Spotting during pregnancy is a common concern faced by a lot of women. About 20% of women experience spotting at some points during pregnancy. Light bleeding or spotting during pregnancy is common during the first trimester especially. It is usually lighter in flow than normal menstrual period. The colour also varies from pinkish red to brown. Although, it could be a cause for concern but there should be no need to panic as it does not always reduce your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Common causes of spotting during pregnancy include the following:
- Implantation bleeding: Implantation bleeding is a common cause of spotting during early pregnancy. It occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining around 10 days after ovulation. This can trigger a few days of spotting or light bleeding. This spotting could occur before a woman knows she is pregnant and could be mistaken for a pending period. Most women often notice pinkish red or brown spotting on their panties.
- Cervical polyps: This occurs when there is a harmless growth on the cervix which is more likely to bleed during pregnancy due to higher oestrogen levels. This could occur because there is an increased number of blood vessels in the tissue around the cervix area during pregnancy. As a result, contact with this area through gynecological exam or sexual intercourse could cause bleeding.
- Infections of the cervix (cervicitis): This can be referred to as an inflammation of the cervix commonly due to infections which can be caused by sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea or non-sexually transmitted infections such as bacterial vaginosis.
- Cervical ectopy: This occurs due to the invasion of cells which are normally present in the uterus or cervical canal to the surface of the cervix. Because these cells are more delicate than the cells ordinarily present on the surface of the cervix, they have more tendency to bleed with very little irritation. This could be more common in women who have experienced vaginal childbirth in the past (stretching the cervix) and extended use of birth control pills.
- Miscarriage: As miscarriage occurs mostly during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it tends to be one of the biggest concerns with first trimester bleeding/spotting. Symptoms of miscarriage include brown or bright red bleeding, abdominal cramps and contractions and tissue or clot like material passing through the vagina.
- Ectopic pregnancy: It is a medical emergency which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself outside the uterus. Light to heavy vaginal bleeding or spotting could be a symptom of ectopic pregnancy. Other symptoms include weakness and dizziness, sharp abdominal or pelvic pain and rectal pressure.
- Placenta Previa: Placenta previa occurs when the placenta sits low in the uterus and completely or partially covers the birth canal. It is usually are and occurs during the late third trimester. A bleeding placenta previa which is painless is an emergency which requires fast medical attention.
- Placenta abruption: This occurs when the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus before or during labour and blood pools between the placenta and uterus. Placental abruption could be very dangerous to the mother and baby.
- Uterine Rupture: In rare situations, a scar from a previous caesarean section could tear open during pregnancy. It could be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is any discharge of blood from the vagina which could occur anytime from conception till the end of pregnancy. Light bleeding or spotting during pregnancy is especially common during the first semester and it is usually no cause for alarm. It could be considered as spotting if you notice a few drops of blood in your underwear occasionally or if you wipe yourself with tissue and see little blood. Bleeding on the other hand is heavier blood flow. You would need a pad to keep the blood from soaking your clothes. If you are spotting or bleeding, you should see your Doctor and describe what you are experiencing to make sure everything is fine.