Bleeding during pregnancy can be just about the most worrisome thing to experience, and as unnerving as it may be, as many as one in four mums will experience blood loss to some degree.

Although any bleeding at any time during pregnancy needs to be taken seriously, and professional advice should be sought, thankfully, it isn’t always a sign of miscarriage; in fact, many mums will go on to birth a healthy full-term bub.

Here are some of the reasons why you might experience blood loss during pregnancy.

Bleeding in early pregnancy may be caused by the following:

  • Implantation
    When the fertilized egg nuzzles into the uterine wall.  Sounds adorable, but often results in ‘streaking’ or ‘light spotting’ of blood.  Because this comes at the time when your period is often due, some women miss this very key sign, that they are in fact pregnant!

  • Breakthrough bleeding
    Your hormones are going crazy and are ultimately responsible for stopping your period, whilst you’re pregnant.  By the 12 week mark, hormones should stabilize enough to stop any more of this type of bleeding (and fretting!).

  • Cervical changes
    The cervix is the rigid structure at the neck of your uterus where it connects with the vagina.  It softens as blood flow increases during pregnancy.  According to Richard Bardowell, MD, a pap test or intercourse during pregnancy can cause light bleeding.

  • Yeast infection

    This is quite common during pregnancy and may also play host to some ‘spotting’ as your vaginal tissue becomes inflamed and irritated as it reacts to the infection.

  • Bacterial infections

    Such as those from sexually transmitted infections, which can cause bleeding during early pregnancy.

  • Uterine fibroids

    These are growths in the uterus that can develop in child-bearing years. If fibroids grow very swiftly during pregnancy (as they are known to!), an array of symptoms, including vaginal bleeding, may occur.

  • Miscarriage
    When you think of all that needs to happen for two cells to become a live human being, it’s no wonder a pregnancy is not always able to progress, as we hoped it might. It’s believed that one in three pregnancies results in miscarriage, most occurring in the first trimester.

  • Ectopic pregnancy
    When a fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube, instead of traveling down into the uterus.  As the pregnancy continues, it stretches the tube, giving pain and internal bleeding. One or two in 100 pregnancies present as ectopic.  Unfortunately, an ectopic pregnancy cannot continue to progress.

  • On occasion, investigations and tests may reveal nothing.

Some causes of bleeding during late pregnancy

  • Bloody show / Mucous plug
    This could be the sign you’ve been waiting for. A ‘show’ is a blood-stained mucous plug that is released from your cervix when labor is imminent.  It’s jelly-like and is most often blood-stained or streaked when it comes away.
  • Placenta Previa
    This means your placenta is lying next to or covering your cervix. A placenta in this position can cause bleeding.  The placenta typically moves up, as the belly gets bigger, however, if you have Placenta Previa when it comes time to deliver your baby, a Cesarean Section will be required.
  • Placental abruption
    If the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine lining, you’ll experience vaginal bleeding, which may be accompanied by abdominal pain.  Some abruptions are small enough to just have bleeding as the only symptom.   Aplacental abruption requires immediate medical attention.

Play it safe, mums.  If you experience ANY bleeding during pregnancy, it’s important to consult your midwife or obstetrician.  In many cases, your midwife may ease your fears.  Even if your bleeding is due to a more troublesome issue, early medical aid can often result in a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

In the instance that a mother experiences loss through pregnancy, it is a very sad time.  The loss of an unborn baby through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy can be a heart-breaking one and should never be overlooked or brushed aside.

These mums should be afforded full permission to grieve the life that has been living within them, however, they feel this is best to happen.  If this is you, my heart is with you as you navigate the road ahead, whatever that may look like.