If you are pregnant and experience spotting or bleeding, it can be very scary. When you see blood, your first thought may be “is my baby ok?” Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy is common. Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting.
Bleeding? Spotting? What’s the difference?
Spotting is light bleeding and happens when you have a few drops of blood in your underwear. Bleeding is a heavier flow of blood, enough that you need a panty liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking your underwear or clothes.
Bleeding in early pregnancy
Bleeding doesn’t always mean there’s a problem, but it can be a sign of serious complications. There are several things that may cause bleeding early in your pregnancy, such as having sex, an infection, or changes in your cervix and hormones. You may bleed a little when the embryo attaches to the lining of your uterus (called implantation bleeding). This may occur 10-14 days after fertilization. Although this spotting is usually earlier and lighter than a menstrual period, some women don’t notice the difference, and don’t even realize they’re pregnant.
Sometimes bleeding and spotting in the first trimester can be a sign of a serious problem such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy. But keep in mind that bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage. At least half of women who have spotting or light bleeding early in pregnancy don’t miscarry.
Bleeding in late pregnancy
Causes of late pregnancy bleeding include labor, sex, an internal exam by your provider or problems with your cervix, such as an infection or cervical insufficiency. It could also be a sign of preterm labor, placenta previa, placental abruption or uterine rupture.
How to tell if the bleeding is dangerous
Bleeding or spotting can happen anytime, from the time you get pregnant to right before you give birth. Bleeding can be a sign of a serious complication, so it’s important you call your prenatal care provider if you have any bleeding or spotting, even if it stops. If the bleeding is not serious, it’s still important that your provider finds out the cause. Do not use a tampon, douche or have sex if you’re bleeding.
Before you call your provider, write down these things:
• How heavy your bleeding is. Is it getting heavier or lighter and how many pads are you using?
• The color of the blood. It can be different colors, like brown, dark or bright red.
Go to the emergency room if you have:
• Heavy bleeding
• Bleeding with pain or cramping
• Dizziness and bleeding
• Pain in your belly or pelvis
Treatment for your bleeding depends on the cause. You may need a medical exam or tests performed by your provider.
If you are bleeding or spotting at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away and describe what you are experiencing. It’s important that your bleeding or spotting is evaluated to determine if it is dangerous to you and your baby.
Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.