Women with Bleeding Disorders

Unique signs and symptoms of bleeding disorders in women

NHF 2015 (Dallas, August 13-15) A session for patients and caregivers  at the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) 2015 Annual Meeting discussed the unique signs and symptoms of women with bleeding disorders. A bleeding disorder happens when there is an issue with the body’s clotting system. People with bleeding disorders bleed longer, not faster than those who do not have bleeding disorders. The most common bleeding disorder in women and girls is von Willebrand disease, an inherited disorder that is caused by a defect or deficiency in von Willebrand factor, a protein the blood needs for clotting. Although rare, women and girls may also have bleeding symptoms due to mild to moderate hemophilia; this means that they carry the gene and exhibit symptoms and abnormally low factor VIII or IX levels. While women and men with hemophilia have similar symptoms, such as bleeds into joints and tissues, women may have additional complications during menstruation, pregnancy, labor and delivery. Unfortunately, some doctors are not very familiar with bleeding disorders in women, especially that mild and moderate hemophilia with low factor levels can occur in women, and thus some women likely go undiagnosed or told they are “carriers” and shouldn’t be having symptoms. So, what are some of the signs and symptoms of bleeding disorders that are unique to women? A girl/woman may have a bleeding disorder if she experiences one or more of the following:

Heavy menstrual periods

  • Bleeding for more than 7 days, from the time it began until it stopped
  • Flooding or gushing of blood, limiting daily activities such as housework, exercise or social activities
  • Passing clots that are bigger than a quarter
  • Changing tampons and/or pad every 2 hours on heaviest day.
  • Been told you are “low in iron” or was treated for anemia with iron

Bleeding symptoms and has a family member with a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand disease or hemophilia.

Heavy bleeding from dental surgery, other surgery, or childbirth and/or additional bleeding symptoms such as

  • frequent prolonged nose bleeds (longer than 10 minutes) or
  • prolonged bleeding from cuts (longer than 5 minutes) or
  • easy bruising (very often, raised and larger than a quarter, in unusual places)

If an individual experience these signs and symptoms of a bleeding disorder, it is important to see a specialist like a hematologist to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.