Bleeding in early pregnancy is something that can be shocking to an expecting mum—you’re not supposed to have bleeding in pregnancy, right?
Well, that’s not necessarily true. While it can sometimes be an indication of a problem, bleeding is often just another part of pregnancy that will pass.
If you find this information surprising, keep reading to learn more about bleeding in early pregnancy. There might be a lot that you don’t know!
Is bleeding in early pregnancy normal?
You may be relieved to hear that yes, bleeding in early pregnancy is considered normal. 20 – 25% of pregnant women will experience some bleeding during the first trimester, while 8% will have heavy bleeding, but will still have successful births. However, it is more common to have just a little bit of spotting during pregnancy.
Spotting is just a way to call light vaginal bleeding. Spotting in early pregnancy will usually be pinkish or brownish in colour, and a very small quantity of it. If you see bright red or more than a few drops, this is called bleeding. Spotting and bleeding are both considered normal, but they should usually last less than 3 days.
What are some harmless causes of bleeding when pregnant?
You may not be satisfied with knowing that bleeding is sometimes okay; maybe you want to know some of the causes of harmless bleeding. Here are some of them:
- Fertility treatments – Sometimes more than one embryo is placed into the uterus, but only one takes and begins to grow properly. When the other(s) fails to attach to the uterine wall, it is reabsorbed by the body and exits as blood.
- Breakthrough bleeding – Some women bleed a little bit during the time of the month when they would normally have their period. Doctors aren’t completely sure why this happens, but they believe that it’s just because of your body’s hormones working in overdrive. If you have this, it will typically last for no more than 3 months. However, some women have it all through their pregnancy and end up with perfectly healthy babies.
- Cervical irritation – The cervix is changing throughout your pregnancy and irritation can occur, typically after sex. If you think this is the cause of your bleeding in early pregnancy, ask your doctor about what you can do differently during intercourse while pregnant.
- Uterine fibroids – Some women have benign fibrous growth on their uterus which can become irritated as the placenta grows.
- Cervical polyps – Similarly, benign cervical polyps are fairly common and can sometimes rupture during pregnancy.
- A cervical or vaginal infection – This is definitely something you will want to be aware of, but it shouldn’t pose any serious health risk to you or your baby.
What is implantation bleeding?
There is a special kind of harmless bleeding that is a little different from the other types - implantation bleeding. This is one of the most common types of bleeding in pregnancy. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly harmless. In fact, for some women it is the very first indication of pregnancy. That’s because it happens when the fertilised egg is becoming embedded into the lining of your uterus. In approximately 1 in 3 women, this will cause a small amount of blood. It usually happens between 6 and 12 days after the baby is conceived, and it can be accompanied by some very mild cramping. However, it should be lighter than a normal period.
What are some harmful causes of bleeding in early pregnancy?
As you know, not all of the underlying causes behind bleeding while pregnant are safe for you and your baby. Here are some issues that would require medical attention:
- Miscarriage – Typically the bleeding is heavier, followed by clots or tissue. It will also be accompanied by back pain, stomach cramps and the disappearance of pregnancy symptoms.
- A blow or injury to the abdominal area – This can happen after a fall, car accident, or similar traumatic injury. This could mean internal bleeding.
- A genetic blood clotting disorder – You will need to be tested by a doctor to know if this is a problem.
- Ectopic pregnancy – This occurs when the fertilised egg becomes embedded in the Fallopian tube instead of the uterus. It will be accompanied by cramps, and it is a serious medical condition that requires treatment.
- Molar pregnancy – This medical condition occurs when the embryo stops developing, but the placental cells continue to multiply. In this case, the normal pregnancy symptoms will remain, despite the lack of a viable embryo, and the bleeding will typically begin between week 6 and week 12. It requires medical attention and the removal of the placenta.
- Placenta praevia – Sometimes the placenta grows too low on the wall of the uterus. It can be identified in an ultrasound and needs to be closely monitored for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Placental abruption – This happens when the placenta becomes separated from the uterine wall, either completely or partially. It will also come with very heavy bleeding and pain. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
What should I do if I’m bleeding during pregnancy?
Any time you experience bleeding or spotting in pregnancy, you should contact your midwife or doctor, or head to a hospital. It could be nothing to worry about, or it could be a sign of something more serious. Either way, it’s better to be safe than sorry. When a woman is bleeding while pregnant, it is standard to perform urine and blood tests to check on protein and pregnancy hormone levels. The doctor may also do a vaginal exam (which, don’t worry, won’t harm the baby) or an ultrasound.
Will the baby be OK?
Unless your doctor determines an underlying and dangerous cause of bleeding during pregnancy, both you and your baby will almost certainly be just fine. Around half of all women who report bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy will continue through full term and without complications. So just remember that bleeding in pregnancy alone isn’t a cause for concern. You should only be worried if your doctor discovers a dangerous underlying cause, like the ones listed above.