Spotting During Pregnancy

The causes and treatment of bleeding during pregnancy

Although any bleeding during pregnancy can be a frightening sight, pregnancy spotting is often a harmless occurrence. The severity of the situation will depend on when the spotting occurs and any other symptoms that come along with it—learn about what to watch out for and when to see your physician if you're bleeding while pregnant.

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Bleeding in Early Pregnancy

Any spotting that occurs in the early stages of pregnancy will typically be caused by the egg implanting in the uterus, fluctuating hormone levels, or a minor vaginal or cervical infection. About 30 percent of women experience implantation bleeding early in their cycle, sometimes a week or two before their expected period. Signs of pregnancy implantation bleeding often include mild cramping and light bleeding for a day or two—the amount of blood may be as small as a dot or enough to resemble a light period, but heavy bleeding and severe cramps during early pregnancy may indicate a problem like ectopic pregnancy.

While your body is being flooded with hormones, your usual cycle is struggling to continue and may produce somewhat erratic spotting around the time of your expected period. Many women will also experience breakthrough bleeding further into the pregnancy when the placenta embeds in the lining of the uterus, and sometimes the softening of the cervix will lead to light spotting. Although spotting in early pregnancy can often be easily explained and is most likely nothing to worry about, it may be a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have.

When Pregnancy Spotting is Dangerous

As the pregnancy progresses, spotting during pregnancy can begin to indicate a problem with the cervix or uterus, and should be taken seriously. Any vaginal bleeding in the second and third trimester is considered to be abnormal, and bleeding past the 28th week can result in severe hemorrhage in 4 percent of cases. In the second trimester, pregnancy cramps that accompany bleeding often indicate a potential miscarriage or completed miscarriage, also known as a spontaneous abortion.

Bleeding later in pregnancy is often caused by problems with the placenta instead of the uterine lining, such as when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus or covers the opening of the cervix. Rare disorders include inherited bleeding problems and the rupture of the uterus, which can be incredibly dangerous for both the mother and the baby. If you experience any bleeding after the early pregnancy stages, keep track of any other signs of significant blood loss, including dizziness, excessive thirst or fainting. Visit your physician as soon as possible to have an ultrasound in order to assess your state of health and the danger to the baby.