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What Does Spotting or Bleeding in Early Pregnancy Mean?

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The author is a midwife and a nurse working with women and newborn babies since 2003.

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Is it Normal to Bleed During Early Pregnancy?

Bleeding during pregnancy can be an unnerving event, and it can put your emotional rollercoaster on full speed. The first thing you need to know is that light bleeding during early pregnancy is very common and is, in most cases, not an indication of a miscarriage. Heavy bleeding, on the other hand, may be a sign of more serious problems.

Still, while spotting in early pregnancy is common, it always warrants a call to your doctor.

In this article, I will try to clarify the different types of bleeding in early pregnancy and what bleeding means for the remainder of your maternity.

What Is Normal Bleeding During Early Pregnancy?

Light bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy is usually not a cause for concern. Approximately 20 percent of women report bleeding during their first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and recent studies have shown that a little bleeding is usually harmless and does not have any effect on the health of the baby. The list below outlines what normal bleeding during early pregnancy may be like.

  • Bleeding (or spotting) is a bloody discharge from your vagina.
  • The blood is pink, red or brown.
  • The amount of blood should no more than a few drops at a time. (When explaining the amount of blood discharge over the phone to your doctor, use visual measurements. For example, if the blood stain is as big as a small coin, perhaps you've discharged a teaspoon of blood. You can also describe the amount over time. How many hours does it take to stain or fill a sanitary pad?)
  • The bleeding comes from the vagina, not the anus.

How to Differentiate Between Light Bleeding (or Spotting) and Heavy Bleeding

There is no exact definition or amount for bleeding to be considered light or heavy. Dr. Mark Trolice, a fertility expert and the director of the Fertility C.A.R.E center in Winter Park, Florida, says the amount of bleeding is "entirely subjective."

When talking to your doctor about your amount of bleeding, Dr. Trolice recommends comparing your discharge during early pregnancy to your menstrual flow, such as "light, moderate, [and] heavy flow."

One way to explain to your doctor how much blood is coming from your vagina is to use coins for reference.

One way to explain to your doctor how much blood is coming from your vagina is to use coins for reference.

What Does Blood Color Indicate When You're Bleeding?

If you are spotting during early pregnancy, the color of the blood may provide a hint as to what is taking place within your body. Learn about the differences between pink, red, and brown blood when it comes to bleeding during pregnancy. The table below lists the most probable reasons you may be experiencing either pink, red or brown blood discharge.

Pink BloodRed BloodBrown Blood

Cervix settling as it prepares for pregnancy

Damage to vaginal walls caused by sex

Leftover blood from previous period

Egg implantation

Egg implantation

Leftover blood from egg implantation

Minor cervical injury

Miscarriage

Healed cervical injury

The color of the blood coming from your vagina may help you discover the cause of the bleeding.

The color of the blood coming from your vagina may help you discover the cause of the bleeding.

Possible Causes of Light Bleeding or Spotting During Pregnancy

The causes for a bleeding and spotting during early pregnancy are various. The most common source of bleeding is from the vagina wall or the inner lining.

When you get pregnant, the body changes the flow of the bloodstream and the small arteries or capillaries get filled with blood. That’s why it’s more likely to have some bleeding in areas with mucosa, like the mouth and the vagina. Because of this, the smallest irritation can cause bleeding. Some common irritants include:

Sexual Intercourse

While having sex during early pregnancy is completely safe, it may irritate the vaginal walls and cause light bleeding.

Vaginal Examination

If you have gone to the doctor recently for an examination, or if you have performed one yourself, the vaginal walls or the inner lining may have become irritated, resulting in bleeding.

Implantation Bleeding

Implantation bleeding occurs around the time you should be expecting your period, or before you know you are pregnant. Sometimes, it occurs up to five weeks into your pregnancy. This type of bleeding happens when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining. This can cause a few days of light bleeding.

Heavy Lifting or Excessive Exercise

Applying strain to your body, such as while working out, can irritate the vagina and cause bleeding.

