Early pregnancy bleeding is common but causes a lot of anxiety and concern for women. In the first trimester, so much is going on in your body.
While you can’t see what’s going on, in early pregnancy your body is experiencing huge hormone shifts. With all that happening, early pregnancy bleeding is quite common. Around 25% of women experience some bleeding in the first trimester.
Early pregnancy bleeding
Noticing early pregnancy bleeding doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. But the sight of any blood, even the smallest amount, can cause a lot of concern and anxiety for women when they’re pregnant.
While it is common and usually not a concern, it’s always best to seek the advice from your care provider if you experience any early pregnancy bleeding.
How much bleeding is normal in early pregnancy?
Early pregnancy bleeding is usually very light and is often referred to as spotting.
Spotting is very common during the first trimester and most likely happens around 6-7 weeks.
Spotting is usually noticed as a smear or drops of pink, red or brown blood and wouldn’t fill a panty liner.
Bleeding is a much heavier flow, similar to a menstrual period. You would need a sanitary pad to contain the flow. Heavier bleeding is something that should be investigated as quickly as possible.
With any spotting or bleeding, if you’re experiencing pain, fever or other symptoms, seek the advice of your doctor immediately.
Remember, early pregnancy bleeding is common – you’re not alone. A visit to your healthcare provider not only makes sure you and your baby are healthy, but it could give you precious peace of mind, rather than worrying and uncertainty.
Early pregnancy bleeding – 4 weeks
At 4 weeks pregnant you’re waiting for your next menstrual period. Around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned so you may not be aware of the fact a fertilised egg has settled into your uterus. You may feel more tired than usual or have tender breasts, but chalk this up to being close to your period.
If you are trying to conceive, then you’re more likely to be paying attention to your body and more attuned to the early signs of pregnancy. At this stage, if you’re hoping to be pregnant, the last thing you want to see is any bleeding.
Bleeding in early pregnancy at 4 weeks is actually more common than you might realise. The fertilised egg burrows into your uterus and causes spotting or light bleeding.
Your cervix is a little more sensitive than usual and may bleed after sex. In some situations, you may have an infection that causes bleeding. It’s always important to see your doctor in case there is an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.
Early pregnancy bleeding implantation
One of the most common reasons for early pregnancy bleeding is implantation. Implantation happens when the fertilised egg settles into the blood rich uterus lining and begins the transformation into a fetus.
When the egg burrows into the uterine lining, this causes some spotting or light bleeding. As implantation happens around week 3 of your cycle (between 7-12 days after ovulation), implantation often happens around the time you expect your next period.
Early pregnancy implantation bleeding is usually light pink to rusty brown and is spotting rather than a heavy flow.
Find out more about implantation bleeding.
Period-like bleeding during early pregnancy
During pregnancy your hormones shift, preventing you from menstruating. However, some women do experience period-like bleeding during the first months of pregnancy.
This is known as decidual bleeding and happens when the uterus sheds some of its lining each month around the time a menstrual cycle would normally happen.
This is not a true period but looks very similar to your regular menstrual bleeding and can be the reason why some women aren’t aware they’re pregnant.
Light- early pregnancy bleeding
Seeing any blood in early pregnancy is worrisome. Remember light bleeding in early pregnancy happens in a quarter of pregnancies, and more than 50% of those women go on to have healthy babies.
Light bleeding is generally what we call spotting; that is smears of pink, red or brown blood and doesn’t fill a panty liner.
Benign causes of light bleeding in early pregnancy are usually implantation bleeding and don’t cause other symptoms, such as clots or cramping severe enough to be painful.
Any signs you are worried about with light bleeding, always seek the advice of your doctor.
Heavy – early pregnancy bleeding
While some light bleeding or spotting is common, heavy bleeding in early pregnancy may indicate a more serious problem.
Causes of heavy bleeding in early pregnancy include:
- Miscarriage: bleeding, lower back pain, cramping, blood clots. You can find out more in our article, What Does Miscarriage Bleeding Look Like?
- Molar pregnancy: rare condition caused by cells that normally form a placenta grow into a clump of abnormal cells instead. Often accompanied by severe morning sickness due to the higher than usual pregnancy hormones produced by the placenta, and bleeding.
- Cervix: this can be caused by infections, growth or inflammation.
- Ectopic pregnancy: fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, usually the Fallopian tube, causing bleeding and increasing abdominal pain.
- Subchorionic haemorrhage: blood collects between the wall of the uterus and the gestational sac. Often this blood is reabsorbed but bleeding or clots may pass from the vagina.
If your early pregnancy bleeding is heavy, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Bleeding and cramping early pregnancy
If you are experiencing bleeding and cramping in early pregnancy, it’s hard not to worry about miscarriage.
Early pregnancy miscarriage often happens before a woman know she is pregnant. Many women have a period a little later or heavier than usual.
Most often a miscarriage happens early in pregnancy due to the fertilised egg not being viable in some way. This might be to do with a chromosome problem which means the fetus would not develop.
Cramping can be associated with implantation, when the fertilised egg settles into the uterus wall. A small amount of spotting isn’t uncommon at this time.
Heavier bleeding with cramps should be investigated by your care provider in case there is another issue, such as ectopic pregnancy. This is when the fertilised egg is still in the Fallopian tube.