Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can be scary. However, it isn't always a sign of trouble. Bleeding in the first trimester (weeks one through 12) might occur, and most women who experience bleeding during pregnancy go on to deliver healthy babies.
Still, it's important to take vaginal bleeding during pregnancy seriously. Sometimes bleeding during pregnancy indicates an impending miscarriage or a condition that needs prompt treatment. By understanding the most common causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, you'll know what to look for — and when to contact your health care provider.
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy has many causes. Some are serious, and many aren't.
It's important to report any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy to your health care provider. Be prepared to describe how much blood you passed, what it looked like, and whether it included any clots or tissue.
During the first trimester (weeks one through 12):
- Tell your health care provider at your next prenatal visit if you have spotting or light vaginal bleeding that goes away within a day
- Contact your health care provider within 24 hours if you have any amount of vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than a day
- Contact your health care provider immediately if you have moderate to heavy vaginal bleeding, pass tissue from your vagina, or experience any amount of vaginal bleeding accompanied by abdominal pain, cramping, fever or chills
- Inform your health care provider if your blood type is Rh negative and you experience bleeding because you might need a medication that prevents your body from making antibodies that may be harmful to your future pregnancies
During the second trimester (weeks 13 through 24):
- Contact your health care provider the same day if you have light vaginal bleeding that goes away within a few hours
- Contact your health care provider immediately if you have any amount of vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than a few hours or is accompanied by abdominal pain, cramping, fever, chills or contractions
During the third trimester (weeks 25 through 40):
- Contact your health care provider immediately if you have any amount of vaginal bleeding or vaginal bleeding accompanied by abdominal pain
In the final weeks of pregnancy, remember that vaginal discharge that is pink or bloody might be a sign of impending labor. Contact your health care provider and confirm that what you are experiencing is indeed bloody show. Occasionally, it might be a sign of a pregnancy complication.
Jan. 20, 2022
- Norwitz ER, et al. Overview of the etiology and evaluation of vaginal bleeding in pregnant women. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 14, 2019.
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ038. Bleeding during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq038.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131107T1529588773. Accessed Nov. 14, 2019.
- Gabbe SG, et al. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2017. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 14, 2019.
- Chestnut DH, et al. Antepartum and postpartum hemorrhage. In: Chestnut's Obstetric Anesthesia: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2020. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 14, 2019.
- Ferri FF. Molar pregnancy. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2020. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 14, 2019.
- AskMayoExpert. Vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mayo Clinic; 2017.
- Wick MJ, ed. Symptoms guide. In: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. 2nd ed. Mayo Clinic; 2018.
- Butler Tobah Y (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Nov. 19, 2019
Original article: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/bleeding-during-pregnancy/basics/causes/sym-20050636