Polyps

In some women, the cervix or the endometrial lining of the vagina can have small growths called polyps. These can rupture easily and cause bleeding.

Polyps are totally benign in most cases, even though the amount of blood can be alarming. The only way to know for sure if you have polyps is to have a doctor or a midwife perform a vaginal examination.

Bleeding From the Cervix

Bleeding from the cervix is also common. The cervix is located deep inside the vagina, and is a tube shaped organ that will get thinner and dilate when the baby is born. The cervix, like the uterine lining, is rich with blood during pregnancy, and can bleed after being slightly irritated.

Possible Causes of Heavy Bleeding During Early Pregnancy

If you're are experiencing heavy bleeding during early pregnancy, something more serious may be going on. You should call your doctor immediately and report the amount and frequency of bloody discharge as accurately as possible. Some common causes of heavy bleeding during early pregnancy include:

Subchorionic Hemorrhage

Subchorionic hemorrhages occur when blood collects between the gestational sac and the wall of the uterus. This can cause heavy bleeding during early pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches somewhere other than inside the uterus. Most ectopic pregnancies take place inside the fallopian tube, which is why these types of pregnancies are also called tubal pregnancies. The embryo may also implant itself in the ovary, cervix, or abdomen. Occurring once in every 50 pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies can cause heavy bleeding during early pregnancy.

Dr. Trolice explains that "since pregnancy cannot survive outside the uterus, an ectopic pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening situation."

"As long as the patient is stable," says Dr. Trolice, "the first line of treatment is methotrexate injection, a chemotherapy used to disrupt the pregnancy cells for the body to absorb. If the patient is medically unstable or has been unsuccessful with conservative treatment, surgery is performed to remove the ectopic pregnancy. This may involve removing the affected fallopian tube, if applicable."

What Causes an Ectopic Pregnancy?

  • An infection or inflammation of the fallopian tube can cause it to become blocked, stopping the fertilized egg on its way to the uterus.
  • Scar tissue from a previous infection or surgical procedure may impede the eggs movement.
  • Abnormal growths or a birth defect can cause the tube to be misshapen.

Molar Pregnancy

A molar pregnancy occurs when an abnormal growth of tissue develops in the uterus, eventually consuming the fetus or causing severe birth defects. This type of pregnancy is very rare, occurring once in every 1,000 pregnancies. Heavy bleeding may be a sign of a molar pregnancy.

Miscarriage

Heavy bleeding during early pregnancy may be a sign of a miscarriage. Studies report that 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually during the first 12 weeks of gestation. A genetic defect of the embryo is the most common cause of miscarriage, but a miscarriage may also be caused when the cervix refuses to close.

What Are the Signs of an Early Miscarriage?

Miscarriages are most often caused by factors out of the mother's control, such as chromosomal problems, hormone imbalances, uterine problems, or chronic illnesses. Some signs of a miscarriage include:

Heavy Bleeding

While spotting or light bleeding during early pregnancy is normal, bleeding that continues throughout the day and night, filling a sanitary pad within a few hours, is not normal and may be a sign of a miscarriage.

Dilated Cervix

If the cervix starts to dilate, you will experience large amounts of discharge. A dilated cervix early in pregnancy is a sign of threatened or imminent miscarriage. In this case, visit your doctor immediately. It is sometimes possible to get a cervical cerclage (stitches) that will close the cervix temporarily. The state of the cervix can be examined by transvaginal ultrasound equipment that most OB/GYNs have in their practices or hospitals.

Mild to Severe Cramps

Cramps that do not go away with rest may be an early sign of a miscarriage.

Pain in Your Back or Abdomen

If you are experiencing pain in these areas during early pregnancy, you may be experiencing a miscarriage.

White-Pink Mucus, Tissue, or Clots

If white-pink mucus, tissue, or clots of blood are being discharged from your vagina, this may be a sign of a miscarriage.

