Despite being relatively common, bleeding during pregnancy can be dangerous.
Bleeding can have several causes.
What is vaginal bleeding
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is any discharge of blood from the vagina. It can happen anytime from conception until the birth of your child. Light bleeding, or spotting, during pregnancy is common, especially during the first trimester. Other kinds of bleeding can be dangerous and should be examined by a doctor.
Spotting in early pregnancy
In early pregnancy, you might witness some perfectly harmless light bleeding, called “spotting,” marking the plantation of the developing embryo in the wall of your womb. Spotting often occurs around the time your first period after conception would have been due.
Bleeding in early pregnancy
During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, vaginal bleeding could indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Nevertheless, several women experiencing bleeding at this stage have normal and successful pregnancies.
Miscarriage in early pregnancy
If a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks, it is called a miscarriage. Miscarriages are a frequent occurrence in the first 3 months of pregnancy, and around 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies end this way. Numerous early miscarriages occur because of some problems with the fetus. Other causes, such as hormonal or blood clotting problems, could also result in a miscarriage. In most cases, miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and, sadly, most cannot be prevented.
Ectopic in early pregnancy
Although ectopic pregnancies (when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb, for example, in the fallopian tube) could cause bleeding, these are less common than miscarriages. Nevertheless, it is a dangerous condition because the fertilized egg cannot develop properly outside the womb. Hence, the egg needs to be removed, either surgically or medicinally.
Bleeding in late pregnancy
Bleeding in late pregnancy could be attributed to various factors such as:
- Vaginal infections
- Cervical changes could result in bleeding, especially after sex.
- A “show” – when the plug of mucus that has been in the cervix during pregnancy goes away, signaling that the cervix is becoming ready for labour. It may happen a few days before contractions start or during labour itself.
- Placental abruption: It is a serious condition in which the placenta starts pulling away from the womb wall. Usually, placental abruption causes stomach aches.
- Low-lying placenta (or placenta previa): It occurs when the placenta is attached to the lower part of the womb, near to or covering the cervix. Bleeding from a low-lying placenta could be very heavy and put you and your unborn baby at risk. When experiencing this condition, you could be advised to get hospitalized for emergency treatment.
Finding the cause of bleeding: Bleeding in pregnancy could be determined by a vaginal examination, an ultrasound scan, or blood tests to check your hormone levels. In addition, your doctor would collect information about other symptoms such as cramps, pain, and dizziness.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat, MD. (30 June 2020)