Table of Contents
Pregnancy is a time of great physical and emotional changes for women, and one of the most significant changes is the cessation of menstruation. However, some women may experience bleeding during early pregnancy, which can be alarming and confusing. In this article, we will discuss whether period-like bleeding during early pregnancy is normal, the causes of early bleeding, the types of bleeding, what tests can help if you experience bleeding in early pregnancy, and warning signs.
The early stages in a pregnancy can be a worrying time for you and your partner, especially if your having problems. 1 in 10 women experience bleeding in early pregnancy but in many cases it is not caused by anything serious. However, sometimes it can be a warning sign of a miscarriage.
Changes to a Woman’s Period After Becoming Pregnant
One of the first signs of pregnancy is the cessation of menstruation. This occurs because the uterus is preparing to nourish the developing fetus, and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) does not shed as it does during menstruation. The hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are necessary for maintaining a pregnancy, can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle. However, some women may experience bleeding during early pregnancy, which can be a cause for concern.
What causes of bleeding during early pregnancy
There are many reasons why a woman may experience bleeding during early pregnancy. Some of the most common causes include implantation bleeding, which occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterus, and cervical bleeding, which can occur when the cervix becomes irritated or inflamed. Other causes of early bleeding include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, and subchorionic hemorrhage.
Here’s is a list of a few common reasons for bleeding in early pregnancy.
- Spotting – light bleeding at the time your first period after conception would have been due. This occurs as the pregnancy implants itself in the wall of your womb.
- Miscarriage: occurs in 1 out of 4 pregnancies under 12 weeks
- Cervical Ectropian– harmless changes to the cervix can cause bleeding especially after intercourse.
- Ectopic pregnancy – the pregnancy is not in the correct place. This is less common but in some instances can be life-threatening to the mother.
- Unknown causes.
Types of Bleeding
Bleeding during early pregnancy can vary in terms of intensity, colour, and duration. Some women may experience light spotting, which is usually pink or brown in colour, while others may experience heavy bleeding that is bright red in colour. The duration of bleeding can also vary, with some women experiencing a few days of spotting, while others may bleed for several weeks. It is important to note that any bleeding during pregnancy should be evaluated by a healthcare provider, regardless of the type or intensity.
What Tests Can Help if You Experience Bleeding in Early Pregnancy?
If you experience bleeding during early pregnancy, seeking medical advice and help is important. Your doctor or midwife will likely perform a physical exam and may order tests such as a transvaginal ultrasound or blood tests to determine the cause of the bleeding. These tests can help determine if the pregnancy is viable and if any underlying medical conditions may contribute to the bleeding.
You should discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider, attend a hospital or an early pregnancy scan assessment unit (EPAU). Your healthcare professional will ask you questions about the bleeding and your pregnancy. An ultrasound scan may be arranged. A urine pregnancy test and blood tests may also be done.
While bleeding during early pregnancy is common, there are some warning signs that should not be ignored. These include heavy bleeding, severe cramping or abdominal pain, fever, chills, and passing large clots or tissue. These symptoms may indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and require immediate medical attention.
We have a related article that covers 8 warning signs during pregnancy – click here to have a read.
Having an ultrasound scan
If you are experiencing period-like bleeding during early pregnancy, it is important to seek medical advice and have diagnostic tests, including an ultrasound scan. An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body, including the uterus and fetus. This scan can help determine the cause of the bleeding and whether the pregnancy is viable. If the scan reveals an underlying medical condition, our friendly clinical team can provide help and guidance on what to do, including if a more a serious medical condition is picked up.
If you’re particularly anxious, you can arrange a pregnancy scan at our clinic, which can often be booked on the same day. However, you should carry on with your normal routine as much as possible. If you are in pain, you could also take painkillers (paracetamol) to settle it down unless told otherwise by your doctor. It is important to keep well hydrated, so drink plenty of fluids, water being the best. You should not do any heavy lifting and avoid having intercourse until the bleeding has stopped.
What should I do if I have more bleeding before the scan appointment?
Keep your scan appointment if the bleeding is lighter than your normal period. If the bleeding is heavier than your normal periods, please contact your hospital or attend A & E.
The early pregnancy ultrasound scan
This scan will be a transvaginal or an abdominal ultrasound scan. Both scans are safe and do not increase your chance of a miscarriage. During the scan, the practitioner will interpret the images on the screen. They may take measurements and record information on a computer system. The scan itself usually lasts around 15 minutes but can take longer.
What will happen after the scan?
If the scan is normal, you will be reassured and sent home. If the scan is abnormal, the findings will be discussed with you. Sometimes however, a scan may be inconclusive and you will need to come back in the future for a follow-up appointment. This is not necessarily worrying and could simply mean things are not clear for a diagnosis. Try not to worry if this happens.
When will the bleeding stop?
There is nothing that can be given to stop the bleeding. It can take up to 10 days for the bleeding to settle down.
In summary, period-like bleeding during early pregnancy can be normal but can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you experience any bleeding during pregnancy, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Your healthcare provider can perform tests to determine the cause of the bleeding and provide appropriate treatment. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
You should always contact EPAU or attend A&E if:
- The bleeding lasts for more than ten days after the scan
- The bleeding becomes heavier than a normal period
- Unfortunately if the pregnancy is miscarrying, it is not possible to stop this, although 50% of women who attend EPAU with bleeding continue in their pregnancy.