Weight Loss or a Sudden Decrease in Signs of Pregnancy

Weight loss or other decreases in signs of pregnancy may be an early sign of a miscarriage.

What's the Next Step?

Amount of BloodWhat You Should Do

Light bleeding or spotting

While this amount of blood is normal, it doesn't hurt to call your doctor to report your bleeding. Unless advised otherwise, simply take some time to relax. Light bleeding is normal.

Mild, constant bleeding

Call your doctor. This amount of blood may be cause for concern.

Heavy bleeding with cramps

Call your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of a miscarriage.

How to Make Sure Your Baby Is Okay

If you experience complications of any sort at the beginning of your pregnancy, including light bleeding or spotting, do not hesitate to call your doctor. Once your doctor confirms you and your growing baby are okay, the only way to keep tabs on your child's progress is to wait until you can detect a heart beat. Below is a timetable for keeping track of the health of your baby:

Stage of PregnancyHow to Check Your Baby's Health

First Six Weeks

The baby is developing. The only thing you can do is wait and regularly consult your doctor.

After Six Weeks

You should be able to detect a heartbeat via transvaginal ultrasound.

After Eight Weeks

You should be able to detect a heartbeat via regular ultrasound.

After Ten Weeks

You should be able to detect a heartbeat using a doppler.

Listen to Your Body

In the end, pregnancy is a roller coaster ride of emotions. Thankfully, most of the time these worries are just that: worries. It's normal to be a little anxious for the life you carry. On the other hand, when we get hints or signs that something is wrong, it is important to listen. Slow down a little bit, take a moment to rest in the middle of the day, and do your best to cut down on stress. Ask your family and friends for help with your kids or other chores, and always make sure to take good care of yourself.

When the bleeding becomes so severe that it is indeed a sign of miscarriage, you have a choice. If the cramps are bearable, the bleeding is moderate and you can see that the embryo or fetus is gone, you don't have to get examined. On the other hand, most women prefer seek help with a professional to make sure they are okay and to receive advice on how to continue.

A miscarriage can be difficult, and for many it is the equivalent of the loss of an already-born child. If you unfortunately experience a miscarriage, seek help from your loved ones, your spiritual guide or a health professional. You are not alone.

Advice on Early Bleeding (Video)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Harpa Ósk

Comments

Elo on May 06, 2020:

Pls for the past one week now ive been spotting, and im having server abdomenal pain and serious headace, ive gone to hospital i was told to wait till two weeks time for an autrascan cause the first one show sac empty and im 12week old, pls what should i do?

Esther on April 18, 2020:

Am 10 weeks and am spoting brownish in colour

Golden moon on January 29, 2020:

I have had 3 misscarriages in the last two years and found out Jan 20th I was pregnant again and yesterday I started having a bright pink blood spotting just fr few hours and today it's a little darker and a little more my misscarriages was all at once my last one I was on a semi when I had it and I lost alot of blood for 6weeks didn't get to a doctor and now a Dr won't take me cause no insurance I'm worried it is happening again nurse told me if cramps get real bad and it starts being alot of blood to call them even though I told her I had 3 misscarriages already

Gold on November 16, 2019:

hi...I missed my period last month I assumed I was pregnant , dis months I hv been noticing some drops of blood, a day before yesterday it was a spot of blood, yesterday it was light blood and today it came out more Dan other days I have run home test it's showing positive... please help

Sonie on January 22, 2019:

I had unprotected sex and latter after two weeks l had a bleeding for one day and drops for afew days and then stopped. Am l pregnant

Faizah Swaleh on January 16, 2019:

I just wanted to learn more about pregnancies and miscarriage

sha111 on December 31, 2018:

hello. iam trying to get pregnant. last got periods on dec 1 . we tried every one another day from dec 9 to dec 16 . then after that my cervical mucus was dry. so we stopped. later from dec 20 i was feeling kinda sick. and later i got cold but no fever. then i missed periods by two days like it was to be on 28 dec. we were planning to take test then suddenly light brown spotting appeared on dec 30. today on 31 the flow is increased with cramps. shall i take the pregnancy test. im really sad. please suggest.

