Spotting during pregnancy: normal bodily response or cause for concern?
The answer is straight from The Book of Irritating Answers: it could be either.
The fact is, bleeding during pregnancy can be more than a little nerve-racking. It’s also a topic that, at the center of a mindmap, offers a considerable number of branches.
Some are harmless; some require urgent medical attention.
If you’re at all concerned about where your symptoms lie on this spectrum, check in with your doc straight away.
So why might spotting during pregnancy happen, and when should you be concerned? Let’s take a look.
In this article: 📝
- What does pregnancy spotting look like?
- How much spotting is normal during pregnancy?
- What causes spotting during pregnancy?
- What causes spotting during third trimester?
- When should I be worried about spotting during pregnancy?
What does pregnancy spotting look like?
Spotting, by definition, is light bleeding.
You know, that end-of-period vibe when it’s sort of trailing off but seems to have some separation anxiety? Yeah. That’s spotting.
You may know it by its brownish or pinkish hue, far timider than its dramatic crimson cousin that bursts onto the stage when your period is at its height.
So, when we speak of spotting during pregnancy, that’s what we’re talking about: dripping tap rather than waterfall.
And the distinction is an important one.
While not a hard and fast rule, a bit of spotting while pregnant is likely less of a cause for concern than a heavier flow.
How much spotting is normal during pregnancy?
Unfortunately, like most things pregnancy, there’s no easy answers here—and surely can’t be measured out in ounces.
One mama-to-be’s benign bleeding can be another mama-to-be’s rush to the hospital.
We can tell you the possible causes of pregnancy spotting, though, as well as the symptoms to watch out for that may mean something else is up.
What causes spotting during pregnancy?
If you’re spotting during early pregnancy, you’re in good company.
Why does this happen? Well, there are a few different possible reasons:
1. Implantation bleeding
After conception has taken place, that newly fertilized egg needs a new home.
So that little zygote sets off and gets all busy implanting themselves in the lining of your uterus.
As it turns out, the job of settling in is a bit messy.
Because Implantation bleeding happens in the first two weeks after conception, it can be all sorts of confusing.
Spotting in early pregnancy can look an awful lot like a regular ol’ period—and if you don’t even know you’re pregnant, this can lead you to believe that you’re not.
2. Friable cervix
Turns out, it’s just a little sensitive because of all of the pregnancy hormones.
The cervix—AKA the gateway to your uterus—becomes more sensitive and blood-rich during these initial stages of pregnancy.
A little friction from intercourse can cause some of that blood to be released, appearing as spotting.
But don’t be alarmed—light spotting after sex can be a normal part of early pregnancy for some.
Of course, if you have excessive bleeding, it’s always a good idea to touch base with your healthcare provider to ensure everything’s on track.
4. Transvaginal ultrasound
Think of the transvaginal ultrasound as the behind-the-scenes camera for the big show in your uterus.
A probe gets a VIP pass to the inside, giving you a close-up view of your tiny tenant.
Given how extra sensitive and plush with blood your cervix and vaginal walls are during this time, this backstage access can sometimes cause a little spotting.
Most times, it’s harmless and just a fleeting encore.
If this is the reason for your, um, spot of bother, there’s generally nothing to worry about.
What causes spotting during third trimester?
And then there’s the spotting during pregnancy that happens later on—and the reasons for this can be multiple:
Again, cervix sensitivity could be the culprit here, but some other causes include:
- Vaginal infections: Keep an eye out for spotting alongside a clotted cream-like discharge.
- Placental abruption: This is when the placenta starts to come away from the wall of the womb. It’s a serious condition which usually causes stomach pain.
- Placenta praevia: This is when the placenta is lying in the lowest part of the womb, often covering the cervix.
The dilation of the cervix produces what is known as the “bloody show”—a lovely little blood and mucus concoction.
Although the name makes it sound like there’ll be more blood than one might find in the most gruesome of horror movies, the bloody show typically only produces some spotting.
When should I be worried about spotting during pregnancy?
While there are numerous totally harmless reasons why pregnancy spotting can occur, no doubt, the biggest concern is pregnancy loss.
Spotting can be an early sign, but many women will experience spotting and go on to have healthy pregnancies.
Still, the fear of miscarriage looms large in the minds of many expecting parents. And while it’s a heartbreaking topic, it’s also essential to understand.
To help give you clarity, let’s delve a little deeper into the most common types of pregnancy loss:
1. Molar pregnancy
Molar pregnancy is a rare pregnancy complication that happens very early on.
It typically results from chromosomal abnormalities that cause a nest of tissue to form rather than a fetus.
Vaginal spotting or bleeding, accompanied by unusually early symptoms of morning sickness or intense pelvic pain, can be early indicators.
2. Ectopic pregnancy
Another case for spotting during early pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy is where the fertilized egg starts growing where it shouldn’t—often in the fallopian tube.
Generally, you’ll know if this has happened by the 12th week at the latest.
If you experience spotting accompanied by sharp, persistent pain on one side of your lower abdomen or shoulder pain and dizziness, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.
Miscarriage is defined as pregnancy loss before 20 weeks.
And while 10% of miscarriages happen in the first three months, a small percentage happen between 13 and 20 weeks—what’s considered a late miscarriage.
Heavy bleeding and spotting is a red flag, and it can vary from red to brownish in color.
Other signs include:
- Cramps in your lower abdomen, pelvic area, and/or lower back
- Blood clots in your pregnancy bleeding
- You no longer feel pregnant. A discomforting one, but sometimes you just know
If that intuition is sounding alarm bells, get in touch with your healthcare provider right away.
No matter if it’s week six or week 20, the trauma of pregnancy loss is real.
And the emotional pain is valid.
Miscarriage may be common, but it’s not talked about nearly enough. That doesn’t mean it should stay that way.
If you suffer a miscarriage, take time if you need to take time.
Talk to loved ones. Join support groups on Peanut. Seek professional help.
You don’t have to go on with business as usual.
It’s okay to be exactly where you are. We’ll meet you there. ❤️