5 Reasons Why a Woman Might Bleed During Early Pregnancy (Other Than Miscarriage)

Vaginal bleeding during the early stages of pregnancy (first trimester) can be disconcerting, and frankly, pretty frightening for many women. If women bleed during the first trimester, the first thing on their minds is miscarriage. This is understandable, as miscarriages sometimes do begin with bleeding. However, miscarriage is not the only cause of bleeding during early pregnancy.

Here are 5 other reasons why a woman might bleed during the early stages of pregnancy:

1. Breakthrough bleeding — Breakthrough bleeding is harmless, and it happens around the time when a woman’s period is due to arrive. Sometimes it comes along with period symptoms, such as cramps and bloating. Breakthrough bleeding usually happens because a woman’s hormones haven’t reached high enough levels to totally stop her period. It can last for a few minutes or a few days, and is harmless.

2. Post-coital bleeding — Women might experience bleeding after having sexual intercourse. This happens because the cervix is softened and there is an increased blood supply, so any pressure in that area can cause bleeding. This type of bleeding is harmless, and often brown as opposed to red.

3. Infection — Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or herpes can cause bleeding during the first trimester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women be screened for STDs just as non-pregnant women are, since STDs can cause severe complications during pregnancy.

4. Uterine fibroids — Fibroids are masses of muscle and fibrous tissue, in this case found inside or outside the uterine wall. Depending on their location, fibroids may or may not cause issues during pregnancy. Sometimes they just cause bleeding and other times, they can lead to miscarriage. If you have fibroids and are pregnant, it is important to consult with your OBGYN.

5. Subchorionic hemorrhage — This is bleeding around the placenta, which, like uterine fibroids, can sometimes affect the pregnancy, and sometimes not. Key factors are the size of the blood clot, the mother’s age, and gestational age. Subchorionic hemorrhage can be diagnosed by ultrasound, but there is no actual treatment. It will either resolve on its own, or cause further pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or placental abruption.

As you can see from this varied list, sometimes women bleed during the early stages of pregnancy and it is completely harmless; other times, bleeding can be a symptom of a dangerous condition. The primary way to assess pregnancy bleeding is via ultrasound. At Miami Obstetrics & Gynecology, we recommend that you call your OBGYN if you experience any bleeding during your pregnancy. If the bleeding is heavy, go to the ER immediately. If bleeding is light, schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible for an ultrasound to assess the explanation. Hopefully it’s nothing significant and your pregnancy will continue on healthily. Either way, it’s crucial to have any pregnancy bleeding checked out.

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Originally published at www.miami-obgyn.com on February 17, 2016.