The meaning of bleeding during your pregnancy
You're finally reaching your first trimester and you are dying to tell everyone that a little one is growing inside of you. You wanted to be sure everything was alright, so you decided to wait a couple of months to tell your loved ones this amazing news.
Then you wake up one morning and there's blood in your underwear!? What does it mean? It can be scary. Does spotting mean that you are having a miscarriage? Take a deep breath and try to calm down. The first thing you need to know is that vaginal bleeding early in your pregnancy can occur frequently. Don't panic if you're experiencing bleeding, it doesn't always mean that you're having a miscarriage.
What bleeding means during your pregnancy? It could mean different things depending on what trimester it occurs. This is what you need to know.
Bleeding early in your pregnancy
1 in 4 women will experience bleeding during their first trimester, so as you can see you're not alone. Spotting or light bleeding (not as heavy as your menstrual period) during your first trimester, poses no threat to your baby or to you.
You could experience some spotting due to implantation, this commonly occurs the day you're supposed to have your period. You could also experience some bleeding after intercourse, but that's very common too, so you don't need to worry. Just to be on the safe side, make an appointment with your health care provider so you can rule out anything serious.
If bleeding occurs later in your pregnancy (second or third trimester) could mean different things too, it doesn't have to mean you're having a miscarriage. Irritation of the cervix, due to intercourse, may happen and then you'll experience some bleeding.
Sometimes the outside of the cervix, the one that connects the uterus with the vagina, could bleed. Also, there could be some bleeding in the space between the placenta and the uterus. That kind of spotting or bleeding usually resolve on its own, so you don't need to worry.
If the appearance of the blood in your underwear is dark red or brown, then it means it's old and it's no threat to your pregnancy.
What to do if you experience bleeding in pregnancy
Bleeding during your pregnancy is not often caused by something serious, but it's important to know what causes the bleeding. If you're experiencing bleeding the first thing you need to do is contact your doctor, make an appointment then follow these steps.
- Take note of the time the bleeding started and what you were doing or what happened before the bleeding started. For example, in the last 24 hours, did you had intercourse or have you recently have had a pelvic exam performed? Those two things could have contributed to your bleeding.
- For absorption purposes and to gauge how much you're bleeding, use a pad (please never use a tampon). This would help you later when your physician asks how quickly you were filing the pad so he can determine how much you're bleeding. It's also important that you take notice of the color of the blood. Your doctor will ask you if it's brown in color or bright red.
- While you're in your doctor's office or at home waiting to be seen by him, try to sit down and put your feet up and drink a big glass of water.
- It's important to ask yourself if apart from the bleeding you're experiencing any other symptoms, for example, contractions, change in vision, back pain, nausea or have you notice some decrease in activity from your baby. Bleeding during pregnancy doesn't have to mean something bad but if it's accompanied by other symptoms you need to be evaluated right away.
Causes of bleeding in Pregnancy
During your first trimester, bleeding is common and usually not cause for alarm. Nevertheless, sometimes it could mean something serious for either you or your baby, so it's important that you know the possible causes of said bleeding and to be checked by your doctor as soon as possible to make sure everything is OK.
Here are 5 top reasons why you could experience bleeding during your pregnancy.
1. Implantation bleeding
You could experience bleeding because of implantation. Within the first six or 12 days after you've conceived, it's possible you will experience some spotting as the fertilize egg implants itself in the lining of your uterus. If you haven't been doing your "math period" well, you may mistake this bleeding for your period since you may not know that you're pregnant.
This kind of bleeding due to implantation is very light and could last a few hours or a few days and it will stop on its own. No concern here, but if you're worried that you've bled a lot, call your doctor.
This tends to be the biggest concern during the first trimester for a lot of moms-to-be, and it's one of the first thought that comes to mind when you experience bleeding during your first 12 weeks. The good news is that bleeding during your first trimester doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to lose your baby or that you've had a miscarriage. A miscarriage has additional symptoms besides bleeding, like strong cramps in the lower abdomen and the passing of tissue through the vagina.
Go to your doctor and ask him for an ultrasound, you'll see your baby's heartbeat there and all will be well.
3. Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself not in your uterus, usually, it implants in the fallopian tube and this is what causes the bleeding. It's important to check it out because if the embryo keeps growing, it can cause a burst in the fallopian tube and this could be life-threatening. Other symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are strong cramps or intense pain in the lower abdomen and lightheadedness.
Ectopic pregnancies are potentially dangerous but it occurs in just 2% of pregnancies.
Another rare condition that could cause bleeding during the first trimester is called Molar Pregnancy (gestational trophoblastic disease). In this condition, instead of a baby, what grow inside the uterus is an abnormal tissue and sometimes this tissue could be cancerous so it can be life-threatening too. Other symptoms of molar pregancy, besides bleeding, are severe nausea and vomiting, and a rapid enlargment of the uterus.
When abnormal bleeding occurs during your second or third trimesters, it may be something more serious, it may be a signal that something is not right with your baby or you. Call your doctor immediately. What can cause bleeding late in your pregnancy?
4. Placenta Previa
Placenta previa is a rare condition that can occur late in your third trimester (1 in 200 pregnancies). It happens when the placenta sits low in the uterus (normally the placenta attaches toward the top of the uterus) covering the birth canal partially or totally.
If you have bleeding due to placenta previa, you won't feel any pain, so you may not know you have that condition. The sign that's most common in placenta previa is bright red bleeding, light to heavy. If this happens to you late in your second trimester, go see your doctor. He'll do an ultrasound because that's the only way to know for sure.
5. Premature Labor
Another cause for bleeding late in your pregnancy is premature labor. This is a sign that your body is getting ready for delivery. What happens? A few days or weeks before your due day, the mucus plug that covers the opening of the uterus will pass out of the vagina and it will usually have a small amount of blood in it. This is also called "bloody show".
If this occurs before your 37th week you need to call your doctor right away. Other symptoms of premature labor are contractions, abdominal pressure, vaginal discharge and ache in the lower back.
Treatment options for pregnancy bleeding
If you experience any kind of bleeding during your pregnancy, no matter what causes it, you should immediately call your doctor. There are some treatment options.
If the bleeding is caused due to implantation, don't worry it'll resolve on its own. There's no cause for worry.
In case of a miscarriage, there's no way of preventing or predicting it. What doctors recommend is bed rest while bleeding, no sexual intercourse and that you watch for the passing material from the vagina. A visit to your doctor is recommended after so he can perform an ultrasound to be sure everything is OK inside you.
Ectopic pregnancy can be treated in two ways. The first option is to inject a drug called methotrexate to stop cell growth and dissolve existing cells. The other option is surgery, either a mini-laparotomy or a laparoscopy.
If placenta previa is diagnosed, usually the doctor will put the mom-to-be in bed-rest for the rest of her pregnancy. She will be discouraged from participating in strenuous activities or from having intercourse. If the problem doesn't resolve before the end of pregnancy, a C-section is a must. The doctor may also give the mom-to-be medication to stop contractions.
There are some recent treatments that doctors are using if you're experiencing premature labor. One is the use of a hormone called progesterone, they inject it because this hormone helps relax the muscles of the uterus. The other option is injecting magnesium intravenously, also to help relax the uterine muscles. There's a medication called terbutaline that is also use to help prevent or slow contractions.
Bleeding at any stage of your pregnancy can cause anxiety and distress, but as you now know not all the bleeding is cause for alarm. Try to maintain calm and always call your doctor so you can be reassured.
If the bleeding occurs later on (second or third trimester) call your doctor immediately and get yourself and your baby checked out, so that any life-threatening situations could be prevented.