Bleeding During Pregnancy: What’s Normal?

Pregnancy is a time of waiting, wondering, and sometimes what can feel like endless worrying. 

I know that for myself, especially in the first trimester with this pregnancy, every trip to the bathroom felt like a moment of fear. I worried about seeing any sign of blood. Was something wrong? What would I do if I saw blood? 

And while it can be difficult to think about, the truth is bleeding during pregnancy can be a sign of a miscarriage—or it may mean nothing at all. 

ID-bleeding
Image via FreeDigitalPhotos

According to a journal article in American Family Physician, about one-fourth of women will experience vaginal bleeding during the first trimester, and out of those women, only half of them will experience a miscarriage. 

So what is it caused by?

Bleeding during the first trimester

Bleeding during the first trimester can have a lot of different causes, like implantation bleeding (when the fertilized egg implants into your highly vascular uterus, causing blood vessels to break and bleed), an infection, or even irritation, which can result from things like from sex. You should understand that your cervix, the opening to your uterus, is also highly sensitive and has a ton of blood vessels on it as well, so any irritation to it can cause slight bleeding. (You will notice this more when your provider “checks” you for dilation.) 

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Dr. Elizabeth Nowacki, an OB/GYN at St. Vincent Fishers Hospital in Indianapolis described a common source of bleeding during early pregnancy as a “lag” in the placenta being formed. Before the placenta is fully formed at 12 weeks, bleeding can occur from the ovary that is sending out hormonal support to that new embryo. 

Bleeding during the second and third trimesters

Although miscarriage is more common during the first trimester, some women may still be surprised to notice bleeding during later trimesters; however, again, bleeding doesn't always mean a miscarriage is imminent. 

Many things of the same issues from earlier can cause bleeding during the second and third trimesters, like irritation from sex or an infection, or even growths called “polyps” may form and grow on the cervix. Some women may even mistake bleeding from hemorrhoids as vaginal bleeding. If your placenta is lying low in your uterus—a condition called placenta previa—bleeding is also common. 

{ MORE: Placenta Previa Questions Answered }

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There is also something called simply “benign bleeding,” in which doctors aren't fully sure of the cause of the bleeding, and it's a normal, healthy pregnancy otherwise. My cousin actually had this happen with all three of her pregnancies. She experienced period-like bleeding all the way throughout all of them and yet had perfectly healthy babies at delivery. 

And lastly, of course, as you are approaching your due date, the infamous “bloody show” can happen as your cervix starts to open and dilate in preparation for labor. 

When to worry

Bleeding that is accompanied by a lot of pain, cramping, or any other symptoms, such as nausea, needs to be evaluated immediately. If you are having just light spotting, you may want to call your care provider and let them know what's going on. They may want you to come in and be seen right away, or they may want you to wait a day or two and rest. 

If you are bleeding heavily, experiencing pain, or noticing any decreased movement in the baby, call your provider and seek treatment immediately. 

Did you experience any bleeding during pregnancy? 

What do you think?

Bleeding During Pregnancy: What’s Normal?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

Tell us what you think!

3 comments

  1. Jacqueline says:

    I am 7weeks and I am bleeding I have no cramps or pain but this is my first and im very concern.

  2. jesster131 says:

    I had some fairly heavy bleeding at about the 6 week mark. It was accompanied by some cramps. I went to the ER the tested & monitored but all was fine. After several hours it stopped & we had no repeats of it. My son was born 3 weeks early but fine & healthy.

  3. mommy nhoj says:

    I did first experience bleeding at 16 weeks. It was brown (old) and few drops of rock salt size. After few trips to restroom with the sight of it, I started to panic, called my OB and rushedmto a friend to request him to drive me through the hospital. I was sent to OB-Gyne Complex and was observed for 2 hours. On the top of it, my husband was out of town and I am about to left for a business trip the following day (3hr flight). I couldn’t risk my baby so, I followed my doctor’s advice to cancel the trip and rest in bed for 3 days. I was on medication for few days. The second one happened on my third trimester. It was still brown in color. I think both has to do with position of the placenta. I was told not to worry since it’s not the bright red color and only few drops. I was restrained for physical mobility and stress. I have to admit that the nature of my work then was demanding and has high level of stress.

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