Pregnancy Vitamins

Everything you need to know about prenatal care

When Should I Be Concerned About Bleeding While Pregnant?

At any stage during your pregnancy, bleeding should always be investigated as it may indicate something more serious. Regrettably, there are some instances where bleeding indicates problems. If you feel severe abdominal pain and cramps, it may be signs of a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or placental problems. You may also experience dizziness and fainting, fatigue, fever and increased thirst, which indicates serious blood loss.

 

What is spotting?

Spotting (or light bleeding) occurs during the early stages of your pregnancy and involves a small amount of blood discharging from your vagina. This is very common and will not affect your baby. Colour usually varies from brown to dark-red. Around 25% of expecting mothers experience some light bleeding during the first couple of weeks of pregnancy.

If you’ve undergone IVF treatment and had more than one embryo transferred to your uterus, you may be more likely to have some bleeding especially if one of the embryos doesn’t continue development normally.

Even if you don’t experience any other symptoms, it’s advisable that you consult your healthcare provider to investigate why you’re bleeding. Importantly, if the bleeding gets heavier or is bright red and you experience severe abdominal pain and cramps, seek medical attention immediately, as this may indicate a miscarriage.

 

What are the common causes of spotting?

Breakthrough bleeding:

Bleeding can be caused by hormones that regulate your menstrual period, and in this case, you’ll experience some bleeding at the time when your period would have been due. You may have this repeatedly, at the times when you would expect your period.

 

Implantation bleeding:

Light bleeding can also be caused by the fetus at implantation, and usually only lasts a day or two. Most women don’t realize when implantation has taken place.

 

Miscarriage

May start as spotting, but bleeding caused by a miscarriage gets heavier as time goes by and is usually accompanied by abdominal pain and cramps.

 

This usually happens when the baby is not developing normally, probably caused by a genetic disorder. In this case, bleeding becomes increasingly heavier. Unfortunately, early miscarriages are common, but shouldn’t affect your ability to get pregnant again. If you have a miscarriage very early in your pregnancy, you may even mistake it for your period and never even realize that you were pregnant. Miscarriages later in pregnancy tend to be accompanied by severe abdominal pain.

Ectopic Pregnancy?

This occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually along the Fallopian tubes. In this case, you’ll experience a continuous dark watery discharge, which can be very dangerous and needs medical attention immediately.

Molar Pregnancy?

Bleeding occurs when abnormal tissue starts developing in the uterus rather than a baby, caused by pregnancy hormones. This is usually treatable, but in some rare cases, it may be cancerous.

Intrauterine Fetal Demise?

This occurs when the baby dies in the uterus, but there’s no spontaneous miscarriage. It can happen at any time during pregnancy, but it’s more common in the first trimester.

Placenta Previa?

Bleeding may occur when the placenta covers the cervical opening. As your body prepares for delivery and the womb starts to dilate, some blood vessels in the placenta may rupture and start bleeding.

Placental Abruption?

You may experience bleeding as the placenta separates from the uterus prematurely. This may occur after a car accident, high blood pressure or smoking.

Uterine Rupture?

It is rare, but very dangerous and comes with heavy bleeding. In this case, the baby may be partially or completely expelled into the abdomen after the rupturing of the uterus.

 

Loss of mucus plug:

This happens a few days before labor. Some spotting at this stage is not a reason for concern, but if it’s bright red blood and watery discharge contact your doctor immediately, as you may be losing amniotic fluid.

 

Other causes:

Light bleeding may be a consequence of your cervix softening, which is called cervix erosion. A vaginal or cervical infection or a polyp may also cause bleeding if your cervix is damaged, for example, when you have sex.

Bleeding may also be a consequence of trauma, tears to the vaginal wall or infections. Less common bleeding causes include fibroids, polyps, cervical and vaginal lesions or even inherited blood disorders, such as hemophilia.

 

Will my baby be safe?

To investigate why you’re bleeding, your doctor will examine you to make sure your cervix is closed and probably take blood and urine samples to check your hormone levels. If there’s any reason to believe that it may be an ectopic pregnancy or that your baby is in distress, you may need a scan to check if your baby is developing normally with a strong heartbeat.

If your bleeding doesn’t stop you may be diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to lose the baby, but the doctor will prescribe absolute rest until the bleeding stops to ensure that your baby continues to develop normally.

However, in most cases of bleeding during the first trimester, if you don’t have any other serious symptoms, your doctor will reassure you that spotting is a common occurrence and your pregnancy will proceed as normal.

 

What should I do?
Even if the bleeding stops and you don’t have other symptoms, speak to your doctor to find out why you’re bleeding. To ensure that your baby is developing normally, your doctor may perform a vaginal examination or send you for a scan, to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. You may also need to undergo blood and urine tests, to check your hormone levels. If you develop cramps and bleeding gets heavier, you need to go to the hospital for immediate medical attention.

If your baby is developing normally, but you’re still bleeding, your doctor will recommend plenty of rest. You should stop any strenuous exercise and avoid dehydration.

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