What are the more serious causes of bleeding in pregnancy? What is spotting, and is it normal in pregnancy? Spotting is light bleeding from your vagina.
The colour of the blood can be anything from red to brown. In the early weeks of pregnancy, a little spotting or bleeding is very common. As many as one mum-to-be in four with a continuing pregnancy has some sort of bleeding in the first trimester Hasan et al , van Oppenraaij et al Will my baby be safe if I have light vaginal bleeding?
Sometimes, though, spotting can be a sign of something more serious, such as miscarriage. More often, though, spotting or light bleeding stops on its own and the pregnancy continues van Oppenraaij et al , Hasan et al What causes light vaginal bleeding? Light bleeding is likely to be caused by the developing placenta. Once you're about six weeks pregnant, there's a step-change in your pregnancy. The placenta takes over from your body the job of making pregnancy hormones Hasan et al , van Oppenraaij et al and this is thought to be associated with light bleeding.
You're most likely to have spotting or bleeding when you're between five weeks and eight weeks pregnant Hasan et al The bleeding is unlikely to last longer than three days Hasan et al You may only realise you're bleeding when you go to the loo and wipe, or notice spotting in your pants. You may have heard that light bleeding is caused by menstrual hormones breaking through around the time you would have had a period. Another theory is that bleeding happens when the embryo implants in the womb wall.
Most normal bleeding happens about five days after implantation Harville et al Aside from the placenta developing, there may be other things going on inside your body that have caused some bleeding: Irritation to your cervix. Pregnancy hormones can change the surface of the cervix, making it more likely to bleed, such as after you have sex. Fibroids , which are growths in the lining of your womb. Sometimes, the placenta embeds where there is a fibroid. A small, harmless growth on your cervix cervical polyp.
A cervical or vaginal infection. Norwitz and Park Inherited bleeding disorders, such as Von Willebrand Disease, that make it more difficult for your blood to clot, can also cause bleeding in pregnancy Shahbazi et al What does the placenta do? Our midwife explains how the placenta develops into your baby's lifeline More pregnancy videos Will I have any tests after early vaginal bleeding?
If the bleeding occurred early in your pregnancy, your midwife or doctor can refer you to your nearest early pregnancy assessment unit EPAU for further tests. You can also see a doctor at your local hospital RCOG a. Tests to check how your pregnancy is going may include: An ultrasound scan to check that your baby is well. Your baby will be tiny at this stage, so you may need to have a scan via your vagina to get a good image. The person doing the scan sonographer will ask your permission to gently insert a probe into your vagina.
It's perfectly safe for you and your baby. Your obstetrician will ask to check the neck of your womb for any cause of bleeding. She'll insert a speculum, the same instrument that's used during a cervical screening test, to gently widen your vagina to give her a view of your cervix. A test for chlamydia. Chlamydia can make ectopic pregnancy more likely to happen NHS b.
Blood tests to check your blood group, rhesus status , and perhaps also the levels of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin hCG in your blood. RCOG a What are the more serious causes of bleeding in pregnancy? Unfortunately, bleeding in early pregnancy can be a sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. In both cases, you also usually develop tummy or pelvic pain and cramps Norwitz and Park Early miscarriage usually happens when a baby is not developing properly, and the bleeding becomes steadily heavier Hasan et al , Norwitz and Park It affects about one pregnancy in four Tommy's An ectopic pregnancy happens when the fertilised egg implants outside of your womb.
Unfortunately, a baby can't grow if this happens. The bleeding may continue, and may look dark and watery RCOG b. Sadly, sometimes one twin can stop developing and eventually disappear altogether. This is called a vanishing twin Anderson-Berry , and it may trigger some bleeding Anderson-Berry , Norwitz and Park A molar pregnancy happens when an egg is fertilised but a baby can't grow, because the wrong number of chromosomes come together.
A cluster of abnormal cells grows instead of a healthy baby NHS It is also possible for a blow to your belly , perhaps after a fall, to trigger bleeding Norwitz and Park You may be offered extra care if you've had vaginal bleeding. Bleeding raises the chance of complications happening later in pregnancy Saraswat et al , especially if the bleeding was heavy or carried on into the second trimester Norwitz and Park Complications include premature birth , and having a baby with a low birth weight Norwitz and Park Your medical team can keep a close eye on your pregnancy and your baby's growth, with extra scans and clinic appointments.
Bleeding in late pregnancy is much rarer and more serious than early bleeding. Read more about bleeding in late pregnancy.