Have you noticed you’ve been spotting during pregnancy?
Worried about what the spotting might mean?
Pregnancy is a time of nerves and excitement. You’re growing a precious baby in your clever body, and are patiently waiting to meet your baby in the near future.
If you’re expecting your first baby or a rainbow baby (a baby after a loss), you might be extra concerned about pregnancy symptoms, especially when they involve blood.
For many women, the first sign of pregnancy is a missed period. From that point on, they expect or hope to have no bleeding or spotting until after the birth.
What might come as a surprise to you is that nearly 50% of all expectant mothers experience some degree of bleeding or spotting during pregnancy.
Spotting During Pregnancy
Here’s what you need to know about spotting during pregnancy.
Firstly, it’s important to define spotting, as bleeding occurs at various levels.
Spotting is very light bleeding. So light, that you might find a little bit of blood in your underwear, but not soaking through.
You might find a bit of blood on the toilet paper after wiping.
If you need a liner or pad, have a menstrual-like flow, or if you see any clots, that would be considered bleeding, not spotting.
In which case, you should contact your midwife or doctor to get checked out.
What Causes Spotting During Pregnancy?
With nearly 50% of women experiencing bleeding or spotting during pregnancy, it isn’t always bad news.
In some cases, we’re never really sure why the spotting or bleeding occurred. In other cases, we know the cause.
Some causes of spotting during early pregnancy are:
- Implantation, when the embryo attaches to the uterine lining
- Having sex
- Hormonal changes
- Internal exam by your midwife or doctor
- Cervical changes or irritation of the cervix
Some causes of spotting during pregnancy when you’re past early pregnancy:
- Cervical insufficiency
- Having sex
- Internal exams
- Preterm labour
- Cervical changes
What Should I Do If I Start Spotting During Pregnancy?
If you notice any spotting during pregnancy, it can be helpful to put on a panty liner. Watch and see if the spotting continues or turns into bleeding, which can be harder to gauge with underwear.
- If you recently had intercourse
- How many days it’s been since ovulation
- If you recently had an internal exam.
All of these things can cause spotting during pregnancy.
When Should I Contact My Midwife or Doctor?
It’s a good idea to mention it to your maternity care provider if you’re been spotting during pregnancy.
But it’s rarely necessary to contact them after hours for some simple spotting.
If you don’t have any pain or other concerning symptoms, and your spotting doesn’t increase in frequency or amount, the spotting isn’t likely an emergency.
Contact your maternity care provider as soon as possible if:
- Your spotting becomes bleeding
- You have pain
- You have pain or irritation when you urinate, or,
- You’re feeling uneasy.
You should seek medical attention immediately if your spotting is accompanied by severe localised pain, as this can be a sign of a rare but serious concern, ectopic pregnancy.
According to a study, the main risk factors for ectopic pregnancy are having pelvic inflammatory disease, smoking, and previous ectopic pregnancy.
You should also seek medical attention if the spotting quickly becomes bleeding and you soak through a pad in less than 1-2 hours.
What Can Be Done For Spotting During Pregnancy?
In many cases, spotting during pregnancy is not a concern and nothing needs to be done.
Your healthcare provider is likely to begin by asking you about your recent activities and symptoms.
In the case of an internal exam or intercourse in the last day or two, the spotting is most likely the result of cervical irritation. In this case, nothing is usually done.
If you experience spotting every time you have intercourse, your provider might recommend pelvic rest (nothing in the vagina). Or they might reassure you it’s simply a common pregnancy ailment.
If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, especially with urination, your provider might do a urine sample and vaginal swab.
This is to check for a urinary tract infection, such as a bladder infection, bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.
Your midwife or doctor might ask if you know when you ovulated.
Spotting that occurs frequently and without any known triggers might be a hormonal concern. Your health care provider may want to do some lab work to check your hCG and progesterone levels.
This can give them an idea of what might be going on.
If your progesterone levels are borderline low they might prescribe progesterone supplements.
Or, if your hCG levels or progesterone are off, they may simply repeat the test in a few days to see how your pregnancy is progressing.
If you’re far enough along in your pregnancy an ultrasound might be useful.
During an ultrasound, a sonographer will check your placenta, cervix and the baby, to see if there’s a cause for spotting.
Their course of action would be dependent upon results.
Spotting During Pregnancy May Be Implantation Bleeding
For many women, spotting during early pregnancy is simply due to implantation.
Implantation bleeding can occur 6-12 days after fertilisation.
In many cases, women aren’t aware they’re pregnant when this occurs.
Things To Keep In Mind
For most women who experience spotting during pregnancy, little investigation or treatment is necessary.
Pregnancy is nine months long, so it’s likely many mothers-to-be will experience some concerns in that time.
Outside of pregnancy, many women occasionally experience spotting, urinary tract infections, and cervical irritation.
Spotting isn’t always a pregnancy problem, and a reason to worry. Rest assured, any blood you do lose will unlikely be your baby’s blood.
Be sure to notify your care provider of any bleeding or spotting during pregnancy.
While miscarriage is unfortunately a possibility of pregnancy, spotting does not always equal a cause for concern.
Many women who experience spotting during pregnancy go onto have a healthy full-term baby.