The menstrual cycle is a part of the majority of the women’s lives. Vaginal bleeding is normal and is usually considered a sign of good health. However, in some situations, it can be linked to specific health conditions.
What are such situations? Normally, menstrual periods begin at the age of 13-14 and continue every month and only stop at menopause. During pregnancy, the monthly cycles do stop but restart right after the delivery.
Some woman may experience bleeding during pregnancy. Is vaginal bleeding in pregnancy normal?
From having the normal periods to undergoing the implantation bleeding, the women, if tested positive for pregnancy, may go through a serious of other types of vaginal bleeding.
Nearly 1/3rd of the pregnant women experience spotting. According to Dr. Alyssa Stephenson- the Specialist of Maternal and Fetal Medicine at University of Washington, Seattle ‘The vast majority of spotting is harmless’
What Causes Bleeding During Pregnancy?
You may experience frequent bleeding in the 1st Trimester of pregnancy, which may or may not point to any specific cause.
However, although you should be very careful throughout the pregnancy, the 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of pregnancy is the time you should be MOST cautious since the bleeding occurring in that period may indicate a problem or complication.
Bleeding in the first trimester
- Implantation Bleeding
During the first 6-12 days, women might experience mild spotting which is GOOD NEWS; giving out an indication of the fertilization of an egg and its implantation into the uterine lining.
It is however not necessary that you see this happening, as most of the women might mistake this spotting for their regular periods. How can you be sure?
The spotting lasts from a few hours to almost 2 days. The blood of implantation spotting is very light pink or brown in color
This is one of the top concerns that women face during the first trimester of pregnancy being a major cause of bleeding.
Although it is not necessary that you are having a miscarriage if experiencing vaginal bleeding. You must always check with your doctor and an ultrasound to confirm.
Almost fifteen to twenty percent of women go through the unfortunate miscarriage, while thirty percent of women bleed for no apparent reason in the early pregnancy.
The most common symptoms of miscarriage are intense cramps in the abdominal region and bloody discharge from the vagina. Another important question is that whether or not miscarriage can be avoided.
Most of them cannot be prevented however extra care must be taken in the early days of pregnancy to avoid miscarriage. It also does not close the window of you getting a healthy successful pregnancy again.
- Ectopic Pregnancy
This condition is one of the most dangerous issues as the fertilized egg gets itself implanted outside the uterine lining/ uterus, most commonly in the Fallopian tubes.
With time, once the embryo starts growing, it may cause a burst in the Fallopian tubes, hence terminating the pregnancy. This problem occurs only in about one in sixty pregnant women.
The most common symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include strong cramps in the lower abdominal region or stomach area, vaginal Bleeding, feeling Lightheaded, and low hCG levels.
- Molar Pregnancy/ Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)
Normally the baby grows out from the growth of tissues, but this is a rare phenomenon in which an abnormal in-growth of tissue, known as ‘a mole’ occurs on the inside of uterus instead of the embryo.
The tissue growth may as well be cancerous, spreading out to other body parts of the mother.
The frequently occurring symptoms of Molar pregnancy or GTD include vomiting, nausea, grape-shaped clusters (viewed in an ultrasound), uterus enlargement, high hCG levels, bleeding from the vagina, and the absence of the fetal heartbeat.
Any bacterial infection in the vaginal area or the cervix can cause bleeding. It may also occur because of sexual intercourse or any disease transmitted via sex e.g. gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia etc.
- Changes in the Cervical Region
With pregnancy, the physical body shape gets changes to adjust the baby inside the womb, therefore, the blood flow rate increases towards the cervix. Only a small Pap smear or sexual activity can initiate bleeding.
Bleeding in the second trimester or third trimester
- Premature Labor
This bleeding occurs in the later phases of pregnancy indicating that the body might soon go under labor so women should get themselves prepared for delivery.
Just a few days before the start of labor, the covering of uterus opening known as the mucus plug passes out via vagina with some blood. This blood is called “Bloody show”. However, if your bleeding occurs before the 37th week, immediately consult your doctor.
The symptoms of premature labor are bleeding from the vagina, any sort of vaginal discharge (mucus, cloudy, watery etc.), pressure on the cervix, lower backache, tightening of uterine, cramps in the stomach, contractions, and abdominal pain.
- Placental Abruption
About one in every hundred pregnancies end up with the detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall, resulting in a pool of blood between the uterus and placenta. This may happen either before or during labor.
Symptoms of placental abruption include abdominal pain, bleeding from the vagina, and a lower backache.
The most common causes of this condition are high blood pressure, trauma, history of abruption, sickle cell anemia, being older than thirty-five, drug abuse (cocaine in particular0 and accident.
- Placenta Previa
In pregnancy, this problem occurs when the placenta settles itself under the uterus and blocks the birth canal opening.
This happens to only one in every two-hundred pregnancies and may rarely occur in the 3rd trimester. The bleeding, however, is painless but you must always seek medical care as soon as possible.
- Vasa Previa
This issue arises if the baby’s blood vessels cross the birth canal or get entangled with the umbilical cord.
Having this condition may lead to sudden death of the baby as the blood vessels are very delicate and may get torn down, leaving the short of blood or short of the oxygen supply.
The symptoms of Vasa Previa include the abnormal heart rate of the fetus and excess bleeding.
- Rupturing of Uterine
The uterine may get ruptured of tore down because of a scar caused due to a previous cesarean or a C-section, posing serious life threats to mother as well as the baby. This can only be dealt with an emergency C-section.
The symptoms of this condition include bleeding, intense pain and cramps, and a tender abdominal region.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
Bleeding and spotting during pregnancy may be normal but it is suggested to consult a doctor for any type of bleeding.
Any blood that discharges out of the vaginal region before the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy may be because of a miscarriage or abortion.
Bloody discharge out of the vaginal region after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy may be because of an antepartum hemorrhage.
If you have an Rh Negative blood type (O-, A-, B-, AB-), then it is necessary that you inform your doctor within 72 hours of bleeding. This is done because of the probable cause of having your baby’s blood mix-up with yours.
In case that happens, your body will start producing antibodies for the positive blood, which is dominant over the Rh negative blood type.