Bleeding During Pregnancy: What’s Normal, What’s Not
If you’re pregnant and have experienced some bleeding (or your partner is and has), don’t freak out. In some instances, bleeding during pregnancy is completely normal. We’ll walk you through when you can feel reassured the bleeding is probably nothing serious, and when you definitely need to call a doctor.
Fast facts about bleeding during pregnancy
- Light brown or pink-tinged discharge during any stage of pregnancy is possible and normal.
- Light spotting during any stage of pregnancy is possible and normal.
- If at any point during pregnancy you experience discharge that includes tissue, consult a doctor immediately.
- If at any point during pregnancy you experience heavy or dark red bleeding (a la period blood), consult a doctor immediately.
- If at any point during pregnancy you experience bleeding accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, fever, or dizziness/fainting spells, consult a doctor immediately.
Bleeding in early pregnancy
During implantation, the time when a fertilized egg is attaching itself to the wall of the uterus, it’s perfectly normal to experience a little bit of spotting. During the first 1-2 weeks after conception, this should not set off any alarm bells.
Additionally, infections of the cervix or some STDs can cause light bleeding in early pregnancy. Consult your doctor if you’re unsure whether you might have such an infection, or if you are experiencing a fever as well.
During the first trimester, when miscarriage is most likely to occur, many women understandably panic about bleeding of any amount. However, a miscarriage is only one of several reasons pregnant women experience bleeding. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience heaving bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy, accompanied by cramps; together, these symptoms are hallmarks of an adverse event, such as a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Bleeding during the second and third trimesters
Light spotting is possible at any point during pregnancy and is not cause for concern.
Spotting is particularly common toward the end of a pregnancy, as the body prepares for delivery. The passing of the mucus plug, which keeps the cervix sealed during pregnancy, is usually accompanied by something called a bloody show (delightful, we know). And while this may be a bit scary, if it’s close to your due date, it’s not a cause for concern because it’s an indicator that your body is preparing for birth.
However, the most common cause of bleeding during pregnancy’s later stages is preterm labour, which is a very serious issue with long-term consequences for a baby’s health and development. While this is a scary possibility, it’s important to remember that preterm labour would likely be heralded by another warning sign, such as abdominal cramping. In the event of heavy bleeding, and/or bleeding accompanied by cramps, consult a doctor immediately.
Other reasons for bleeding in the later trimesters of pregnancy include rare but serious conditions, such as uterine rupture, placenta previa, and placental abruption. But again, these are usually accompanied by cramping or abdominal pain or tenderness, and would involve loss of tissue or heavy bleeding.