Spotting During Pregnancy, Is It Normal?

Spotting during pregnancy is a common occurrence given the increased levels of the discharge. However, the spotting may not all be due to the pregnancy as many other causes can be blamed for it. The following sections will lay all that to rest.

Spotting vs. bleeding during pregnancy

During a pregnancy, you can either spot or bleed with each incident having its own meaning. To differentiate between bleeding and spotting, you need to know a few basic things about a vaginal discharge whether during pregnancy or other times;

  • The color of the discharge

If it is pink or light red in color, that is bleeding. It would have this color due to fresh blood mixing with the normal fluids in the body.

Spotting will also have the same color as bleeding (bright red or pink). However, bleeding may have a slightly darker color compared to watch you observe in spotting.

  • The thickness of the discharge

Spotting is often lighter than bleeding. This is because it has very little blood mixed with fluids that are mostly colorless. On the other hand, bleeding will have more blood than colorless discharges. This will make bleeding thicker.

  • Smell of the discharge

Spotting during pregnancy should not have any strong smell and neither should bleeding unless both are due to an infection. However, do not expect it or discharge to totally have no smell.

Due to the many processes taking place in the body during a pregnancy, there is bound to be a little smell to the vaginal discharge.

  • The amount of the discharge

Bleeding will have a significant amount of the discharge while spotting will have very little of it. In fact, the easiest way to tell the two apart is by gauging the amount of the discharge.

If you have a discharge that only spots your underwear, it is spotting. If it requires a tampon or pad to keep yourself clean and comfortable, that is bleeding.

Pictures

Pictures of bleeding and spotting show quite a different scenario in each case. The pictures include all the differences mentioned above in reality.

For spotting, the pictures show a few light red spots with nothing much to them. For the bleeding, they show a continuous mass of a fluid ranging in color from bright red to light brown in some cases.

You simply need to keep in mind the above differences then you can easily know which is which between a case of spotting or bleeding.

Is spotting normal during pregnancy

During a pregnancy, the amount of discharge is bound to go up. This also includes the occasional blood which is a normal occurrence. The light bleeding may occur during specific trimesters of your pregnancy or all through the pregnancy.

In either case, you need to work closely with your healthcare providers when you are pregnant. While you will gather information here, only an actual examination by your doctor will pinpoint the cause of your spotting.

How much spotting is normal during pregnancy?

If you have a few light red or brown spots during your pregnancy, it is considered normal spotting. On the other hand, if the discharge you have literally flowed and requires you to have a pad or tampon to soak it up, that is a red flag.

Do not ever jump to conclusion as far as light bleeding during pregnancy goes. It has been found that most women will be quick to point to a miscarriage once they see any blood from their vagina during their pregnancy.

Unless your doctor explicitly tells you that you are having a miscarriage, you do not need to worry about miscarrying.

What causes spotting during pregnancy?

bleeding vs spotting during pregnancy

What are the reasons for light bleeding during pregnancy?

Since there are so many reasons as to why you would be spotting during pregnancy, here are a few;

1. Sexual intercourse

When you have sex and observe spotting during pregnancy, you don’t need to fret since it is a normal occurrence.

It does not mean that you should ignore excessive bleeding after sex as it could be another underlying issue you need check. It is okay if the light bleeding occurs only once and goes away.

2. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

When the various parts of the pelvic region such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and the uterus are inflamed, you may see some spotting during pregnancy or other times. This disease is also symptomized with a lot of pain in the pelvic area.

It can be quite dangerous to the pregnancy hence the need to see a doctor.

3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

The polycystic ovary syndrome is a combination of symptoms occasioned by hormonal imbalances in the body. Among its major symptoms are cysts on various parts of the female reproductive system and some bleeding or spotting especially when these cysts are disturbed.

If you suspect or have been diagnosed with the polycystic ovary syndrome, you need to have the issue addressed as soon as possible as it may harm your pregnancy.

4. Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the balance of bacteria in the vagina and cervix is conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria. This can cause various symptoms among them occasional light bleeding.

Bacterial vaginosis can occur when you are diabetic, have received cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, you are taking antibiotics or are douching.

Bacterial vaginosis needs to be treated as soon as possible for the best care of your pregnancy.

5. Pelvic examinations

Even when you are not pregnant, pelvic examinations are bound to cause bleeding from the cervix.

This issue is made more pronounced during pregnancy since the whole reproductive system will be ramified with more capillaries and blood vessels which easily get damaged by foreign objects such as those used for pelvic exams.

