Nothing is scarier than discovering blood in your underwear when you’re pregnant. You immediately start to worry that something is wrong with your baby or a miscarriage is in your future. Don’t panic; bleeding during pregnancy is relatively common, but it can be a sign that something could be wrong.
You should IMMEDIATELY call your doctor and/or a hospital and make an appointment to determine if something is wrong. This is NOT medical advice and it’s information only. It could be wrong.
Bleeding During the First Trimester
Around 20% of women face bleeding during the first trimester. That means a lot of women face bleeding during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Your brain might jump straight to a miscarriage, but you could be surprised to learn there are several reasons for first trimester bleeding.
One of the first reasons for bleeding during the first trimester is implantation bleeding, but you might not even realize that you’re pregnant just yet.
Implantation bleeding takes place six to 12 days after you successfully conceive. It happens when the fertilized egg finally arrives in the uterus after a four to five journey down your fallopian tubes. Upon arriving in your uterus, the fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterus.
Not all women have implantation bleeding, but since it arrives close to the time when you might expect your period, it’s easy to assume you had a light period. Implantation bleeding is light and only lasts for a few hours or up to two days.
When you have an ectopic pregnancy, the sperm successfully fertilizes the egg, but when the fertilized embryo goes to implant into the uterus, it isn’t successful. Typically, the embryo implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus and start to grow there.
This is a dangerous situation because it can cause your fallopian tube to burst, which is a life-threatening situation. Embryos cannot be moved and placed in the uterus, so you’ll need a procedure to remove the embryo.
Thankfully, ectopic pregnancies are not common, typically only taking place in 2% of pregnancies. Pay attention to your other signs to determine if you’re having an ectopic pregnancy, such as:
- Cramping in the lower stomach
- Sharp pains
- Low levels of hCG
- Vaginal bleeding
While only 1 in 60 pregnancies result in an ectopic pregnancy, some women are at a higher risk if they’ve had:
- Previous pelvic surgery
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- An infection in your tubes
As soon as you see bleeding during pregnancy, chances are your mind goes straight to a miscarriage, and unfortunately, that can be the result in many cases. Miscarriages are too frequent and a taboo topic in some cultures.
However, please know that if you see a heartbeat on an ultrasound, you have a 90% chance of NOT miscarrying. This percentage continues to decrease until the end of the first trimester. So, bleeding during the first trimester doesn’t mean you’ll lose the baby.
Other symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- Strong Cramps
A rare problem that some women face is a molar pregnancy, which is when an abnormal tissue grows inside of your uterus rather than a baby. In a small number of molar pregnancies, this tissue is cancerous, which can spread to other parts of your body.
Molar pregnancies come with other symptoms, such as:
- Severe Nausea
- Rapid Enlargement of the Uterus
- Unusually High hCG levels
- Absent Fetal Heart Tones
Any infection inside of the vagina or near the cervix can cause bleeding in the first trimester. Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, herpes, and chlamydia, lead to bleeding.
When you’re pregnant, extra blood flows to your cervix. So, any disruptions or disturbances to your cervix can lead to bleeding. Intercourse and pap smears can lead to bleeding, but this type will come directly after the activity and last for a short period.
Bleeding in the Second and Third Trimesters
There are fewer reasons for bleeding in the later months of pregnancy. Cervical changes and infections can still cause slight bleeding; some women spot after intercourse throughout their entire pregnancy. You’ll quickly notice a trend. If you see an abnormal discharge that indicates an infection, let your OBGYN know so that you can receive treatment.
Any bleeding in late pregnancy warrants an immediate call to your doctor. It could mean that there is a severe problem that needs to be addressed.
Placenta previa occurs when your placenta sits so low in your uterus that is either partially or completely covering the opening of your birth canal.
This isn’t a common occurrence; it only happens in the third trimester in one out of 200 pregnancies. If you have bleeding and know you have placenta previa, this is an emergency.
1% of pregnancies result in a placental abruption, which happens when the placenta detaches from your uterus’ walls before or during labor. It causes blood to pool between the placenta and the uterus. This is a very dangerous situation for both the mother and the baby.
If you’re having a placental abruption, you might have other signs or symptoms, such as:
- Back Pain
- Abdominal Pain
- Tender Uterus
Although placental abruptions are ready, some women are at a higher risk. You’d be in the higher risk category if you:
- Already had kids
- 35 or older
- Previous abruption
- Have sickle cell anemia
- High blood pressure
- Trauma to the stomach region
If you had a previous c-section, your previous incision could open during pregnancy or labor in rare cases. A uterine rupture is a life-threatening situation that requires an emergency c-section, which typically comes with pain and tenderness in the abdomen.
Here is another rare condition in which your baby’s developing blood vessels in the umbilical cord or placenta crosses the opening of your birth canal. Vasa Previa is a severe condition because it can cause the blood vessels to open, leading to severe blood loss and loss of oxygen of the baby.
If you experience vaginal bleeding in your late pregnancy, it could signify that your body is heading into premature labor. If you have bleeding or symptoms of labor before the 37th week of pregnancy, it could be a sign of premature labor. You need to let your doctor know what is happening.
Premature labor often comes with other signs, including:
- Vaginal Discharge
- Abdominal Pressure
- Back Aches
What to Do If You Experience Bleeding During Pregnancy
If you notice vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, it can be a sign of a problem. You need to call your doctor and wear a pad so that you can keep track of the amount of you’re bleeding. You also need to look at the type of blood, including the color and if you have any clotting.
Call your doctor and make an appointment to determine the problem. Most doctors will want to perform a vaginal ultrasound to check on the baby and the uterus.
In some circumstances, a trip to the emergency room is necessary or a call to 911 if you’re home alone. These signs indicate a serious problem that needs to be addressed quickly.
- Severe pain or cramping in your lower abdomen
- Severe bleeding, with or without pain
- Discharge contain tissue
- A fever of 100.4℉ or higher
If you do experience some bleeding during pregnancy, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re having a miscarriage. Many women bleed and go on to have successful pregnancies. Try to relax and call your doctor for advice.