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What causes bleeding during pregnancy?

Posted by Be Well

What causes bleeding during pregnancy?
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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 stomach 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 caesarean section.

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.

Further information:

A week-by-week guide to your pregnancy

Caesarean section

Ectopic pregnancy



Pregnancy and childbirth zone

 There is another type of bleeding that can happen earlier in the pregnancy called Subchorionic Bleeding. Although, as stated above, all bleeding needs to be reported to your OB, this type of condition often goes away and doesn't become a problem to the fetus.


All my best!
Sharon LaMothe

Subchorionic Bleeding

Sometimes, blood clots form within the layers of the placenta. But more often than not, they heal themselves.
What it is: Also called subchorionic hematoma, subchorionic bleeding is the accumulation of blood within the folds of the chorion (the outer fetal membrane, next to the placenta) or within the layers of the placenta itself. These bleeds, or clots, can cause the placenta to separate from the uterine wall if they get too large, if they develop in a bad spot, or if they aren’t eventually reabsorbed.
How common is it? A good 20 percent of pregnant women will experience some kind of bleeding early in pregnancy, though it’s often hard to tell what’s causing the problem. Subchorionic hematomas are even harder to pick up because they don’t always result in noticeable spotting or bleeding, especially when they’re small.
Who is most at risk? There don’t seem to be any specific risk factors for developing a subchorionic hematoma in the first place, but if you do wind up with one, there are factors that can make you more — or less — likely to have a positive outcome.
What are the symptoms? Spotting or bleeding may be a sign, often beginning in the first trimester. But many subchorionic bleeds are detected during a routine ultrasound, without there being any noticeable signs or symptoms. 
Should you be concerned? You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t worry when you see blood, no matter when it occurs in your pregnancy. And that’s actually a good thing, especially if it prompts you to get in touch with your practitioner, who can make sure there’s nothing amiss. While most subchorionic hematomas dissolve on their own, it is possible for the clot to get in between the placenta and the uterine wall, resulting in miscarriage.
Here’s the encouraging news: More than half of women who bleed during their first trimester go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies. But because subchorionic hematomas have been linked to increased risk of placental abruption and preterm labor, you don’t want to ignore signs of spotting or bleeding.
What you should do: Call your practitioner; an ultrasound may be ordered to see whether there is indeed a hematoma, how large it is, and where it’s located. Depending on the findings, as well as on your practitioner’s preferences, he or she may put you on strict bed rest, insist you refrain from lifting heavy objects, and avoid exercise. In most cases, you’ll be asked to avoid sexual intercourse until the hematoma dissolves and disappears.


NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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