6. Loss of mucus plug

When you have spotting during pregnancy and in your third trimester, there is the chance that you would have lost your mucus plug.

The mucus plug seals the entrance of the womb from the cervix thus keeping away any infections that may try getting to the baby. This mucus plug is formed right after you get pregnant.

When the time comes to give birth, this plug will start sloughing off. Given that it is very thick and firmly attached to the wall of the cervix (to provide a tight seal), the process of sloughing off the cervical walls often involves some bleeding.

It is not painful in any way although the loss of the mucus plug is often of a light red or pinkish color. It is one of the main signs of an impending birth.

7. Cervical polyps

Polyps are benign growths on the cervical wall which may bleed often. While they can occur at any time in your body, their bleeding may be made worse when you have a cervical exam or sexual intercourse.

When you are pregnant, you might also see a problem with the bleeding of the polyps due to the high levels of the estrogen hormone. Besides that, there is a higher amount of blood vessels and capillaries supplying blood to the female reproductive system hence the ease of bleeding from the polyps.

8. Issues with your thyroid gland

Whether you have an overactive (hyperthyroidism) or inactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid gland, you may have occasional and random spotting or bleeding. This too is a serious case which requires medical attention.

9. Stress

Stress can either be psychological or physical in nature. On the psychological part, having stress can have a lot of damage to the body including inducing a miscarriage.

It is the same with physical stress which can be a result of working out too much or a general physical exertion beyond what your body can take.

Both types of stress can lead to spotting during pregnancy and other times. A pregnancy is a delicate issue which should be taken care of by avoiding excessive levels of stress.

10. Implantation spotting

Implantation spotting occurs when a fertilized egg is burrowing its way into the walls of the uterus where it will develop for the next nine months.

This burrowing process often leads to some light bleeding. Not everyone will observe this since it only occurs in about 20 percent of women.

Implantation spotting occurs very early in the pregnancy. In most women who have a 28-day menstrual cycle, it will occur on the 21st day of the cycle. In this regard, it is the earliest form of spotting or bleeding that occurs during any pregnancy.

It is nothing to worry about since it is a normal (and necessary) process during conception.

11. Cancer

When you have cancer of the ovaries, vagina, cervix or uterus, you may experience occasional light bleeding no matter the time of the pregnancy. This is a dangerous incident which should be addressed as soon as possible.

12. Subchorionic bleeding

In some cases, you might have blood accumulating in the folds of the chorion which is the membrane between the placenta and the fetal membrane. The spotting, in this case, can be light or a bit heavy.

If this issue has been found out, there is usually no need for medical intervention given that it often resolves itself without any major problem.

13. Uterine fibroids

These are benign growths on the uterus which may or may not cause any issues. When you are pregnant, the high supply of blood to the uterus may make the fibroids bleed leading to light bleeding during pregnancy.

14. Miscarriage

Having a miscarriage is the most unfortunate event to happen to a pregnancy. It refers to the loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week of this pregnancy. It can start off as bright red light bleeding then turn into a heavy flow of blood.

15. Molar pregnancy

If you notice dark brown or red spotting or bleeding during your pregnancy, you may be having a molar pregnancy. It is a very rare case whereby the placenta malformed into a mass of functionless cysts.

This will also affect the pregnancy as most molar pregnancies end up in the loss of the embryo.

Molar pregnancies are accompanied by a lot of pain and nausea a few weeks after conceiving.

16. Placenta previa

Placenta previa is a condition whereby the placenta will cover the cervix either partly or wholly. This often occurs in the second or third trimester and may correct itself before birth.

If not, your health practitioner may need to manually move the placenta away from the cervix to allow birth.

Often, this type of spotting during pregnancy has bright red blood to it. Avoiding sex and strenuous activities is often the remedy. If you have placenta previa, you are likely to have placenta accreta or preterm labor if not managed well.

17. Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the walls of the fallopian tube rather than the walls of the uterus. In this case, you will feel other symptoms including abdominal pressure, shock, and fainting, lightheadedness and shoulder pain.

It is a serious medical condition which requires the immediate attention of a doctor.

18. Preterm labor

Preterm labor is another cause of light bleeding during pregnancy especially between the 20th and 37th week of the pregnancy. Preterm labor is often accompanied by abdominal pain and pressure in the pelvis and the lower back.

Preterm labor ought to be reported to the healthcare providers as soon as possible as it puts the baby at risk.

