Pregnancy and you blog

Pregnancy bleeding: What should you do?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. March 19, 2014

When you find out you're pregnant, you might breathe a sigh of relief because you're temporarily through with monthly bleeding. Let’s be honest. Normal menstrual bleeding is messy and can put a crimp in your month.

But what happens if you do have vaginal bleeding during pregnancy? Is your pregnancy in danger? Are you losing the baby? Not always.

There are many reasons for vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and most of them are not life threatening for you or the baby. Some women might experience bleeding after sex as a result of increased blood flow to the pelvis. The small capillaries in the cervix can be disturbed by active sex and cause some bleeding. A small scrape of the genitals that you might not have noticed before can bleed during pregnancy.

Other causes include a vaginal infection, a cervical irritation or implantation bleeding — a small amount of bleeding that occurs when the fertilized egg is burrowing into the thickened lining of the uterus.

There are also some serious causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy that can be life-threatening to you and the baby. Bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage. The placenta could be covering the cervix. Or the placenta could be breaking away from the wall of the uterus.

The most important thing is to know when to call your health care provider. Ask at your first visit when to call or come in. Get clear recommendations. Sometimes, it's OK to watch a small amount of bleeding for a day. A phone call might be all it takes to get the reassurance you need. Bleeding that requires a pad or continues over time might require a visit with your provider. If your bleeding is excessive — soaking a pad in less than an hour — or is accompanied by pain or cramping, don’t hesitate to go to the hospital.

When I was pregnant with my last child, I had brown spotting that progressed to red spotting at about 11 weeks. I cried and cried. I was so afraid I was losing my baby. I knew in my mind that the spotting was probably from too much activity and not enough rest. Emotionally, however, I was sure I was miscarrying. I called my midwife. She said to rest and drink fluids. She reassured me that based on my symptoms all was well. The spotting stopped in less than 24 hours. I felt very lucky. I was glad I called.

March 19, 2014