What is a bleeding disorder?
Bleeding disorders are rare health conditions where a person’s blood doesn’t clot properly.
This means that if someone with a bleeding disorder starts to bleed, for example from an injury, surgery or from having their period, they might bleed for longer than other people because their blood takes longer to clot (stop running). This can happen because there is a problem with the blood clotting - for example, not enough clotting factor in the blood or it doesn’t work the way it should.
Types of bleeding disorders
The most common inherited bleeding disorders are von Willebrand disease (VWD) and haemophilia.
Other groups of inherited bleeding disorders include rare clotting factor deficiencies and inherited platelet function disorders
These bleeding disorders are caused by changes to the genes responsible for blood clotting. The changed genes are passed down from parent to child and so the bleeding disorders are referred to as genetic or inherited disorders. People with bleeding disorders are nearly always born with them.
The exceptions are acquired haemophilia and acquired VWD, which mostly occur in adulthood. These conditions are different to inherited bleeding disorders and are very rare
Common symptoms of bleeding disorders in females are:
- Bruising easily
- Heavy periods
- Pain with periods
- Pain with ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary half-way between periods)
- Bleeding or oozing that lasts for a long time after surgery, dental procedures including tooth extractions, medical procedures, injuries or accidents
- Bleeding from the gums, usually after trauma/injury (more common with VWD)
- Frequent nosebleeds, or nosebleeds that are difficult to stop (more common with VWD)
- Heavy bleeding that lasts longer than expected after childbirth (particularly when bleeding increases 3 days or more after giving birth)
- Bleeding that lasts longer than expected after cuts
- Anaemia (low red blood cell count/low blood iron levels)
‘I mainly experience issues during dental surgery - excessive bleeding, swelling and bruising. Occasionally I come up with bruises and I’m not sure why! But on a daily basis, haemophilia doesn’t affect my life.’
Rarely, females with very low clotting factor levels (such as severe haemophilia or VWD or rare clotting factor deficiencies) may also have:
- Joint and muscle bleeds which can occur often and cause swelling and pain
- Bleeding episodes that seem to happen for no obvious reason.
‘I have always had heavy periods from a young age, and breakthrough bleeding, which I now know to be ovulation bleeding, but I also get regular gum and throat bleeding episodes as well as the occasional nose bleed. I've also always bruised easily, and often without injury.’
Because girls start having periods in puberty, symptoms of a mild or moderate bleeding disorder are often more obvious from an earlier age in girls than in boys.
Contact details of Haemophilia Treatment Centres in Australia are available on the HFA website
If you’d like to know more about bleeding disorders, download our Female Factors - What Is a Bleeding Disorder? resource here. This contains more information on bleeding disorders including:
- The clotting process
- Types of bleeding disorders
For more information on bleeding disorders in young women read our full Female Factors resource here
Date last reviewed: October 2018