It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to experience spotting or light bleeding during early pregnancy. In fact, approximately 20% of pregnant women experience light bleeding or spotting during the first trimester of pregnancy. Most women go on to have uncomplicated pregnancies and ultimately deliver a healthy baby.
If this happens to you, don’t be alarmed, especially if you notice it after sexual intercourse. But, sometimes vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is an indicator of a serious issue. Common problems that may cause light bleeding later in pregnancy include inflammation of or growths on the cervix.
Heavy bleeding is a more serious sign. Heavy bleeding may be caused by a problem with the placenta.
Should I Call My Doctor About Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy?
If you’re concerned about vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, even if it is just the first trimester, please do not hesitate to call us. We can perform a pelvic exam and ultrasound, and if there is any cause for concern, we can order other diagnostic tests. Be prepared for your health care professional to ask you for a complete medical history, including how much bleeding you’ve had, and if you’ve experienced any pain.
Miscarriage and Vaginal Bleeding
Miscarriages are most likely to occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. An estimated 1 out of 5 pregnancies will end in miscarriage.
Many miscarriages present with severe cramping and vaginal bleeding, with or without clots. However, some miscarriages don’t involve any cramping, and sometimes, bleeding occurs on its own without signaling a miscarriage.
A miscarriage does not mean that you cannot have a future healthy pregnancy or that you yourself are not healthy. While there are no specific treatments to stop a miscarriage, your doctor may advise avoiding certain activities, bed rest, etc.
- Bleeding, abdominal pain and back pain are common signs of miscarriage.
- An exam shows that the cervix is open.
- Tissue may be extruded through the cervix and vagina.
- A miscarriage occurs in an estimated 15% to 20% of pregnancies, usually during the first 12 weeks of gestation.
- A genetic defect confined to the specific embryo in question represents the most common cause of miscarriage.
Few circumstances exist wherein a miscarriage in progress can be prevented.
Other Causes for Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy
Bleeding or spotting in pregnancy can be due to a number of causes. At times, having sex or even having a pelvic exam by your OB/GYN or Midwife can cause light bleeding, or spotting. Problems with the cervix, including cervical insufficiency or infection of the cervix, can lead to bleeding. More serious causes of bleeding in later pregnancy include placenta previa, preterm labor, uterine rupture, or placental abruption.
Implantation bleeding is a common cause of spotting early on in pregnancy. Implantation bleeding happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. This can trigger a few days of light bleeding or spotting. This spotting often occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant and is often mistaken as a pending period. Bleeding that occurs after the day a woman expects her period is typically too late to be considered implantation bleeding, and is more likely related to early pregnancy in general.
If the cervix is inflamed or has developed cervical growths, you may experience some light bleeding. Prescription medication and certain procedures can treat both of these conditions.
The placenta is shaped like a pancake, and when it covers the cervical opening, this is called placenta previa. This condition can cause vaginal bleeding. In about 90% of cases, the problem resolves itself. In the other 10%, an Ob/Gyn may recommend a Cesarean delivery.
The placenta may separate from the wall of the uterus before labor, causing pain and heavy vaginal bleeding. This condition requires immediate medical help, as problems with the placenta could prevent the flow of oxygen to your baby. Placental abruption can be very dangerous to both the mother and baby.
Placenta accreta happens when the placenta (or part of the placenta) invades and is inseparable from the uterine wall. Placenta accreta can cause bleeding during the third trimester and severe blood loss.
When a fertilized egg implants in a Fallopian tube instead of in the uterus, what results is a dangerous and painful condition called ectopic pregnancy. Bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy is the most dangerous cause of first trimester bleeding. The rapidly-dividing zygote could rupture the Fallopian tube, causing internal bleeding, weakness, fainting, shock, pain, and life-threatening to the mother. An ectopic pregnancy requires immediate medical treatment.
Molar pregnancy, also known as gestational trophoblastic disease or hydatidiform mole, is an abnormality of fertilization that results in the growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus.
The bottom line is, if you’re experiencing any bleeding, try not to panic. There are many reasons why you may have vaginal bleeding – some are serious, and some are no cause for concern. Abnormal bleeding in late pregnancy may be more serious because it can indicate a problem with the mother or baby or both. For medical advice relating to your personal condition, please call us.
Vaginal Bleeding and Labor
Towards the end of your pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can signal labor. The bloody mucus expelled just before beginning labor is called “bloody show.” This is fairly normal within three weeks of your due date.
Preterm labor. If “bloody show” makes an appearance earlier than three weeks prior to your due date, you may be going into pre-term labor. This is especially likely if you’re also experiencing:
- An increase or a new type of vaginal discharge (mucus, bloody, or watery).
- Pressure in the lower abdomen.
- Lower back aches.
If you think you’re going into preterm labor, call your health care provider right away.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of, or suffering from Bleeding During Pregnancy, or have questions about it, please see your doctor.
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