The sight of blood at unexpected moments in pregnancy is enough to scare you and put ideas in your head. No matter how serious or minor, bleeding can be alarming, but not all bleeding cases are a cause for worry. While it is unexpected and definitely scary, you should know that blood discharge during pregnancy is actually a common occurrence. On that note, this article is to help you find out what it means to bleed during pregnancy and other symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
Nonetheless, always see your obstetrician or gynaecologist whenever you are spotting or bleeding during pregnancy. Contact us at Medical Express Clinic if you want one of the best gynaecologist in London.
What is the difference between bleeding and spotting?
Breakthrough bleeding refers to any bleeding that occurs outside your monthly period flow. The different bleeding levels during this period are differentiated by the terms spotting and bleeding.
Spotting is a blood discharge that is not heavy enough for a panty liner or a pad. It also refers to a situation where blood is spotted on your underwear or tissue paper when you clean up after using the toilet. Spotting may not be necessarily red as the colour of blood; instead,it can be light brown or even pink, as you would normally notice at the beginning or end of your menstrual period.
On the other hand, bleeding is heavier than spotting and would require you to wear a sanitary pad. This occurs outside your menstrual period, but bleeding occurs as a normal menstrual flow. Finally, the blood is bright red in colour.
What does it mean to bleed during pregnancy?
It is perfectly normal to be scared and anxious when bleeding during pregnancy. For the singular reason that you do not know the problem, several ideas can go through your mind. Although bleeding during pregnancy is not always a good sign, do not be hasty to conclude or imagine the worst. Before considering all possibly dangerous scenarios, you should remember that your body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. The changes in hormones and body tissues can also contribute to bleeding during pregnancy.
Is bleeding common during pregnancy?
Surprisingly, bleeding is quite common in pregnancy; however, it can happen for different reasons and at different trimesters in different women. Statistics have shown that about 30% of women experience bleeding in pregnancy during the first trimesters. About 20% of women experience bleeding at some point during their pregnancies, like the beginning of the first trimester or towards the middle of the first trimester. Bleeding can also occur towards the end of the third trimester, but do not hesitate to report to your gynaecologist when you notice any bleeding at any point.
Causes of bleeding or spotting during pregnancy
There are several reasons why people can experience spotting or bleeding during pregnancy. A number of these reasons include the following.
Bleeding during implantation
Fertilisation or fusion of the male sperm cell and the female egg cell occurs in the oviduct or Fallopian tube. The fertilised egg then travels through the tubes to the uterus or womb. The uterine walls or endometrium have already been thickened with blood and tissue. The endometrium thickens every month during ovulation in preparation for pregnancy should fertilisation occur. Without fertilisation, the thickened walls simply shed off and come out of the vagina as menstrual flow. On the other hand, the egg is then implanted in the uterine lining after fertilisation. This implantation can cause light bleeding known as implantation bleeding.
More than 30% of women experience implantation bleeding, which can happen once or twice. Also, implantation bleeding is often mistaken for an actual menstrual period. It typically happens about a few days before one’s menstrual period, depending on the woman’s cycle. Finally, implantation bleeding is not heavy and can be categorised as spotting. It is different from menstrual blood as it does not contain clots and is dark brown or pink in colour.
This is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind when a woman is bleeding during pregnancy. However, you cannot conclude on it completely without a proper medical diagnosis. Although several miscarriages occur within the first trimester, miscarriage is generally referred to as the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks of fertilisation. Sadly, miscarriages are quite common. Statistics have shown that about 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage due to genetic defects or unknown reasons.
Bleeding is one of the signs or symptoms of a miscarriage, and the blood appears to be bright red or brown and may have clots or tissue in them. Additionally, the blood may be accompanied by a gush of fluid or even discharge. This is, in fact, amniotic fluid and is not something to be ignored. See your gynaecologist immediately as they will see that a blood test and ultrasound scan is conducted. These tests will check the uterus and baby’s status andconfirm the baby’s heartbeat and equally measure HCG levels.
The placenta is an important organ that transports oxygen, blood and nutrients from the mother to the baby. The placenta is attached to the uterine wall, in a position that guarantees blood flow from mother to child. Like the baby itself, the placenta grows throughout pregnancy however, it does not get in the way during childbirth. In some cases, the placenta can develop directly over the cervix or close to it, known as placenta previa. This condition can be differentiated by the different types depending on its position.
This condition is often noticed or identified during the second trimester in an ultrasound scan and is monitored closely afterwards. Vaginal bleeding is definitely one of the effects of placenta previa, although it may not always be heavy bleeding. Although placenta previa may start out as a cause for worry and close monitoring, about 90% of cases get resolved as the placenta can end up moving out of the cervix before delivery. Women who are more likely to have placenta previa have had previous procedures conducted on their uterus or people who are pregnant with multiples.
