Bleeding in Pregnancy: The Most Common Reasons

It might surprise you to learn that bleeding is rather common in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. While it can be a sign of a potential problem, it could also be caused by another factor. Continue reading to learn about the most common causes of bleeding in pregnancy. 

Implantation Bleeding 

Implantation bleeding, often referred to as spotting, is rather common and harmless during early pregnancy. This often occurs when an embryo plants against the wall of the womb. Most women will experience spotting during the time their period would normally be due. 

A Cervical Change 

The cervix can change during pregnancy, as extra blood will flow, which can result in bleeding. For this reason, pregnant women are more likely to experience bleeding after sex or a vaginal examination. While it isn’t often a cause for concern, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your midwife if you are worried about the health of your baby. 

A Miscarriage 

Unfortunately, vaginal bleeding can indicate either a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It is important to note that many women who bleed during their first trimester will often have successful pregnancies in the future. 

Any pregnancy that ends by the 4th week will be referred to as a miscarriage. If a pregnancy ends before 14 weeks, this is often due to a problem with the baby, but it could also be a result of a hormone problem or blood clotting. 

Tragically, miscarriages are common and will typically occur during the first trimester. In most cases, they cannot be prevented, and it is important not to blame yourself. 

Common signs of a miscarriage can include: 

  • Vaginal bleeding 
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramping 
  • Tissue discharge 
  • Fluid discharge 
  • Reduced pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and breast tenderness 

It is imperative to contact either your midwife or GP immediately if you experience one or more of the above symptoms. 

Ectopic Pregnancy 

An ectopic pregnancy will occur when a fertilised embryo implants on the outside of a womb. A growing embryo can lead to the bursting of the fallopian tube. This can be potentially life-threatening to a pregnant woman, as the egg will be unable to fully develop outside the uterus, so it must be removed with either medicine or an operation. 

Most people will experience ectopic pregnancy symptoms between 4 to 12 weeks of their pregnancy, but it is also possible to experience problems beyond the first trimester. 

Common signs of an ectopic pregnancy include: 

  • Vaginal bleeding or a brown discharge 
  • Abdominal pain either on one side or low down 
  • Discomfort during excretion or urination 
  • Shoulder tip pain

While the above symptoms can be a sign of another issue, you should immediately contact your midwife or GP if you experience any of the above symptoms.

A Show 

It is likely your midwife will discuss “a show” with you as your pregnancy progresses. Many pregnant women will experience this a few days before contractions start or during labour. The bleeding is due to the plug of mucus, which has been in the cervix, coming away and it is a sign that labour will soon start. 

Placental Abruption 

A placental abruption should not be ignored, as vaginal bleeding can occur when the place the placenta comes away from the womb wall. It is typical for pregnant women to experience stomach pain, but this can happen without bleeding. It is essential to call your midwife or doctor immediately should this happen. 

Vasa Praevia 

Vasa Praevia is a rare condition that is caused by a baby’s blood vessels travelling through the membranes that cover the cervix. When a mother’s waters break, it is possible that the vessels will become torn, which can lead to vaginal bleeding. Unfortunately, this can result in a baby losing a substantial amount of blood. 

Placenta Praevia 

Placenta Praevia, often referred to as low-lying placenta, will occur when the placenta attaches to a lower area of the womb, which will be either cover or be close to the cervix. Unfortunately, a low-lying placenta can lead to heavy vaginal bleeding, which can pose a risk to both a pregnant mother and her baby’s health. It is likely a pregnant woman would be advised to attend hospital for an emergency treatment, and they will likely require a caesarean section. 

What to Do if You Experience Vaginal Bleeding 

While there might be a perfectly normal explanation for vaginal bleeding, you should not hesitate to contact your doctor if you’re concerned about yours and your baby’s health. While vaginal bleeding can be a normal aspect of pregnancy, it can also be a sign of a serious and potentially dangerous problem. For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your midwife or GP for advice and assistance. 

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