Bleeding during pregnancy can be frightening. With all the changes your body is going through, it can be hard to tell if what you’re going through is normal or if something is terribly wrong. 


If you’re experiencing bleeding during your pregnancy, take a deep breath! You’ll be glad to know that it’s very common. In fact, up to 25% of women will have some bleeding or spotting during their pregnancy. But, what causes it? How is it diagnosed and treated? Keep reading to learn more!

How Much Bleeding is Normal During Pregnancy?

The Cleveland Clinic states that it’s normal to experience bleeding at some point in your pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Regardless, it’s important to let your doctor know if you’re experiencing bleeding, so they can monitor your symptoms and step in quickly to help if your symptoms worsen.


Your doctor may ask if you’re spotting or bleeding. Spotting, also known as light bleeding, looks like a few drops of blood in your underwear. If you put on a pad or panty liner, the blood won’t soak it. Spotting usually isn’t a serious concern, but you may want to contact your doctor so they can address any potential issues before they snowball.


Bleeding, on the other hand, is more than a few drops of blood. It becomes a problem if the flow is so heavy that a pad is needed to keep the blood from ruining your underwear. Contact your doctor immediately so they can provide the treatment you need. 

What Causes You to Bleed During Pregnancy?

There are a number of reasons someone could be bleeding during pregnancy. While not every reason is a cause for alarm, it’s important to keep track of your symptoms and communicate regularly with your doctor.

First Trimester

Bleeding during the first trimester is very common. Possible causes include:


  • Implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus, typically around 10 to 14 days after conception. It’s very common and usually stops on its own.


  • Cervical polyps. Cervical polyps are benign growths in the cervix. They bleed in response to increased estrogen levels during pregnancy. Cervical polyps are another common condition and are usually nothing to worry about. The National Library of Medicine states that “many women with polyps have successful pregnancies”.


  • Subchorionic hematoma. Also known as subchorionic hemorrhage or bleeding, a subchorionic hematoma occurs when blood collects between the chorionic membrane and the uterine wall. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most “go away on their own without causing pregnancy complications”. 


  • Miscarriage (before 20 weeks). A miscarriage may start with light bleeding and gradually get heavier. You may also experience intense abdominal cramping. 


  • Ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.


  • Molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is a rare condition in which the fertilized egg implants inside the uterus, but a tumor grows instead of a baby.

Second or Third Trimester

Bleeding during the later trimesters usually points to something more serious. Contact your doctor immediately, as you may need emergency treatment. 


  • Miscarriage. Miscarriage after 20 weeks of pregnancy is also referred to as stillbirth. One of the most common symptoms is bleeding from the vagina.


  • Uterine rupture. A uterine rupture is a rare, but life-threatening situation in which the uterus is torn along the scar line from a previous C-section.


  • Placental abruption. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the wall of the uterus before delivery. This blocks the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the baby and can cause heavy bleeding in the mother.


  • Placenta previa. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix during pregnancy. This problem may resolve on its own, but if it doesn’t, the baby may need to be delivered by C-section. 


  • Incompetent cervix. According to the Mayo Clinic, an incompetent cervix occurs when the cervix dilates prematurely, causing preterm labor.


  • Preterm labor. Preterm labor is labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This can cause light bleeding, especially if the woman is also experiencing pelvic pressure, backaches, or contractions. 

Other Causes

Bleeding during pregnancy isn’t always caused by a medical condition. Some other possible causes include:


  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause light bleeding.


  • Ultrasound or pelvic exam. The cervix is very sensitive during pregnancy. Procedures that involve probing into the vagina, such as transvaginal ultrasounds and pelvic exams, may cause light bleeding. 

  • Sex. Like transvaginal ultrasounds and pelvic exams, sex can also cause you to bleed during pregnancy. 


All of the causes listed in this article are commonly associated with bleeding during pregnancy. Meet with your healthcare provider to receive an accurate diagnosis. 

How to Treat Bleeding During Pregnancy

Usually, an ultrasound is used to determine the cause of the bleeding. Your doctor may also order tests such as a urine test, blood test, or an MRI. Once the problem has been diagnosed, they may recommend: 


  • Resting more and staying off your feet.
  • Avoiding intense exercise or lifting heavy objects.
  • Abstaining from sex until the problem has been resolved.
  • Going on bed rest.
  • Hospitalization or surgery for more severe cases.

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Bleeding and spotting during pregnancy. March of Dimes. (n.d.). Retrieved from 

Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy: Causes & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Retrieved from 

 Al Chami, A., & Saridogan, E. (2017, February). Endometrial polyps and subfertility. Journal of obstetrics and gynecology of India. Retrieved from 

Subchorionic hematoma: Causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Retrieved from 

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, January 20). Bleeding during pregnancy causes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from 

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