Spotting or bleeding in pregnancy

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Bleeding or spotting in early pregnancy can be very worrying and cause considerable stress but it may not necessarily mean that the pregnancy is at risk.

What is spotting?

Spotting is light bleeding from the vagina, similar to, but lighter than a period. The discharge varies in colour from red to brown. Whilst it’s not exactly normal, light bleeding or spotting during pregnancy (particularly during the first three months) is fairly common. Usually it turns out to be caused by something minor or ‘just one of those things’. Some women do experience light spotting throughout pregnancy and their baby is fine.

Other causes of bleeding in pregnancy

Other common causes of blood loss in early pregnancy are:

Implantation bleeding – this is a small amount of spotting or bleeding, like a short, light period, very early in pregnancy, about 10 to 14 days after fertilisation. It happens when the fertilised egg attaches to the lining of your uterus.

Cervical changes – when you’re pregnant, there’s an increase in the blood supply and blood flow to your cervix. This means you may experience light spotting after contact to the area, such as after sex or a pelvic examination.

Cervical infections – some cervical infections may also cause spotting in early pregnancy.

Miscarriage – Bleeding in the first trimester can be a sign of miscarriage. Miscarriage occurs in one in seven pregnancies, most often during the first 12 weeks. However, bleeding doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a miscarriage, so don’t panic. 

Get it checked out

It’s important to contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you experience any bleeding or spotting. You may be referred for an early scan to try to identify the cause, but in many cases the cause of early spotting is never found and the pregnancy continues to term with the birth of a healthy baby.

Increased discharge during pregnancy

If you’ve noticed extra discharge during your pregnancy, don’t worry – it’s completely normal. This discharge is thin, white and non-irritant. You may notice it gets heavier towards your due date – a good sign that your baby’s on the way.

Discharge can sometimes however, be a sign of an infection or thrush, especially if there’s an itching or burning sensation, too. If that’s the cause, it’ll probably be thick, yellowish or green and might smell unpleasant. The first thing to do is call your midwife or doctor, who will be able to check and help you treat it.

Coping with a heavier discharge

Discharge is more often an annoyance rather than anything serious. If you are experiencing it, remember that it will pass once your baby’s born.

  • If you feel it’s heavy or makes you uncomfortable in your underwear, use sanitary pads to absorb it (not tampons).
  • Wash regularly with warm water but avoid perfumed soaps, which can aggravate any infection.
  • Wear light, cotton underwear.
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