Bleeding or spotting is not entirely uncommon during pregnancy. In fact, nearly one in three pregnancies will experience this. For most women, this is harmless and will not jeopardise the pregnancy. However, it can be indicative of complications in a pregnancy. This is why bleeding during pregnancies must be addressed by an obstetrician/gynaecologist.
Bleeding in the first trimester
The first trimester is a more critical period in a pregnancy. About one in four pregnancies result in a miscarriage. Of which, most occur in the first trimester. So any form of bleeding during this period will sound alarm bells of a possible miscarriage. However, many pregnancies do progress as per normal even when vaginal bleeding occurs during this time.
One of the reasons is implantation bleeding, which occurs at about the one-month mark of pregnancy as the fertilised egg attaches to a mother’s uterine wall. With implantation bleeding, mothers will likely experience light brown or red spotting for a few days. Other reasons that induce bleeding include vaginal infections, hormonal changes, or after sexual intercourse.
Having said that, bleeding in the first trimester can suggest a larger problem at hand. It can result from a chemical pregnancy, or false pregnancy, when an egg is fertilised but never implanted in the uterus.
It can also suggest an ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilised egg is implanted outside of the uterus. Such pregnancies are an anomaly and occur in only about 1 in 60 pregnancies. It can be life-threatening if the mother is left undiagnosed.
Bleeding after the first trimester
After the first trimester, a pregnancy stablises. So any bleeding at this junction is often a sign of possible complication that can threaten the pregnancy.
A condition that can occur is placenta previa. In this case, the placenta sits low in the uterus and covers the opening of the birth canal partially or fully. This rarely occurs, but when it does, immediate medical attention is required.
Placenta abruption is one such complication that can arise. This is vaginal bleeding caused by the placenta detaching itself from the placenta wall. It usually occurs during the third trimester.
That said, vaginal bleeding is not always bad news after the first trimester. It can also be the body’s way of telling a mother that she is due for labour soon. This can happen up to a week before labour, when mucus and blood are discharged.
What you should do
Bleeding at any point in a pregnancy can be a sign that poses potential threat to the mother and foetus. As such, it should not be taken lightly. Some women keep this to themselves and refrain from sharing with their spouse. But this is really the time when spousal support is important. He can help you make clear-minded decisions and assist you in your daily life to ease your burden, so that your focus is really on you, your foetus and your body.
One of the very things you and your spouse should do is make a call to your obstetrician/gynaecologist to arrange for a check-up as soon as possible. He or she will arrange for you to undergo scans or test to get to the root of the issue.