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Bleeding During Pregnancy: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Bleeding During Pregnancy: What’s Normal and What’s Not

The sight of crimson-hued blood is universally worrisome, a clear indicator of injury. Bleeding, however, isn’t always life-threatening or even serious.

The stakes are much higher when you’re pregnant. During those nine months, you want to do everything right and take the best care possible of yourself and your baby. Although there are a million different things to worry about during pregnancy — from what to eat to how to prepare yourself for labor — what if unexpected bleeding occurs? Should you panic?

Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Kevin Hooker answers these and all your other pregnancy-related questions at Lake Havasu OB-GYN Care. He’s deeply invested in guiding you through your pregnancy to a safe birth. 

If you see blood during your first trimester of pregnancy

You’ll be relieved to know that minor bleeding or spotting is normal when you’re pregnant, particularly during your first trimester. That said, you should call Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care if you do notice even minor bleeding so that you can see Dr. Hooker, and he can rule out any concerns. 

1. Implantation bleeding

About one-fifth of pregnant women experience some bleeding during their first trimester, and if it’s very early on, it’s likely implantation bleeding, which happens anywhere from six to 12 days after conception. The spotting or bleeding occurs because the fertilized egg securely implants itself in your uterine lining.

This type of bleeding comes so early in a pregnancy that you can mistake it for a light period, and it can last from a period of hours to a few days.

Having sexual intercourse or a Pap test can also cause bleeding during early pregnancy, but neither should be considered a worry.

2. Miscarriage risk

Although bleeding in the first trimester can also be a sign of miscarriage — especially if it’s accompanied by cramping and passing tissue vaginally — more than 90% of women who bleed in the first trimester do NOT go on to miscarry if an ultrasound detects a heartbeat.

3. Ectopic pregnancy

Bleeding can also occur if an egg implants itself outside the uterus (often in the fallopian tube). This is a serious problem if the embryo continues to grow, as it can make the fallopian tube burst, which is a health emergency. 

Fortunately, this only happens in about 2% of pregnancies.

4. Infection

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) can cause bleeding in early pregnancy, but bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and syphilis, can be treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. 

Viral STIs like HIV and herpes are treatable but not curable. You may need to have a C-section if you’re experiencing a herpes outbreak or if you’re living with HIV so that the infections aren’t transmitted to your baby during birth. Dr. Hooker can also prescribe antiviral drugs that can reduce your herpes symptoms and can lower the chances of passing HIV on to your baby to under 1%

Bleeding in later pregnancy

As a rule of thumb, you should contact Dr. Hooker if you notice any bleeding later in your pregnancy. It could be a sign of placenta previa (when the placenta is situated so it covers some or all of the birth canal) or uterine rupture (when a scar from an earlier C-section opens). 

Both conditions require immediate medical care, and uterine rupture calls for a C-section. Fortunately, both are rare conditions.

Another highly unusual cause of bleeding in only about 1% of pregnant women is placental abruption, when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before or during labor. Blood pools between the placenta and uterus and can do serious harm to both your baby and you. Other symptoms to watch for are back pain and uterine pain and expelling blood clots from your vagina. 

A final, very rare problem that can cause bleeding in later pregnancy is vasa previa, when the blood vessels in your baby’s placenta or umbilical cord cross the opening to your birth canal. If the blood vessels tear, your baby can lose oxygen and seriously bleed, so this constitutes a medical emergency. 

A typical time when you might see blood in later pregnancy is when you lose your mucus plug, which is your body’s way of getting itself ready for labor and birth. In the days or weeks before labor starts, the plug at the opening of your uterus passes through your vagina, and it can have a bit of blood in it (which is why this is called the “bloody show”). 

If you bleed before your 37th week, this could be preterm labor. Be sure to call the Lake Havasu office as soon as possible and arrange to see Dr. Hooker for an exam.

Call our office at 928-683-1667 with any concerns throughout your pregnancy, or book an appointment online


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