Spotting During Pregnancy – What Does It Mean?

Spotting During Pregnancy – What Does It Mean?

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.

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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
  • Infection

Some causes of spotting during pregnancy when you’re past early pregnancy:

  • Cervical insufficiency
  • Having sex
  • Infection
  • 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.

Consider:

  • 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.

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Maria Pyanov CPD, CCE CONTRIBUTOR

Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.


12 comments

  1. Hi,

    I think I am 2 weeks pregnant but it has been 2 days I am having very light bleeding with also cramping.I don’t feel pregnant but could this be a sign of miscarriage?I need some answers??

  2. i was 4weeks and 4days pregnant when i started seeing little bleeding for 7days , at the 5th day i went to my doctor he enjected me and gave me tablets to stop the bleeding , at the same day i saw thick dark blood came out of my private part , and since then i ve been confused cos i no longer have pregnant signs pls someone shuld help me could that be sign of misscarriage or the baby is there

  3. Hi veryone,I just want to ask I was 6 weeks pregnant then I have spots 4 days already then just today is small circle thick blood came out to my part is it normal pls guys, need your advise.tnx

    1. With the thick blood if it’s a clot dark in colour you might have miscarriaged ;(
      Iv had two and think I’m on my third i would go have a blood test to see hcg levels to confirm your doctor should get them back with in 24 hrs

  4. Hi I am now 5 weeks and 4 days it s my first I was taking clomid 50mg helped me on the first time. I have a history of PCOS. experienced most pregnancy s symptoms today is the first day I noticed bleeding its very light almost red/pinkish water (to describe it) I have no pain no cramps would it be okay? or should I be concerned
    thanks

  5. I missed my period for November and I took a test it shows positive then two weeks after am bleeding now its mild bleeding not heavy small clots coming down too but I did a ultrasound but the baby is still in the womb so I don’t know am confused the doctor say I must come back two weeks times with another ultrasound test am scared

  6. Hi everyone l an 20 weeks pregnant and is my first time but I have seen light blood it only come for 2 days and stop while my normal circle days is 5 day what do l call this because I am confused

  7. Hi all I have a blood clot near my placenta the doc told me on the 12th of April it can go way by it self
    Since then I have been having dark dark brown discharges and that also first thing morning when I gave just stepped out of bed
    The rest of the day there’s nothing
    I’m 17+ weeks pregnant
    Help is this normal

  8. Hi am 6 weeks and 2 day and just want to know am got light bleeding and am a bit worried am seen my doctor today

    1. This same problem is going with me I m 6 weeks 4 days pregnant I started spitting dark brown mucuosy smdischarge i am very tensed help me guys

  9. I’m 6 weeks and 3 days today. This is my 4th pregnancy. I’ve been spotting for a week now. Very light the first 3 days not even enough to put a panty liner on. It showed when I whipped but not every time I used the restroom. The 4th and 5th day was still not enough to wear a panty liner, but the spotting became bright red for 3 of the bathroom runs I did for both days. Now it’s back to very faint pink spotting not even enough for a panty liner. I have no cramping or any other symptoms. What should I do?

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