This is a situation where the baby’s placenta separates or detaches from the uterine wall before childbirth. This is one serious situation that should not be ignored because it affects the baby by cutting off the blood supply and oxygen from the mother.
Placental abruption can either happen suddenly or slowly over time. Nonetheless, when it happens, it is followed by pain in the abdomen and back, and of course,heavy bleeding. Besides the placenta, the amniotic sac is equally monitored to determine how the baby is affected. You should note that the severity of the bleeding does not indicate that the situation is minor or dangerous, as you may be bleeding lightly and could be retaining so much blood in the uterus.
The baby’s birth may be imminent if you have a placental abruption towards the end of your pregnancy. Suppose it happens during the beginning stage of pregnancy. In that case, you will be monitored closely as there may be chances of premature labour.
When you are bleeding during pregnancy, and you report to your doctor, an ultrasound scan will be conducted to find out the possible cause of bleeding and to check the status of the pregnancy and baby. One of the things that ultrasound scan checks for arethe presence of a hematoma. A membrane known as the chorion membrane is found between the placenta and the uterine wall. Blood can collect in the folds of this membrane, leading to a condition or situation known as subchorionic hematoma or subchorionic bleeding. The hematomas vary in size, with the large ones causing heavy bleeding and the smaller ones causing light bleeding.
Treatment does not exist for subchorionic hematoma. You may need just pelvic rest, although this depends on how difficult the situation is. You may simply be placed on medication to prevent miscarriage, as the suture solves itself in most cases. People who have subchorionic hematoma will have to avoid standing for extended periods or doing anything that will cause stress or strain.
Another possible cause of bleeding during pregnancy is a vaginal infection. The bleeding, in this case, has nothing to do with the pregnancy, as the affected area is the cervix. The cervix is rich in blood vessels and bleeds easily when inflamed or irritated. Vaginal infections like bacterial or yeast infections can cause the cervix to become inflamed or irritated and cause bleeding.
Suppose the bleeding is followed by an unusual discharge, a burning sensation when you pee, redness, irritation, or itching. In that case, you need to see your doctor for infection. Vaginal infections are safely treated during pregnancy with antibiotics. You should see your doctor to prescribe one that is safe to use during pregnancy.
Having sex during pregnancy is fine and safe unless you have been warned by your doctor not to do it. However, aggressive sexual intercourse can irritate or inflame the cervix. When this happens, you may experience very light spotting sooner or later. The spotting may only be noticed when you clean up with tissue paper after using the bathroom. This situation is nothing to be worried about as it is perfectly normal.
Losing the mucus plug
When a woman becomes pregnant, the body system creates a mucus plug at the opening of the cervix. This mucus plug protects the baby and the womb from external factors like bacteria. As you approach the full term of your pregnancy, your cervix begins to open up, leading to the release of the mucus plug. You may notice spotting at this time; however, it is different from other types of spotting you may be aware of. The spotting associated with the release of mucus plug contains thick mucus.
The loss of the mucus plug can happen at once for some women, while it happens throughout several days in other women. If it happens at once, the mucus is more noticeable, and blood volume is greater. Meanwhile, if it happens for a couple of days, you may only notice it as spotting when you wipe with tissue paper. There is no discharge or spotting in some cases,but you should see your doctor if you feel any pain.
Usually, the loss of mucus plug is a sign that you are approaching labour. However, it may take weeks before labour kicks in, and some women do not lose the plug until they are already in labour. Finally, if you notice bloody discharge when you are approaching the end of your pregnancy, do not panic. On the other hand, a bloody discharge at the first, second or beginning of the third trimester should be reported to your doctor. It could be a sign of premature labour or an incompetent cervix.
Often, some women experience period-like bleeding at intervals throughout their pregnancy. In some cases, the cause of the bleeding may not be known. Although bleeding during pregnancy is not completely normal, you will have to work with your doctor to find out what could be wrong and rule out any threat to you and your pregnancy.
When to see a doctor
Do not hesitate to inform your doctor about any bleeding or spotting, no matter how small or trivial. They may even request to see you between appointments depending on the nature of the bleeding or spotting. Bleeding during pregnancy is not something to be ignored; however, if it is accompanied by any of the following, see your doctor as soon as possible
- Fluid gushing out in addition to the blood
- Painful and severe cramps
- High fever or temperature
- Bright red or heavy bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
Instead of a tampon, use a sanitary pad when bleeding during pregnancy as you wait to meet with your doctor. Be sure to explain any accompanying symptoms to the doctor as well.
Contact us at Medical Express Clinic if you need the services of one of the best private gynaecologist in London. Give us a call or send us an email to book an appointment with us.