Spotting during pregnancy

For first time mothers, it is definitely alarming when she begins bleeding during pregnancy. Even if it is only light and mild, most women do not know that blood discharge is possible during pregnancy.

What is vaginal spotting?

Did you know that 1 out of 5 women experience spotting during the first trimester of their pregnancy?

Vaginal spotting is a common case among pregnant women. Spotting is usually lighter than a menstrual period. The appearance of blood also ranges from reddish to brownish in color.

Take note that there is nothing to worry about it as long as the flow is lighter than a menstrual period. As a matter of fact, many women who experience this during pregnancy went on to have a healthy baby.

Causes of spotting during pregnancy

Even though spotting is just light bleeding, sometimes this symptom indicates pregnancy complication as well. Vaginal spotting is usually caused by the following sources:


Pregnancy week by week

Did you know that a man’s male organ can cause the cervix to inflame when having sex during pregnancy?

The penetration of thrusting during intercourse causes the spotting. Since the blood flow is heavier to the cervix when a woman is pregnant, slight irritation can cause vaginal bleeding.

Cervical polyp

Cervical polyp causes spotting since the levels of blood vessels in the cervical tissue increase during pregnancy. Other than that, the cervix is softer and inflated during pregnancy. When the cervix is irritated, this triggers vaginal spotting.

Pap smear or internal pelvic exam

Undergoing pap smear and internal pelvic exam irritates the cervix which causes spotting. Sometimes these exams cause the inflammation of the cervix which leads to spotting as well.

Implantation bleeding

Did you know that, about 20-30% of women experience implantation bleeding? Moreover, most women often mistook this as an upcoming period since it occurs before a woman even confirms her pregnancy.

This is the common cause of vaginal spotting in the early stages of pregnancy. Bleeding happens when the fertilized egg is implanted to the uterine lining. The bleeding usually lasts for a few days.

Vaginal infection

Vaginal infection is a condition that is not related to pregnancy. This occurs when the balance of good and bad bacteria is disrupted.

There are different kinds of vaginal infection:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Yeast infection

Sub chorionic bleeding

Did you know that about 20% of women experience sub chorionic bleeding during the early weeks of pregnancy?

Sub-chorionic bleeding is often termed as sub-chorionic hematoma. It is when the blood accumulates within the outer fetal membrane (chorions) or within the placenta which causes vaginal spotting.

Loss of mucous plug

When a woman loses her mucous plug, (the gelatinous cover which seals the opening of the uterus) it only indicates that the cervix is softening as a preparation for childbirth.

In some cases, women encounter that their vaginal bleeding is accompanied by thick and white pieces of the mucous plug.

Bleeding during pregnancy

Bleeding during pregnancy is often accompanied by various complications which may harm the mother and the baby. On the contrary, in some rare cases vaginal bleeding is just a gentle sign of pregnancy.


Sonohysterography performed because of vaginal bleeding.

What is vaginal bleeding?

Did you know that about 20% of women experience vaginal bleeding during the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy?

Vaginal bleeding has a heavier blood discharge than spotting. This usually occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. This case is worse than a menstrual period since it can soak up one’s sanitary pad and underwear.

Causes of bleeding during pregnancy

Women must be fully aware if the vaginal bleeding indicates a serious problem. Because sometimes, bleeding needs an immediate medical care to check the mother and the baby’s health condition.

Below are the possible causes of vaginal bleeding:

During the first trimester

  • Did you know that about 50% of women who bleed during pregnancy often lead to miscarriage? This is one of the biggest concerns of first trimester bleeding. If spotting or bleeding is accompanied with abdominal cramping, this can be a sign of miscarriage.
  • Molar Pregnancy. This is a rare condition where the placenta turns into a mass of polyps (cysts) which goes along with an abnormal embryo.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy. This is a dangerous condition where the embryo is implanted outside the uterus. The fertilized egg may be stuck inside the fallopian tube which may cause excessive bleeding as the egg develops. If spotting or bleeding is accompanied with severe abdominal cramps, weakness, and nausea. This can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases. STDs such as chlamydia, herpes, trichomoniasis and gonorrhea.

