Bleeding in early pregnancy isn’t abnormal, but it can be very unnerving.
Any type of bleeding during pregnancy can cause a lot of stress, even for women who have had multiple pregnancies.
Is Bleeding In Early Pregnancy Normal?
The good news is that most bleeding in early pregnancy is light, and often poses no threat to mother or baby.
Here’s more information about whether bleeding during early pregnancy is normal, what causes it, and when it might be more serious.
What You Should Know About Bleeding In Early Pregnancy
Seeing any vaginal blood when you are pregnant can be frightening, but it’s important not to panic.
It’s estimated 25-40% of women will experience some light bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy.
In most cases, the pregnancy progresses normally after the bleeding, without any further problems.
It’s always important, however, to have any bleeding in early pregnancy checked by your care provider, to give you peace of mind.
Causes Of Bleeding In Early Pregnancy
There are several reasons why bleeding might happen during early pregnancy:
- Implantation bleeding: the fertilised egg implants into the lining of the uterus about 6-10 days after conception. This can cause a small amount of bleeding and can be confused with a light period.
- Sexual intercourse: hormones during pregnancy affect the cervix, making it softer and more prone to bleeding, particularly after sex.
- Infections: some bleeding can be caused by vaginal infections, which are often accompanied by a discharge. If this happens, you should seek immediate treatment for the infection.
- Internal examination: if you require a smear or pelvic exam, these can cause some spotting.
Occasionally bleeding in early pregnancy is a sign of something more serious, such as:
- Ectopic pregnancy: this is when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. It can be life threatening if left untreated.
- Chemical pregnancy: this happens when a fertilised egg doesn’t fully implant into the uterus.
- Molar pregnancy: this is when, instead of a fetus, abnormal tissue grows inside the uterus.
- Subchorionic haemorrhage: this means bleeding around the placenta; it can resolve but might need treatment, to reduce the risk of other complications.
- Miscarriage: either a threatened or imminent miscarriage, which is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks.
In the case of these more serious causes of bleeding during early pregnancy, there are usually other symptoms that accompany bleeding.
When Is Bleeding During Early Pregnancy Serious?
Although it’s quite common for vaginal bleeding to occur during early pregnancy, it shouldn’t be dismissed.
There are signs to indicate bleeding might be due to more serious conditions. They include: heavy bleeding (similar to your period); passing tissue or clots; and bright red blood rather than brownish coloured blood.
The most serious conditions will include other symptoms such as cramping, fever, pain in the abdomen or back, and tenderness in the uterus.
If you experience bleeding with other symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance.
If your bleeding is light or spotting, and lasts only a few hours or a day, without any other symptoms, contact your care provider for peace of mind.
What Should I Do If I Have Bleeding In Early Pregnancy?
Contact your care provider as soon as you notice any vaginal bleeding. Even though most cases of bleeding in early pregnancy are nothing to be concerned about, bleeding can be a symptom of something more serious.
If you have any consistent bleeding during pregnancy, you should:
- Note the time you first noticed the bleeding, and any activities that might have contributed – such as sex, or a vaginal exam.
- Use pads for absorption; never use a tampon or insert anything into your vagina when bleeding. A pad will help gauge how much bleeding there is, depending on how frequently you change the liner.
- Note the colour of the blood – for example, whether it is bright red or brown, and whether there are any clots or tissue (fetal tissue is greyish in colour).
- Check whether you have any other symptoms, such as back pain, cramps, nausea, or changes to your vision.
Be prepared to answer detailed questions about the blood loss and how you are feeling. This might make you feel worried about your pregnancy, but it’s important for your care provider to work out whether or not there is cause for concern, and what the plan of action should be.
If you have bleeding that soaks through a sanitary pad, if you feel faint, or if the bleeding is persistent or accompanied by pain or fever, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
If the bleeding is due to a miscarriage, then, sadly, there is nothing to be done in early pregnancy to prevent it.
When bleeding is due to other factors, treatment will depend on what is causing it.
Occasionally, persistent bleeding happens for no apparent reason. Some women might experience a monthly bleed at the same time they would normally have their period.
Any bleeding during early pregnancy should be checked. In most cases it resolves. It can make you feel nervous about the possibility of more bleeding in the future, but the chance of this happening is pretty small.