Why am I bleeding in pregnancy?

Seeing spots of blood when you’re pregnant instantly sets alarm bells ringing. Our midwife explains why seeing blood during pregnancy doesn’t have to cause panic

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You could experience bleeding if you’re in the early stages of pregnancy

Whether it’s spotting in the early weeks or a bigger bleed in your third trimester, seeing blood between your legs during pregnancy is undoubtedly scary. In most cases it settles down and doesn’t cause further problems, but you’ll still want to get it checked out.

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If you can’t get in touch with your GP or midwife, you can phone the labour ward and speak to a midwife for advice any time of day.

“I felt so worried when I had spotting in the first few weeks and dreaded going to the loo in case there was more bleeding. When I had a scan at 13 weeks, I was convinced it’d be bad news but there was my lovely baby with a strong heartbeat,” said Sarah New, 22, from Olney, mum to Megan, 3 weeks.

It could be … because it’s early days

Some women experience a light bleed 6-10 days after conception as the fertilised egg implants in the lining of the womb. Lots more women will experience some breakthrough bleeding or spotting in early pregnancy around the time their period would have been due. Often no reason’s found for this, though alarmingly in early pregnancy it can be referred to as a ‘threatened miscarriage’.

It could be … because you’ve had sex

During pregnancy there’s an increased blood supply to the cervix and it’s fairly common to experience a small amount of spotting after sex, or an internal examination.

It could be … an infection

If you keep getting some bleeding, it’s worth asking your midwife to take a swab to check for infection. A vaginal infection can cause the cervix to become inflamed and it’s important that this is treated.

It could be … placental problems

In the second or third trimester, bleeding can be a sign of placenta praevia or placental abruption (in which the placenta separates from the uterus). When you have an ultrasound scan at around 20 weeks, the position of the placenta will be recorded. If you have a low-lying placenta, you will be advised to go to the labour ward if you have any bleeding in your pregnancy, to check all is well.

It could be … you need anti-D

It’s important to know the rhesus factor of your blood group, as if you’re rhesus negative and have a bleed after 12 weeks of pregnancy, you’ll be advised to have an injection of anti-D within 72 hours of the bleed. This will prevent your body from developing antibodies that could cause a problem in future pregnancies.

It could be … labour

The mucus plug or show that women often experience before labour starts may well be streaked with blood. If this occurs after 37 weeks, it’s most likely just a sign that the cervix is softening in preparation for labour.

Miscarriage

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It’s the first assumption when you see blood, and yes, blood loss in pregnancy can be a sign of miscarriage, especially if accompanied by pain. If you have a small amount of bleeding, just take it easy and wait and see if it stops. Bed rest used to be advised for women who bled in early pregnancy, but there’s no evidence this makes any difference to the outcome. If you need reassurance, contact your midwife, who should be able to arrange an ultrasound scan to reassure you.

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