Early pregnancy – why am I bleeding?

Approximately 10% of women can have bleeding during their pregnancy. We explain why it can happen in the early weeks

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Around one in 10 mums-to-be experience bleeding. ‘It’s natural to panic and assume you’re losing your baby, but there are many different causes,’ says midwife Sharon Broad. ‘Some are serious, but 75 per cent of women who bleed in pregnancy do go on to have healthy babies.’

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Nothing to worry about
A bit of spotting early in pregnancy may be implantation bleeding’, caused by the newly formed embryo implanting into the wall of the womb. Some women also get a few spots of blood around the time they’d usually have a period. ‘This is caused by pregnancy hormones,’ explains Sharon. ‘It may happen at four weeks and then again at eight weeks.’

What to do
Call your midwife or GP to discuss any bleeding. ‘If it’s brownish or there’s spotting with no pain, we can reassure you over the phone and it’ll settle down on its own,’ says Sharon. If you’re still worried, or if the bleeding gets worse, call back. You can then be examined or referred for a scan.

When it’s more serious
Unfortunately, bleeding in the first 12 weeks can sometimes signal the start of a miscarriage. ‘This tends to be fresh red blood – and clots are a particular warning sign,’ says Sharon. ‘Sometimes, but not always, the bleeding may be accompanied by pain.’ About one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. ‘It’s important not to beat yourself up about it, as there’s rarely anything you could have done to stop it,’ says Sharon.

Bleeding in the first 12 weeks that’s also accompanied by painful cramping in your lower tummy – often on one side – may signal an ectopic pregnancy. This is a rare, but potentially dangerous, condition where the fertilised egg remains stuck in the Fallopian tube, and you’ll need to have an operation to remove it.

What to do
If bleeding is heavy, or accompanied by pain, contact your GP, or go to A&E if it’s out of hours. A scan will determine if all is well, but if no heartbeat is found, sadly, you may be miscarrying. ‘While it’s hugely upsetting, remember, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go on to have a healthy pregnancy next time – just wait until your menstrual cycle is back to normal and you feel ready to try again,’ advises Sharon.

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