Bleeding and Spotting During Pregnancy

by Bette G Rinehart

Bleeding During PregnancyYou notice blood when you wipe or there's spotting on your sheet. Nothing is scarier than bleeding when you're pregnant. Light bleeding or spotting affects almost one-third of all pregnancies. It doesn't always mean something's wrong.

Some moms-to-be experience light bleeding around the time of their periods. Others bleed because of a subchorionic hematoma that resolves on its own. Many moms spot each time they have sex. About half of the women who experience bleeding during pregnancy go on to have healthy babies.

If bleeding does occur, contact your midwife or doctor. When you call be prepared to tell how you're feeling overall and how much blood you've lost (if you can quantify).

If you feel faint, you have a fever, the bleeding is consistent or you're soaking a pad, you should insist on being seen immediately. Your doctor or midwife could ask you to go to the emergency room.

We've taken look at the most common causes for bleeding during the first trimester and in the latter parts of pregnancy. Remember, lots of moms have had this heart-rending experience and today hold a sweet and healthy babies in their arms.

Bleeding During the First Half of Pregnancy

Implantation Bleeding

About four weeks into your pregnancy, or two weeks after you conceive, you might have some light spotting or bleeding when the embryo implants into the uterine lining. Implantation bleeding shows up about the same time as your period would have if you weren't pregnant. Your baby or your pregnancy aren't at risk, but it can be scary if you've already had a positive pregnancy test.

Threatened Miscarriage

Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is sometimes referred to as a "threatened miscarriage." The term means that you've had some bleeding, but the baby in the uterus appears fine. Causes for bleeding range include trauma, infection, subchorionic hematoma and medication. It can also happen for no reason at all.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies occur in about 1 out of 100 pregnancies. They are the most dangerous reason for bleeding during pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy implants somewhere outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, where the pregnancy begins growing. If undetected, the tube could rupture with life-threatening bleeding. Most ectopic pregnancies in the United States are diagnosed and treated before this point.

The signs of an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Cramping pain in the lower abdomen
  • Sharp pain in the abdominal area
  • Bleeding


A miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy loss before week 20 in your pregnancy. Usually it's preceded by heavy bleeding and cramping. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), one in five pregnancies ends in a miscarriage and 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first three months of pregnancy.

Signs of miscarriage include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Lower abdominal or back cramps
  • Tissue passing through the vagina

Most miscarriages can't be prevented. It wasn't something you lifted or did. The majority are caused by random chromosomal abnormalities.

No matter how early you lose your baby, you might feel sadness, shock or anger. We encourage you to find emotional support and to give yourself time to grieve.

Causes of Bleeding in Second Half of Pregnancy

After Intercourse

During the second and third trimester, pregnancy women often spot after sex. The increased blood supply to the cervix and vagina walls mean that congested blood vessels break more frequently during intercourse. Experts say that if you see just a little blood and aren't cramping, you don't need to worry.

Placenta Previa

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies low in the uterus partly or completely covers the baby's access to the birth canal. It is serious. Bleeding usually occurs without pain. Contact your health provider immediately.

Placenta Abruption

Vaginal bleeding can be caused by the placenta detaching from the uterine wall before or during labor. Placenta abruption usually occurs during the last 12 weeks of pregnancy and affects about 1 percent of women.

Preterm Labor

A small amount of mucus and blood passing from the cervix might indicate preterm labor. Discharge during late pregnancy is common. If it occurs earlier, call your provider.

Signs of preterm labor include:

  • Vaginal discharge (watery, mucus, or bloody)
  • Pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
  • Low, dull backache
  • Diarrhea or stomach cramps
  • Regular contractions

Now that you have a better idea of what's normal, and what's not, you should be able to relax a bit more and enjoy your pregnancy!