Photo © Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa
Even though finding that you are spotting during pregnancy can cause panic and alarm, it does not necessarily signal a problem with your pregnancy. There are many causes for spotting during pregnancy, and each situation needs to be considered individually, taking into account the mother’s health, the trimester, and any previous problems.
Should I Be Worried About Spotting?
Spotting during the early weeks of the first trimester can be something as benign as what is known as implantation bleeding or implantation spotting. This means that the fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus and can cause mild spotting for a few days. Some women even experience this before they know they are pregnant. This type of spotting can range in color from brown to light pink or red, and it usually much lighter than a typical menstrual period.
Sometimes a cervical growth known as a polyp is responsible for light spotting because these growths are more susceptible to the pregnancy hormones and that can cause them to leak bloody fluids. Your cervical tissues experience increased blood flow and can be more susceptible to light bleeding, even after an obstetrical exam or sexual intercourse.
The first twelve weeks of pregnancy carry the highest risks for miscarriage and spotting is often one of the first signs a woman notices that something is wrong. If your spotting is associated with a miscarriage, there might be cramping involved and the spotting may be heavier or you might pass tissues. Ectopic pregnancies can also cause spotting, but these are often more associated with severe cramping and pain.
So, is spotting normal during pregnancy? While it does not necessarily indicate a problem with your baby, it is always important to let your healthcare provider know about any spotting and other symptoms you may be experiencing.
Other Causes of Spotting During Pregnancy
The further along you go in your pregnancy, the lower the chances that you will experience spotting. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters spotting or vaginal bleeding can be the signal of more serious complications and should also be reported right away to your doctor.
- Placenta previa – This is a potentially dangerous condition in which the placenta is positioned between the vagina and the uterus, essentially blocking the birth canal. Bed rest is often required to ensure that the pregnancy continues for as long as possible, and then a caesarean delivery is often needed.
- Placental abruption – This is a very serious condition in which part of or all of the placenta tears away from the uterine wall. This means that your baby is at risk for lowered oxygen levels, nutrition deficit, and extreme blood loss for both the mother and child. Even though it may begin with just spotting, it typically happens more suddenly with a larger amount of blood passing through the vagina.
- Premature labor – Labor before the 37th week of pregnancy is considered pre-term and spotting may indicate that early labor has begun. Sometimes this can be controlled with medications and bed rest. Premature labor puts your baby at risk for various health concerns.
Other rare causes, such as uterine cancers, can be responsible for spotting during pregnancy. At any time during your pregnancy if you experience spotting, with or without other symptoms, you should let your doctor know as soon as possible. Any painful symptoms that accompany the spotting warrant immediate consultation.