Spotting in early pregnancy
Everyone knows that bleeding in pregnancy isn’t normal. So seeing blood in your undies at the very beginning of your pregnancy can cause huge concern. Does this mean you’re about to lose your pregnancy, asks Tina Otte VAGINAL BLEEDING THAT
occurs in the first trimester is more common than you may realise and most of the time it turns out to be a minor issue. But it’s important always to check in with your caregiver should you be concerned. Statistics show bleeding occurs in 20 to 30 percent of pregnancies. Of that, about 50 percent may end up in a miscarriage.
REASONS FOR BLEEDING
IMPLANTATION BLEEDING There may be a small amount of blood that escapes from the vagina during normal implantation of the embryo into the uterine wall. It’s commonly referred to as implantation bleeding. Bleeding from an implantation site is very different from the regular bleeding from a full period, which occurs when the entire lining of the uterus (the endometrium) comes away as the body signals that no pregnancy has taken hold, and the womb “sweeps” itself clean and starts preparing for the possibility of new life during the next cycle. Implantation bleeding is usually light and may last one or two days. TISSUE SENSITIVITY Due to increased blood flow and
hormone changes during pregnancy, the cervical tissue becomes highly sensitive. Sometimes a small polyp (a bit like a skin tag that’s present before pregnancy) becomes sensitive and bleeding from the cervix occurs. It usually settles down with no threat to the baby. BREAKTHROUGH BLEEDING This is a slight bleed in the first trimester every time your period is due. It’s usually due to low hormone levels and doesn’t always lead to miscarriage. MISCARRIAGE Most miscarriages happen between six and 10 weeks of pregnancy. The most common causes of miscarriage are medical problems, infections, uterine abnormalities, extreme emotional stress, some drugs and Rhesus incompatibility. The bleeding will be heavy and bright red and accompanied by abdominal cramps and backache. Although bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage, it may not mean that miscarriage is imminent. About half of pregnant women who bleed don’t have miscarriages. Around 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage, and most occur during the first 12 weeks. ECTOPIC PREGNANCY The fertilised egg embeds outside the womb, usually in the Fallopian tube or, in rare cases, in the abdomen, instead of in the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are less common than miscarriages, occurring in one in 60 pregnancies. It’s life-threatening for the mother, and symptoms include vaginal bleeding and severe lower abdominal pain. Bleeding may also be caused by reasons unrelated to pregnancy; for example, trauma or tears to the vaginal wall may bleed, and some infections can also cause bleeding.
BLEEDING: KNOW THE BASICS
If you’re bleeding, you should always wear a pad or panty liner, so that you can monitor how much you’re bleeding and what type of bleeding you’re experiencing. You should never wear a tampon or introduce anything else into the vaginal area, such as douche, and don’t have sexual intercourse if you’re currently experiencing bleeding. The good news is that most women who experience spotting during pregnancy continue to have a healthy pregnancy. Blood loss from the vagina during pregnancy isn’t normal, so consult with your caregiver if this happens to you.
APPROXIMATELY HALF OF PREGNANT WOMEN WHO BLEED DON’T HAVE MISCARRIAGES