What are your risks of bleeding during pregnancy? Is pregnancy bleeding ALWAYS abnormal? Could you develop pregnancy bleeding spontaneously or after sex or other activities like exercise, and is there anything you can do to prevent it? Let's explore these questions - and more, in the post below.
Whats On This Page
- Is Pregnancy Bleeding Normal ?
- Bleeding During Pregnancy - Early Stages
- Pregnancy Bleeding - Later Stages
- How Much Bleeding During Pregnancy is Normal?
- How To Stop Bleeding During Pregnancy
Is Pregnancy Bleeding Normal ?
Let's consider some reasons for vaginal bleeding. This time the focus is on some of the causes of bleeding that can happen when pregnant.
Additionally we shall look at how to stop bleeding during pregnancy - when possible.
Many of my patients come to me after experiencing bleeding in their pregnancy, worried about why it happened and how they could have prevented it.
The fact is - pregnancy-related vaginal bleeding is very common and often does not affect the pregnancy outcome.
It is not a normal pregnancy outcome; and some reasons are harmless (as we see below).
However, in some cases, they can affect pregnancy, so it is always important to speak with your doctor or midwife if you experience vaginal bleeding in pregnancy.
If you want to learn how to stop bleeding during pregnancy happening, these points below will help.
Bleeding During Pregnancy - Early Stages
To begin, let us look at bleeding in the early part of pregnancy - the first and part of the second trimesters. (Up to week 24).
Implantation Bleeding is one of the earliest forms of vaginal bleeding in pregnancy. It is harmless, and in most women who experience it, consists of light bleeding or spotting.
Spotting means that you would only notice a few spots of blood loss, and there is no pain. It may resemble a very light period in other ladies - and in fact, is often assumed by the woman to be her period till things become more apparent later on.
Implantation bleeding happens when the developing pregnancy plants itself in the wall of your womb. Are there any risks - No, it's a natural pregnancy development some women may experience.
A miscarriage is what happens when a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks. By far, it is most common within the first 12 weeks. Generally, it is most likely to occur if something is not right with the baby.
Vaginal bleeding is the first suggestion that a miscarriage may be happening; this can be bright red or light pink blood and dark altered blood.
Other symptoms are having painful cramps low down in the stomach that are often stronger than period cramps.
Some women may also experience tissue loss, including blood clots and parts of the pregnancy passing through the vagina.
Experiencing bleeding from a miscarriage does not always mean loss of the pregnancy. Some studies suggest that almost half of pregnant women who bleed like this go on to have a normal pregnancy.
Most times, we cannot prevent a miscarriage, but some factors may make it likely to happen:
What Makes Miscarriage Likely
- Being 35 years or older
- Excessive weight
- Use of street or illicit drugs like Cannabis, Amphetamines, Heroin or Cocaine.
- Coffee lovers watch out - taking more than 200mg per day can increase the risk of miscarriage. A small homemade cup may contain about 50mg of coffee, but some other coffee drinks could have over 300mg! Here's a great tool you can use to check how much coffee you are taking. "It is generally recommended that pregnant women limit their intake to 100–200 mg of caffeine per day — about 1–2 cups (240—475 ml) of coffee.
- However, many experts recommend avoiding coffee entirely during pregnancy. If you want to be absolutely safe, this is a smart choice".
- Food poisoning from contaminated foods or drinks - watch your salads, ice cream, fruits and sources of drinking water.
- An injury like a road accident or any other kind of trauma can risk of having a miscarriage.
- Certain medicines could increase the risk of miscarriage. Examples are certain antidepressants, some over the counter anti-inflammatory pain killers like Ibuprofen or Naproxen, and some rheumatoid arthritis treatment like Methotrexate. Taking certain medicines during pregnancy may also increase the likelihood of having a miscarriage.
- Infections - for example, urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Chronic conditions like poorly controlled or untreated Diabetes and high blood pressure in pregnancy. Make sure you check out my video here on High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy (links in the description box below).
An ectopic happens when the fertilised egg plants itself anywhere outside the womb. Most often, this occurs in the fallopian tube and usually from around 6 weeks of pregnancy onwards. It is a severe condition that can cause death without treatment.
The fertilised egg just cannot develop anywhere else but the womb. So, either the ectopic pregnancy fails to develop correctly or bursts the fallopian tube, which is extremely dangerous.
It is not possible to save this pregnancy. The egg has to be removed, sometimes with the fallopian tube affected.
