I am pregnant and experiencing vaginal bleeding. Should I be concerned?
Many women experience vaginal bleeding or spotting during pregnancy. This is a common symptom for many conditions and problems, some of which may be serious. There may be cause for concern depending on how much blood you’re passing, how far along you are in your pregnancy, and whether you have any other symptoms or pain.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common conditions that cause bleeding during pregnancy. If you are concerned about any symptoms, call your health care provider. You may be asked to come in for blood tests or an ultrasound. Your doctor may or may not be able to diagnose a cause for the bleeding.
How can I tell if I am miscarrying?
Miscarriage is fairly common, occurring in up to 20% of pregnancies. Miscarriages are most likely to occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, but they can occur as late as 20 weeks. Symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Passing tissue through the vagina
- Strong cramping
If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding with no cramping or only light cramping, you’re likely not miscarrying. The bleeding may very well stop on its own while the pregnancy continues.
What should I do if I have miscarried?
If you believe you’ve miscarried, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. If there is some tissue left in your uterus after a miscarriage, it will need to be expelled or removed. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help your body expel the tissue. Tissue can also be removed with a procedure called dilation and curettage, or D&C. This is when your doctor dilates your cervix and scrapes tissue out of your uterus with a special spoon-shaped instrument. Suction can also be used instead of, or in addition to, the curette.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
Another possible cause of vaginal bleeding is an ectopic pregnancy. This is a condition in which the fertilized egg has implanted in the fallopian tube, instead of in the womb. This is a potentially life-threatening condition, because as the fertilized egg starts to divide and grow, it will likely rupture the fallopian tube, causing massive internal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy is not a viable pregnancy, and must be treated right away.
How can I tell if I have an ectopic pregnancy?
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Cramping and pain in the pelvis, particularly on one side of the body
- Nausea, vomiting
Ectopic pregnancies occur in about one out of 60 pregnancies. You may be at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy if you have had an infection, scarring, or surgery of the fallopian tubes.
I am late in my pregnancy and experiencing light bleeding. What could be the problem?
Light bleeding late in pregnancy usually means you have an inflamed cervix. You could also have developed growths on the cervix. Your doctor can prescribe medication to treat these conditions.
I am late in my pregnancy and experiencing heavy bleeding. What could it be?
Heavy bleeding late in pregnancy usually indicates a complication with the placenta. This requires medical treatment. The two most common complications are:
- Placenta previa. This is when the placenta has developed at the bottom of the uterus, covering the cervix. This usually does not cause any pain, but can cause vaginal bleeding.
- Placental abruption. In most pregnancies, the placenta is connected to the uterine wall. If it becomes disconnected, either before or during labor, it can disrupt circulation to the baby. Vaginal bleeding is sometimes present, but more often it will cause abdominal pain.
Could I be going into labor?
Vaginal bleeding is sometimes a sign of labor, and this is known as “bloody show.” If you experience bloody show within about three weeks of your due date, then you may be going into labor. You could be going into pre-term labor if it’s more than three weeks before your due date.
Other signs that you’re going into labor include:
- Vaginal discharge. A change in the color, texture, or amount of vaginal discharge could indicate the start of labor.
- Dull, aching back pains
- Pelvic pressure
- Cramps or regular contractions
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor.