying bleeding disorder, please use this helpful checklist from the CDC to catalog your symptoms. 

Assisting and Advocating for the Bleeding Disorders Community