If you’re pregnant and you see blood spotting, naturally it would be a cause of concern. While vaginal spotting is generally light and coloured from pink to brown, bleeding might be heavier and the blood might be bright red in colour. Vaginal spotting is quite common in the first trimester and is generally not enough to cover a panty liner. Bleeding is heavier and will most probably require a pad to prevent staining of your clothes. There are many causes for vaginal spotting in pregnancy.
One such cause is Implantation Bleeding. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg fixes itself to the uterine wall which has been prepping for its implantation. As it adjusts, there might be some amount of blood discharged. It’s normal for there to be some vaginal spotting which may start in the early weeks of pregnancy, a few weeks after conception. This bleeding is similar to bleeding during the menstrual cycle, however it is much lighter and the colour generally varies from red to brown. It is nothing to be worried about as it happens to around 1 in 4 women and lasts for a few days.
Another cause for spotting may be a Cervical Polyp. This is a generally harmless growth on the cervix. This polyp may bleed during pregnancy due to increased secretion of hormones, specifically oestrogen. During pregnancy, the number of blood vessels around this area increases. It also causes tenderness of the cervix and any contact with the area or irritation of the cervix may lead to spotting. The contact may be through different means such as sexual intercourse or a gynaecological exam such as an internal pelvic exam or a pap smear.
Yet another cause for spotting could be a vaginal infection. Infections cause inflammation and irritation of the affected areas and thus could lead to bleeding.
Sometimes, the placenta may embed itself in the uterus in an area which has a fibroid. A fibroid is a growth in the lining of the uterus. This spotting, however, occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. Another cause of spotting in later stages could be a sub-chorionic bleed which occurs due to accumulation of blood in the outer layer of the foetal membrane. This generally is a minor problem and resolves itself quickly.
Bleeding is much heavier and can be cause due to several other reasons. One of the reasons for heavier bleeding is miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. This heartbreaking event is not uncommon and occurs due to incorrect development of the foetus or lack thereof. It occurs due to wrong implantation of the embryo, outside the uterus. Quite often, miscarriages may occur quite early, even before the other knows she is pregnant, and thus might be mistaken to be a period which may be late or irregular. The bleeding is general dark and watery and becomes steadily heavier. It is also accompanied by pain in the pelvic region similar to menstrual cramps.
Apart from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, heavy bleeding may also occur due to a chemical pregnancy. This is when the embryo does not fully implant or embed itself in the uterus. Another condition is known as molar pregnancy. This condition is characterised by an abnormal growth in the placenta leading to an abnormal foetus.
In the later stages of pregnancy (the second and third trimesters), bleeding could occur due to reasons such as placenta previa, preterm or early labour, or placental abruptions. Placenta previa is when the placenta covers either a part or the whole of the cervix. It occurs if the placenta doesn’t move away before birth like it’s supposed to. It could lead to bigger problems such as vasa pravia. Preterm labour is that which occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is characterised by heavy bleeding, contractions and period-like cramps, increased pelvic pressure, and back pains. Placental abruption is a condition in which the placenta separated from the uterine wall which could be life threatening for the mother and the baby.
Vaginal spotting, though seen commonly, is not considered normal. If there are signs of vaginal spotting or bleeding which don’t seem to be resolving themselves, it is imperative to contact a doctor and find the cause. They will help determine whether or not it is a cause of concern or a birth complication.