Normally, pregnant women stop having menstrual periods, but vaginal bleeding may still occur during pregnancy. Although the bleeding can be worrisome, it is most common for women during the first trimester, the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Up to 10 percent of women may experience abnormal bleeding during a pregnancy and women expecting multiple babies have more incidences of vaginal bleeding, according to MedlinePlus. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is abnormal and requires evaluation to determine the cause and seriousness of the condition.
Bleeding during pregnancy ranges from slight spotting to heavy bleeding similar to menstrual flow. Spotting may come and go or stop completely without treatment. The blood may appear pink, bright red, dark red or brown. Blood clots can also occur. In addition to the bleeding, women may experience abdominal or back pain.
Fifteen to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. One of the first indicators of a miscarriage includes vaginal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy is a condition when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Bleeding may occur due to a rupture of the fallopian tube while the embryo grows. Additional conditions for bleeding in pregnancy include an irritable cervix, a cervical infection or cervical cancer. As the pregnancy continues, the cervix may cause bleeding due to inflammation and irritation. This bleeding tends to be light.
Tests and Diagnosis
In early pregnancy, a blood test to measure levels of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, helps determine if the pregnancy is continuing to develop or if a miscarriage is imminent. The hCG levels can also help determine an ectopic pregnancy. An ultrasound may help determine the cause of the bleeding. A physician may perform a pelvic exam to check the condition of the cervix.
Treatment for bleeding during pregnancy depends on the cause for the bleeding. Some causes, such as an irritable cervix, require no medical treatment. Serious conditions, such as placenta previa or a placental abruption, need immediate evaluation by a physician to help prevent life-threatening complications to the baby.
Preventing abnormal bleeding is not always possible during pregnancy. Eating a nutritious diet, taking prenatal vitamins and routine visits to a physician helps to increase the chances of having a healthy pregnancy. Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol will help reduce the chances of a miscarriage.