Bleeding in pregnancy
Too scary to think about, but it does happen. Pregnant midwife Sally-Jane Cameron looks at the causes.
Most of us accept that there is a certain amount of discomfort with pregnancy. Nausea, tiredness, heartburn, vomiting and stretch marks are all part of the normal experience, and we accept them even if we do moan a little now and again.
The one thing you never want to see is blood. Going to the toilet and seeing blood catapults you from the safe cocoon of normal, into the scary unknown. There is nothing normal about bright red blood. Suddenly your body, that you trusted to incubate this new little life, is letting you down, and you are totally helpless to do anything about it.
The baby might not be born yet but still every protective maternal instinct kicks in, you have no one to tell : ‘It'll all be okay.’ You are left to hope, pray, cry and tremble as the reality sinks in... you COULD lose your baby.
Bleeding in pregnancy is not as uncommon as one might think and affects 20-30% of pregnant women. About 50% of these cases may go on to have a miscarriage, which is why seeing blood is so terrifying.
Bleeding should always be taken seriously, and you should let your health care provider know. They will want to check your cervix to see if it is dilated, check your urine for infection, and scan the uterus to see if the baby is still alive.Causes of bleeding in early pregnancy:
- Implantation bleeding, which is totally normal and is often around the time you would have gotten your period anyway.
- Sex can sometimes lead to bleeding, due to the increase in vascular tissue in the area during pregnancy, and is usually no cause for concern.
- Dehydration can cause bleeding. Be sure to keep drinking. If you suffer from hyper-emisis gravidarum (excessive vomiting in pregnancy) you might need a drip, especially if you can't keep water down.
- Urinary tract infection can also lead to bleed and irritation of the uterus which is very close to the bladder.
- Some medication can cause bleeding. Be sure to let you caregiver know about any medication that you have taken
- Low progesterone. Get your doctor to test your progesterone levels, as some women need extra progesterone.
- Untreated thyroid disorder. Again, this is very treatable.
- Ectopic pregnancy. This is where the fertilized ovum has not implanted in the uterus, but grows in the fallopian tube. The tube cannot accommodate the growth, and can rupture, causing extreme pain and lots of bleeding. This is a life-threatening medical emergency, and needs to be handled as such. - Get help
- Sometimes, things go wrong in the early stages, when the sperm and egg come together and cause chromosomal abnormalities. These usually result in a miscarriage.
- Unknown. Sometimes you will have bleeding, and the foetus will be okay and no one will know the cause.
- Twin pregnancies can sometimes result in bleeding, some mothers will miscarry one of the twins quite early, this can be a very traumatic time for the mother as she is obviously very concerned about the remaining twin.
Find out about bleeding in later pregnancy
and what happens when the bleeding does not stop
Did you know about bleeding in pregnancy?