Pregnancy is a special time in the life of a woman, but it is fraught with worry of different kinds. The most common one is that associated with spotting or bleeding during pregnancy. Though it is quite common in the first trimester, there are times when one must assume the worst and let their doctor intervene before it’s too late. This article discusses the phenomenon of pregnancy spotting or bleeding, what might cause it and what to do about it.
Spotting or bleeding…What’s the difference?
Spotting is when there are just a few spots of bloody discharge on your underwear or panty liner. It is light enough to not stain the entire liner or pad. Heavier discharge that fills up the pad or liner and/or stains the clothing, is bleeding.
What causes it?
There are several causes for pregnancy bleeding. In the first trimester, it is most commonly caused by the implantation of the fertilised egg on the uterine wall – this happens within six to 12 days of conception. It is light and lasts for a couple of days. Another reason for first trimester bleeding is the presence of an infection in the vagina or cervix, mostly due to STIs
The most common reason is miscarriage, which normally occurs in the first trimester. However, it does not automatically mean that you will miscarry. If the ultrasound detects a foetal heartbeat, the doctor can deal with the bleeding and also prevent a miscarriage
Ectopic pregnancy also causes pregnancy bleeding. This happens because the foetus implants inside the fallopian tube and does not have space to grow. It ruptures the tube and causes pain and bleeding
Bleeding may also be causes by sexual intercourse, use of douches or undergoing a pap smear test, all of which can trigger extra bleeding in the cervix
When you should worry…
It is said that one in four women experience some spotting or light bleeding during their pregnancy. It might occur at any point in the pregnancy cycle, from conception or later during the pregnancy. But that is not to say that pregnancy bleeding is without its risks. Whether spotting or bleeding, it is most commonly associated with foetal distress and in the worst cases, a miscarriage or complications like placental abruption.
Even if the spotting or bleeding stops in a few hours, it is best to err on the side of caution and call your doctor for a check-up.
What NOT to do if you spot/bleed during your pregnancy
- Use vaginal douches. You may use an intimate wash for women on the vulva, but do not wash inside the vagina
- Have sexual intercourse
- Use tampons or menstrual cups. If there is bleeding or spotting has increased, use a panty liner or a sanitary pad
- Ignore spotting if it goes away after a day or two. It might reoccur, and become heavy enough to soak a sanitary pad
What to do if you spot/bleed during your pregnancy
- Call your doctor right away. It may be a minor thing, but the doctor needs to be aware of it and check it at the outset to prevent future problems
- Keep tabs on the colour of the blood. It might be pinkish, brown, rust red or bright red
- Keep tabs on how many panty liners or sanitary napkins you used from the time you noticed bleeding, till the time you met the doctor
- Take note of when spotting changed to bleeding, and if there was accompanying pelvic or back pain, abdominal pain or clots in the discharge