Bleeding during pregnancy is relatively common, with around 1 in 10 women experiencing some bleeding.
However, if you have bleeding at any stage during your pregnancy, you should always contact your doctor immediately. It is not often caused by something serious, but it is very important to make sure. Lie down and rest until you can see a healthcare professional, and do not take any medication while you are waiting.
In early pregnancy, you might get some light bleeding, called 'spotting', when the
fetus plants itself into the wall of your womb. This is also known as implantation bleeding, and often happens around the time that your first period after conception would have been due.
During the first three months of pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage or
ectopic pregnancy (when the
fetus starts to grow inside your
fallopian tubes instead of your womb). Most miscarriages occur during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, and sadly, most cannot be prevented.
Ectopic pregnancies are much less common than miscarriages, and only affect approximately one in 100 pregnancies.
In the later stages of pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can have many different causes. Some of the more common causes are listed below.
Cervical ectropion - this is where there are harmless changes in the neck of the womb (
cervix). Cervical ectropion is the most common cause of bleeding during the later stages of pregnancy.
A 'show' - this occurs when a plug of mucus from the
cervix comes away just before labor. It can look like a lump of
discharge and may be
blood -stained, and if it happens before you are due to give birth, it might be a sign of early labor.
Placental abruption - this is a serious condition in which the placenta starts to come away from the inside of the womb wall. Placental abruption usually causes
pain, even if there is no bleeding. If it happens close to your baby's due date, your baby may be delivered early.
Placenta praevia - this occurs when the placenta lies low in the womb, partially or completely blocking the baby's path to the
cervix. The placenta usually moves gradually upwards during pregnancy, but if it is still low when the baby is due to be born, you might need to have a
Miscarriage - vaginal bleeding in the later stages of pregnancy can also be a sign of a miscarriage. However, a miscarriage is very uncommon after the third month of pregnancy.
To work out what is causing bleeding, you may need to have a vaginal or pelvic examination, an
ultrasound scan, or
blood tests to check your hormone levels.
Your doctor will also ask you about other symptoms, such as cramp,
pain, and dizziness, and what foods, medication and exercise you have been taking recently.
If your symptoms are not severe and your baby is not due for a while, you will be monitored and, in some cases, kept in hospital for observation. You might have to stay in overnight, or until the birth, depending on the cause of the bleeding and how far you are into your pregnancy. This will enable staff to keep an eye on you and your baby so that they can act quickly if there are any further problems.
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