Vaginal bleeding is a symptom of ectopic. It can be heavy bleeding or light bleeding, or a brown watery discharge. Other symptoms include tummy pain that sits on one side, and some women get uncomfortable in the tip of the shoulder. Others complain of pain when they are doing a pee or a poo.
But what puts you at risk of having an ectopic?
What Makes Ectopic Likely
Well, you can't always prevent an ectopic, but any of the following can make it more likely to happen:
- a previous ectopic pregnancy increases the risk of another by about 10%
- surgery on your fallopian tube in the past, e.g. failed female sterilisation
- inflammation within the reproductive organs known as PID - usually caused by a sexually transmitted illness
- Falling pregnant while on the contraceptive coil, either the IUD or IUS. In the first place, the chance of falling pregnant while on these is very small. But if it does happen, an ectopic pregnancy is more likely to develop.
- Smoking is known to increase the risk of Ectopic pregnancy.
- As is being older when pregnant - often it's between the age of 35 - 40 years that ectopics occur more frequently.
- Finally, fertility treatment like IVF can increase the risk of an ectopic
Next, we will look at bleeding conditions in the latter half of pregnancy, but before we do that - what about bleeding during pregnancy after sex or exercise?
(Often) Random Causes
Bleeding during pregnancy can happen after an infection in the pelvic cavity or a urinary tract infection. Treating this promptly in most cases will stop the bleeding and not affect pregnancy.
Bleeding after sex happens in some pregnant women as the cervix (neck of the womb) is very tender and sensitive.
Whether this is light or heavy, you must always see your doctor to check for causes like infection or rarely a change to the cervix from cancer.
The cause is often the sensitive cervix, and taking steps to avoid irritation of the cervix can help. Once you have the ok from your doctor, you and your partner can explore alternative positions. A good method/option is having sex while lying on the side to reduce any pressure on the cervix.
What about exercise and bleeding during pregnancy? - There are so many health benefits to keeping active while pregnant, so some form of exercise is definitely recommended if you are fit and do not have an underlying medical problem. Therefore, bleeding is extremely unlikely unless it is very vigorous exercise or some other problem already described above.
Always check in with your health provider if you experience unexpected bleeding.
Pregnancy Bleeding - Later Stages
In the latter half of pregnancy, some of the reasons from the earlier half can still happen.
They include pelvic or sexual infections, urinary infections or bleeding after sex. In addition, non-cancer changes can develop on the cervix - like polyps, leading to bleeding.
However, other problems can occur in the 2nd or 3rd trimester.
As the name suggests, this condition affects the placenta, that bed of soft tissue and blood vessels crucial for the nourishment and growth of the baby.
It usually occurs during the last 12 weeks of pregnancy. When the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb before or during labour, it can lead to a life-threatening problem.
Thankfully it is not very common, and the main symptoms are vaginal bleeding and pain in your stomach. In some cases, stomach pain may happen without obvious bleeding.
Could you develop placental abruption?
Well, here are the risks to be aware of:
- you are aged 35 years or older
- have other children, i.e. this is not your first pregnancy
- if you have had this condition in a previous pregnancy
- Suffering from high blood pressure in pregnancy
- if you have sickle cell anaemia
- Have been using Cocaine
- any trauma or injury to your stomach/ abdomen
Another placenta condition that leads to bleeding during pregnancy is Placenta Previa.
This condition is a lot more common than abruption. Placenta previa happens when the placenta lies low in the womb, partly or completely covering the cervix.
A low lying placenta is serious and needs immediate attention.
It causes vaginal bleeding that can happen without pain.
Women at risk of placenta previa include:
- those who've had kids before
- Previous womb surgery
- multiple pregnancies with twins or triplets
- Previous C-section
How Much Bleeding During Pregnancy is Normal?
Well, so how much bleeding during pregnancy is normal?
As you can see, there is no exact answer to this question. The only time you may say bleeding during pregnancy 'is normal' is when talking about implantation bleeding (see above) which is light - and quickly settles.
With any other type of bleeding, the fact that it happens at all is abnormal.
When you go to talk about quantity, the heavier or greater the bleeding, the worse the condition.
How To Stop Bleeding During Pregnancy
You can't do much about many of these conditions, but as you can see from the risks we share here, you could make some changes if necessary.
Stopping smoking, alcohol, drugs, and certain medicines when pregnant and attending antenatal classes to monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar and practising safe sex could mean many of these conditions are avoided.
Seeking urgent medical attention if you do get suggestive symptoms is also crucial.
Has this post helped you rethink some of your habits and how to reduce your risk of bleeding during pregnancy?
Do let me known in the comments if you found it helpful, Stay Well!
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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