Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy

Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can be frightening, although it is a common occurrence.

Many factors may cause spotting or vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy, including:

  • Ectopic pregnancy (embryo attaches outside the uterus)
  • Infection
  • Polyps, fibroids or other growths on reproductive organs
  • A problem with either the cervix or how the placenta attaches to the uterus
  • A problem with the fetus
  • Routine bleeding around the time of your monthly period
  • Sexual intercourse

Diagnosis and Treatment

Vaginal bleeding can vary from spotting to heavy bleeding with clots and cramps. To determine the cause, a healthcare professional may perform
a pelvic exam and/or an ultrasound. They may also draw blood to check for infection and hCG hormone levels. The hCG hormone helps your body establish and maintain a pregnancy.

If you have vaginal bleeding, you may be advised to:

  • Rest
  • Abstain from sex
  • Take only approved medications
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks
  • Quit smoking
  • Refrain from douching
  • Use panty liners or pads

Threatened Miscarriage

The term threatened miscarriage refers to a medical condition that indicates a miscarriage is possible. It may also be called a threatened, spontaneous or inevitable abortion. The word abortion does not mean you caused your miscarriage. It means it is not possible to save your pregnancy.

Your Options

Should you miscarry, it is important to understand you did not cause it. Having sex or exercising during pregnancy does not cause a miscarriage. Miscarriages happen because the baby was not developing normally.

After learning you will miscarry, it is important to follow up with your doctor and discuss your best option for your condition.

  • Wait and see. During a miscarriage, you will have heavy bleeding and cramps. It’s normal to bleed enough that you soak a full-size pad
    in one hour. Call your doctor or go to the closest emergency room if any of the following happen:
    - You soak one pad an hour for at least three hours.
    - You feel lightheaded, as if you could faint.
    - Blood trickles out of your vagina for more than three minutes when you sit on the toilet.
    - Your thinking isn’t clear.
    - You soak your bed linens with blood.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C). During a D&C, the doctor opens, or dilates, your cervix (the opening to your uterus) and removes the
    pregnancy tissue. A healthcare professional performs the procedure in a clinic or hospital while you are under anesthesia. Most women go home the same day.
  • Medicine. With this option, you take medicine either by mouth or vaginally that causes the uterus to cramp and empty. Your doctor may recommend taking the medicine before a D&C.

After a Miscarriage

Following pregnancy loss, the body takes weeks to return to normal. Your breasts may be tender, and your milk may come in. Cramping may continue for several days, and bleeding or spotting may continue for at least a week.
The postpartum period can last for up to a year after you miscarry.

After a miscarriage, it is normal for all family members to experience grief. Our Infant Loss and Bereavement Team can help connect you and your family with resources that may help.

Read about what to expect after a miscarriage.

Looking Ahead

The loss of a baby is one of the most devastating losses ever experienced. Afterward, the future may seem frightening and uncertain. You may struggle with whether to try again. Most women who miscarry have healthy pregnancies later. Talk with your doctor about any questions you
have about getting pregnant again.