Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy

Overview

Definition

Vaginal bleeding is common in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is often nothing to worry about.

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Causes

Bleeding has many common causes, such as:

  • Bleeding that happens after conception as the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the womb
  • Blood between the membrane that surrounds the fertilized egg and the wall of the womb
  • Miscarriage
  • A fertilized egg that attaches to the wall of the womb but doesn't grow into an embryo
  • Ectopic pregnancy—a fertilized egg that attaches and grows outside the womb
  • Molar pregnancy, also called gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD)—the growth of abnormal tissue, instead of an embryo, inside the womb
  • Threatened miscarriage
  • Cervical infection
  • Vulvovaginitis
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Trauma
  • Cervical cancer or polyps

Risk Factors

The factors that increase the risk of bleeding depend on what is causing it to happen.

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

The amount of blood and the way the blood looks will depend on the cause.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A pelvic exam may also be done.

Blood tests may be done to check hormone levels.

The belly and vagina may need to be viewed. This can be done with an ultrasound.

Treatments

Treatment

Treatment depends on the problem that is causing the bleeding. Bed rest, monitoring, and medicine may be needed. Some women may need surgery.

Prevention

Some causes of bleeding cannot be prevented. Getting early and regular prenatal care can help find and treat some problems before they happen.

Avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol can also help lower the chances of bleeding.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

RESOURCES

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org 

American Pregnancy Association http://www.americanpregnancy.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org 

Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca 

References

Bleeding during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bleedingduringpreg.html. Updated August 2015. Accessed November 12, 2019.

Breeze C. Early pregnancy bleeding. Aust Fam Physician. 2016 May;45(5):283-286.

Early pregnancy bleeding. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900627/Early-pregnancy-bleeding . Updated May 17, 2019. Accessed November 12, 2019.

Pregnancy complications. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/pregnancy-complications.html. Updated April 19, 2019. Accessed November 12, 2019.

Sommers MS. Ectopic pregnancy. Diseases & Disorders: A Nursing Therapeutics Manual. 5th ed. F.A. Davis Company; 2015 (book chapter). EBSCO Nursing Reference Center Plus. Available at:  https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center . Accessed November 12, 2019.