Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is any discharge of blood from the vagina. It can happen any time from conception (when the egg is fertilized) to the end of pregnancy.
About 2 or 3 out of every 10 pregnant women have vaginal bleeding during their first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Spotting is when you notice a few drops of blood every now and then on your underwear. It is not even enough to cover a panty liner.
Bleeding is a heavier flow of blood. With bleeding, you will need a liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking your clothes.
Ask your doctor or midwife more about the difference between spotting and bleeding at one of your first prenatal visits.
Some spotting is normal very early in pregnancy. Still, it is a good idea to tell your doctor or midwife about it.
If you have had an ultrasound that confirms you have a normal pregnancy, call your health care provider the day you first see the spotting.
If you have spotting and have not yet had an ultrasound, contact your health care provider right away. Spotting can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy where the fertilized egg develops outside the uterus). An untreated ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening for the woman.
Bleeding in the first trimester is not always a problem. It may be caused by:
More serious causes of first-trimester bleeding include:
Call or go to your doctor or midwife right away if you have:
If you cannot reach your health care provider, go to the emergency room.
If your bleeding has stopped, you still need to call your doctor or midwife. Your health care provider will need to find out what caused your bleeding.
Your doctor or midwife may need to know these things to find the cause of your vaginal bleeding:
Most of the time, the treatment for bleeding is rest. Your doctor or midwife may also advise you to:
Your doctor or midwife may also give you a shot of medicine to help you keep your pregnancy and avoid a miscarriage.
Very heavy bleeding may require a hospital stay or surgical procedure.
If something other than blood comes out, call your doctor or midwife right away. Put the discharge in a jar or a plastic bag and bring it with you to your health care provider.
Your doctor or midwife will check to see if you are still pregnant. You will be closely watched with blood tests to see if you are still pregnant.
If you are no longer pregnant, you may need more care from your health care provider, such as medicine or possibly surgery.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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