Ashley on December 03, 2018:

Hi i had sex last Tuesday and i pass pinkish blood and then it came red the other day with back pain and belly pain it wasnt heavy but the other day it came out when i pee and wipe. The other day that thursday i thought it stop however i slept and the morning i saw it brown....pls help

Harpa Ósk (author) on October 19, 2018:

Hi Harminder

It does not need to mean anything, most likely it's just an innocent bleeding. If you are having cramps also or if you are worried, contact your healthcare provider.

Best whises

Harminder on September 14, 2018:

Today i get d newz of my prgnancy from urine test but just now i see some black blood in my penty what doez it mean

Hi my name is Yolanda on September 09, 2018:

I went to the hospital today because I noticed light bleeding it was pinkish and I’m 6weeks and they didn’t hear a heartbeat ? Is it too early to tell or am I’m having a miscarriage

Ronetra bolton on September 06, 2018:

I am having problems i know i am pregant because i had my period August 1 then i started spotting August 26 for 3 days then ita gone what that mean

Pabina Ghale on September 01, 2018:

I am 3 month pregnant n also I have a 5cm cyst in my ovary. today I have had a little drop of blood discharge n a brown spooting in my underwear. Yesterday I had a busy n tired day n today I have seen a blood first time plz help me

pezi on August 29, 2018:

l had some drops on my pads then it dryed and today a drop and it is dry what dose it mean

Hymmar on August 21, 2018:

Am 6weeks pg and has light spotting for 3days now went for a scan an f everything was fine thn i was told to have a bedrest but i still spot is it okey??

Catherine mukiri on August 06, 2018:

Hi i had one month pregnacy..yesterday i decided to use isovent...will it work to finish the pregnacy really becouse i am having a little bleeding...please help

Soso on July 11, 2018:

Hi I’m 44 years old and I’m pregnant for almost 6 weeks, I’m seeing a heavy blood which started as pink, then brown and now it’s red, this is happening now for the 3rd day, also today I did a pregnancy test and it still showing positive, is this a miscarriage or I’m still pregnant??

Ihsan ur rahman on June 26, 2018:

My wife is pregnant of 8 weeks and she has bleeding little and little pain is it the sign of Alaram

Shantal on June 24, 2018:

Good morning sir/madam

I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend came inside me did take plan B on the 2 day we had sex again an he came inside me I took the first pill then we had sex he did it again then I took the second one do know I took it close to the 3 day am I pregnant because I’m seeing spots of brown close to black blood. Is it possible I’m pregnant did a pregnant test it show negative but I did it when seeing the spotting

Harpa Ósk (author) on June 08, 2018:

Hi Christina

If you don't have pain or cramps with it, it's probably innocent. If the blood gets darker or increases you should get an appointment with your health care provider.

Best wishes

Christina on June 07, 2018:

Am getting white pink blood ,i dont knw what can i do

Harpa Ósk (author) on May 07, 2018:

Hi Mrs Raza

It's hard to tell, but I would guess that your period is starting, it's normal time for period to start in a 28 day cycle. If it's only a few drops and not a proper period you could take a test in a week or two.

Best wishes

Yessica on April 17, 2018:

Hey did ure baby survive ?

Nenegift95 @gmail.com on April 15, 2018:

I am three weeks pregnant and I have sex with My partner and am seeing a brownish spotting what does it mean

Harpa Ósk (author) on February 02, 2018:

Hi Obaa Yaa

Some spotting can be normal in early pregnancy. You need to wait and see if it stops, if not you should talk to a medical professional.

Best wishes

Obaa Yaa on January 05, 2018:

I am three weeks pregnant and I can see some brownish spotting. What could be the cause and is it a miscarriage

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