During the second to third trimester

  • Placenta Previa. Did you know that only 1 out of 200 women experience placenta Previa? This is when the placenta is very close to the cervix and it partially blocks the birth canal (Placenta Previa can be detected via ultrasound). In some cases, the placenta is carried away before child labor. If bleeding occurs, even if it is painless, it requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Placental Accreta. This is a case where the placenta sits deeply in the uterine wall. Then during child labor, the placenta remains attached to the uterine wall which causes severe vaginal bleeding.
  • Vasa Previa. This is a rare condition where the umbilical cord blocks the birth canal. This puts the baby in danger since his developing blood vessels tears up. The teared vessels cause both the mother and baby to bleed excessively. Moreover, the baby is also in danger of losing oxygen and may eventually die.
  • Placental abruption. Did you know that about 1% of pregnancy, a woman’s placenta partially or completely separates from the uterine wall before and/or during child labor? Placental abruption is a dangerous condition which can affect both the mother and the baby. If the placenta’s detachment is only slight, the baby can still be saved. However, if the detachment is severe, the baby’s life is at a higher risk. It is accompanied with abdominal pain, uterine tenderness, and backache. This always occurs in the latter part of the 2nd trimester and usually in the 3rd.
  • Uterine rupture. This dangerous but rare condition where a previous C-section scar tears up during pregnancy causes vaginal bleeding.
  • Premature labor. Often called as preterm labor, is an early childbirth that starts after week 20 and before week 37 of pregnancy.


 Spotting versus bleeding during pregnancy

Spotting and bleeding indicates many things about a woman’s pregnancy. Before panicking, one must know how vaginal spotting is different from vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.

Below are the following differences:

Color of blood

If the blood appears brownish to pinkish in color, it is vaginal spotting. However, if the blood is bright red in color, it is vaginal bleeding.

Amount of blood

If a woman bleeds heavily and it soaks the sanitary napkin or panty liner, it is vaginal bleeding.

On the other hand, if the bleeding is light and only drops of blood appeared in a panty liner, it is considered vaginal spotting.

Discharge of blood

If a woman discharges blood anytime during pregnancy, it is vaginal bleeding. However, if bleeding only occurs during the first trimester, it is considered vaginal spotting.


Cancer is an additional cause of vaginal bleeding. A woman must consult a doctor to determine whether the bleeding is caused by cancer or not.

Abnormal bleeding

Vaginal bleeding can occur anytime during a trimester and can be accompanied to pregnancy complications. This rarely goes hand in hand with abnormal bleeding. Abnormal bleeding during late pregnancy indicates a complication on both parties.

Signs of abnormal bleeding

Abnormal bleeding is worse than vaginal bleeding. Abnormal bleeding during pregnancy is indicated by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe cramping
  • Vaginal discharge contains tissue
  • Unsteadiness
  • Fainting
  • Anxieties
  • Fever of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

How to deal with abnormal bleeding

Going to the emergency room or visiting a health care professional is best when a woman experiences abnormal bleeding. However, before going to the hospital it is important to observe the bleeding first to indicate whether it is really abnormal or not.

Below are the following steps on how to observe vaginal bleeding:

  • Always wear a sanitary pad and keep track of the amount of bleeding
  • Jot down the appearance of blood: its color and texture
  • If the vagina discharges some tissue, bring the tissue to the obstetrician-gynecologist for testing
  • Have a vaginal and/or abdominal ultrasound. This is to detect the root cause of abnormal bleeding.

Also take note that a woman is not allowed to use tampons or have sex when she is still experiencing abnormal bleeding.

How to manage spotting during pregnancy

Aside from calling an obstetrician-gynecologist, there are so many things a woman can do to manage her spotting and/or bleeding during pregnancy.

What to do if spotting or bleeding is noticed

When a woman knows how to manage vaginal bleeding and/or spotting, she is also helping herself to go on with a healthy pregnancy.

Below are the following ways a woman can manage this bloody situation:

  • Take a lot of rest
  • Avoid long walks
  • Limit physical activities
  • If possible, elevate the feet
  • Avoid carrying heavy items which weigh 10 lbs. or over

Recommendations for spotting or bleeding

If the bleeding or spotting has not stopped yet, it may be an indication of a complication. What an obstetrician-gynecologist will do varies on a woman’s situation.

However, below are the most common recommendations a woman must undergo if bleeding persists:

  • Blood tests
  • Physical evaluation. If a woman bleeds heavily, she needs to undergo an exam where an Ob-Gyne checks if her cervix has opened. If it is opened, there is a higher risk that the bleeding may lead to miscarriage.
  • If a woman’s ultrasound detected a baby’s normal heartbeat between the 7th-11th weeks, there are higher chances that the pregnancy goes on healthy.

Spotting may be a good sign for most women to go on having a healthy pregnancy. However, this does not imply for women in general.

Bleeding is associated with different kinds of complications that need to be addressed for immediate treatment. It is the best to consult an Ob-Gyne to discuss the root causes of vaginal spotting and/or bleeding.