6 Common Causes of Pregnancy Bleeding

common causes of pregnancy bleeding
Image adapted via Flickr/ mahalie

All I wanted was a tuna melt.

It was my first discernable pregnancy craving, and I'd have danced with barbed wire to get it. I got it to go and went back to my apartment for what I was certain was going to be the meal of my dreams.

But…

Before I'd taken the first bite, I felt a large gush of fluid in my underwear. At nearly six weeks pregnant, I felt my spirits sink. I ran to the bathroom and confirmed my greatest fear.

Blood.

Bright red blood.

And LOTS of it.

I began to cry.

I was sure I was miscarrying, and despite all I already knew about not being able to prevent the inevitable, I was determined to make my way to the hospital, where I was going to “force” a team of emergency-room wizards to save my baby.

Five super-absorbent maxi pads and three super-long hours later, an ultrasound confirmed that my baby's heart was still beating. I couldn't believe it. I'd lost a remarkable amount of blood, yet my baby was surviving.

How?

I'd heard of women bleeding throughout their pregnancies, but never had I pictured their bleeds to be as severe as mine. The diagnosis was a subchorionic hematoma — a blood clot that typically develops between the placenta and the uterus.

Relieved but filled with angst, I returned home, took it easy, and continued to bleed until nearly eleven weeks, when I eventually miscarried. The hematoma was never labeled as the culprit for my miscarriage. Like many, a cause for my miscarriage was undeterminable.

In a subsequent pregnancy, I reached eight weeks before I felt the familiar fluid gush in my underwear again. Another trip to the bathroom confirmed I was bleeding. Only this time was worse than before.

I prepared for another heartache and went to the emergency room once again.

But, shock of glorious shocks, my baby's heartbeat was strong.

I continued to bleed for many weeks, and eventually, I gave birth to the most beautiful, healthy, headstrong little boy.

Bleeding in pregnancy is terrifying, but as devastating as it may seem, nearly 30% of all women experience some sort of bleeding while pregnant. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the risk for miscarriage in an average woman is 15-20%. Some non-miscarriage-related causes for pregnancy bleeding can include the following:

Implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding may occur within the first 12 days after conception as the fertilized egg implants itself into the walls of your uterus.

{ MORE: The Ultimate Home Birth Kit: Everything You'll Need (and Want) }

Breakthrough bleeding

This bleeding can seem like a period, coming and going as would your typical menstrual cycle, but this bleeding is often benign and caused by pregnancy hormones not yet elevated enough to put your periods on hold.

Urinary or pelvic infection

As hormones in your body fluctuate to accommodate pregnancy, your body becomes highly susceptible to urinary or pelvic infection(s), which may cause bleeding. See your healthcare provider for treatment of the infection to eliminate bleeding.

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Image via Flickr/ Emery Co Photo

Ovarian cysts and cervical polyps

These conditions may have been pre-existing or may develop as your pregnancy progresses. A rupture of a cyst or polyp is often a benign cause of bleeding, but it should still be monitored by ultrasound and/or your healthcare provider.

Sex

Sexual intercourse is a common cause of bleeding in pregnancy, often due to a harmless rupture of blood vessels around your softened cervix or due to cervical polyps that may rupture during penetration.

Subchorionic hematoma

Thought to develop in the implantation stage of pregnancy, this type of blood clot is found in between the uterus and the placenta and should be monitored with ultrasound.

While it is easier said than done, it is important to remain calm and hydrated should you experience any bleeding in your pregnancy. Report all instances to your healthcare provider and follow their guidance in handling each specific scenario. The fear of losing a pregnancy can be crippling. Take it from me, I have since had a healthy baby boy and don't think I'll ever want a tuna melt again.

{ MORE: Placenta Accreta: A Scary Pregnancy Complication }

Did you experience bleeding during any of your pregnancies?

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6 Common Causes of Pregnancy Bleeding

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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