Although it might be worrying, bleeding during pregnancy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor does it indicate any major problems during your pregnancy. However, bleeding may be indicative of a more serious problem, and should be taken seriously, particularly if it occurs later in your term.
What is Bleeding During Pregnancy?
Bleeding during pregnancy refers to vaginal bleeding that occurs after your menstruation should stop, i.e., after you have become pregnant. Mild bleeding is usually referred to as spotting, but more regular and consistent bleeding can also occur, which can be understandably unnerving.
Bleeding occurs in nearly 1/3 of pregnant women, and can be a symptom of many things, some of which may not be at all related to the pregnancy. The most important thing to do is stay calm and speak to a doctor as soon as possible, to ensure that everything is normal with your growing fetus.
Is Bleeding During Pregnancy Normal?
For expecting mothers, bleeding during early pregnancy is somewhat normal, and approximately 20% of pregnant women will experience bleeding of some sort in the first 12 weeks. While bleeding or spotting can be normal, it may still be a cause of concern, even during the first trimester. To be safe, speak with your doctor or ask your midwife to arrange an appointment after you detect bleeding.
Causes of Bleeding During Pregnancy
There are many causes of bleeding during pregnancy, but these potential causes differ based on which trimester of the pregnancy you are in. Early on in the pregnancy, bleeding is more common and less serious, but later in your term, bleeding can indicate a more serious problem.
Bleeding in the 1st Trimester
Some of the most common causes of bleeding during the first trimester include sexual intercourse, ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, a molar pregnancy or infection, among others.
In the early weeks and months of your pregnancy, sexual intercourse can cause mild spotting or bleeding due to the physical friction and minor trauma of the sexual act. This normal bleeding should be minimal and should cease shortly after intercourse.
When the embryo binds to the uterus wall, this process is called implantation, and it is a new process in the body for most women. This event can lead to minor bleeding, particularly in the first 6-14 days after the egg has been fertilized.
This is a slightly more serious cause of bleeding in the first trimester. An ectopic pregnancy means that the egg has implanted outside of the uterus. The most common place for this implantation is in the Fallopian tube; due to the size of the developing embryo, this can cause pressure and inflammation in your Fallopian tubes and can be very dangerous to the mother. In such cases, the fetus will not be able to develop and come to term.
In 1 out of 1,000 pregnancies, a molar pregnancy will occur, in which there is a problem when the egg fertilizes the egg, resulting in an abnormal growth of placental cells. This can cause bleeding during early pregnancy, as the abnormal tissues of the placenta grow much faster than a normal embryo. In all cases, the abnormal cells of the placenta will make it impossible for the embryo to develop properly.
If the embryo is not developing properly, it can die naturally, causing a miscarriage. About 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, most of which will occur within the first trimester. The symptoms of a miscarriage include bleeding, pain in the abdomen and the release of tissue from the vagina.
Certain vaginal infections during early pregnancy can result in bleeding, including urinary tract infections and pelvic infections.
Bleeding in the 2nd & 3rd Trimesters
In the second and third trimesters, or rather, in the second half of the pregnancy, bleeding can be caused by things like placenta previa, placental abruption, preterm labor or minor trauma, among others.
If the placenta separates from the uterine lining, a placental abruption has occurred, which partially or totally cuts off the embryo from nutrients it needs to survive. There are treatments for a partial abruption that don’t require emergency delivery, but as this tends to happen in the second half of the pregnancy, a complete abruption will require an emergency delivery of the baby.
If the placenta is placed very low in the uterus, it can block the opening of the cervix, causing painless bleeding in the third trimester. If noticed early in the pregnancy, doctors will advise you on activities that can exacerbate the bleeding, but you can expect regular bleeding throughout your pregnancy and the delivery.
Any minor trauma to the vagina, due to the sensitivity of the tissues during pregnancy, can cause mild bleeding in the second and third trimesters.
You may experience bleeding later in pregnancy if you are experiencing a preterm birth. Premature labor will be accompanied by contractions and will require an emergency delivery or a Cesarean section.
How to Stop Bleeding During Pregnancy?
If you are pregnant and have detected spotting or vaginal bleeding, you can stop the bleeding by improving your diet, minimizing physical activity, speaking to your doctor, using pads, and avoiding sexual intercourse.
Physical Activity – Minimizing physical activity can reduce the strain and impact on the uterus and vaginal tissue, so taking it easy is highly recommended.
Doctor Visit – Following any bleeding, a visit to the doctor is required, as they will be able to diagnose the source of the bleeding and recommend the best treatment, whether it is an infection, trauma or something more serious.
Pads – Using pads is wise if you see any bleeding during pregnancy, as it can help you measure the amount of bleeding and determine when it begins and stops.
Avoid Sexual Intercourse – Having sex is one of the most common sources of bleeding during pregnancy, so if this is happening frequently, cut back on your bedroom activities until after the child is born.