19. Placental abruption

This is spotting during pregnancy which occurs due to the separation of the placenta from the walls of the uterus. It may occur anytime from the second trimester to the last trimester (the 3rd).

The discharge may be light or heavy and you may have abdominal cramps and back pain.

In most cases, you won’t need to worry about it especially when the separation is slight. If not, you may need hospitalization. All in all, see your doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms.

20. Leucorrhea

Leucorrhea is a discharge from the vagina which has a yellow, white color or is colorless. It can be caused by many different things from an infection to inflammation to a normal discharge.

Due to the increased estrogen and blood vessels during a pregnancy, the leucorrhea may be accompanied by some blood leading to occasional spotting.

Unless it has a foul smell or is painful, leucorrhea is nothing to worry out.

When does spotting occur during pregnancy?

spotting during pregnancy

Spotting during pregnancy can occur at different times depending on the causes. Here is the pregnancy timeline and what could cause spotting in each stage;

1. First trimester

The first trimester is the three-month period counted from the date of conception. Among the reasons for spotting or bleeding during this period include;

  • Implantation bleeding
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Molar pregnancy

2. Second trimester

The second trimester is the three-month period counted from the third month after conception. Basically, it is from the 4th to the 6th month of your pregnancy. The causes of spotting during this period include;

  • Placenta previa
  • Placenta accreta
  • Placental abruption
  • Preterm labor

3. Third trimester

The third trimester is the period lasting three months at the end of your pregnancy. It is thus from the 7th to the 9th month. Spotting or bleeding during this period can occur due to;

  • Placenta previa
  • Placenta accreta
  • Placental abruption
  • Preterm labor
  • Loss of the mucus plug

4. Anytime in the pregnancy

Besides these trimester-specific causes, spotting during pregnancy can also occur due to the following reasons;

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Pelvic examinations
  • Cervical polyps
  • Thyroid problems
  • Stress
  • Subchorionic bleeding
  • Cancer of the ovaries, cervix and other parts of the female reproductive system
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Leucorrhea

Besides these, there are many other reasons for spotting during pregnancy or bleeding during the same period.

Light bleeding in the second trimester during pregnancy

If you experience light bleeding in the second trimester of your pregnancy, it can be due to several reasons most of which are a danger to your pregnancy. They include;

  • Leucorrhea
  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption
  • Placenta accreta
  • Uterine rupture from a cesarean section surgery
  • Vasa Previa which is a case in which the baby’s blood vessels in the placenta or umbilical cord cross to the birth canal. If the exposed blood vessels tear open, the baby can bleed to death.
  • Premature labor
  • Cancer
  • Injuries to the vagina or the cervix
  • Cervical polyps

Brown spotting during pregnancy

Brown spotting during pregnancy can be caused by a few main issues namely;

  • Implantation bleeding which occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall.
  • An ectopic pregnancy where a fertilized egg, rather than getting attached on the walls of the uterus, gets attached to other locations in the reproductive system mostly the fallopian tubes.
  • Cervical irritations which may due to infections, cervical examinations or sexual activity.
  • Mucus plug being lost. Whether it is the right time or earlier than your pregnancy, the loss of the mucus plug is a serious incident which requires immediate medical attention.
  • Miscarriage can also lead to brown spotting during pregnancy especially when you observe other signs of a miscarriage such as lower back pain, abdominal pain, watery discharge, and cramping.
  • At times, there is no actual cause for the light bleeding although a doctor will tell you whether it is safe or not.

What makes the blood brown rather than bright red is the fact that, by the time it flows out of the body, it would have become old blood since the period between the origin and expulsion of the blood is a few days.

Light pink spotting in pregnancy

Light pink spotting during pregnancy is a common occurrence in most cases posing no risk to your pregnancy. Among the most common causes of a light pink spotting during pregnancy are;

  • Cervical irritations such as those caused by infections, cervical examinations, and sexual intercourse.
  • Breakthrough bleeding which is caused by many different things including hormonal upsets and drug use.
  • Implantation bleeding.
  • Cervical changes which entail softening, lengthening, shortening, dilating, thinning, and other occurrences in preparation for the birth of your child. These changes are bound to lead to some light bleeding.

Unless the light pink spotting during pregnancy takes a long time to come to an end, has abdominal pain or has an odor to it, you need not worry about it.

Positive pregnancy test but spotting

Why do I have brown spotting after positive pregnancy test?

After a positive pregnancy test, a discharge with either a brown, reddish or pinkish discharge may be observed. While most women fret about it, you need not worry since it is simply implantation bleeding.

As stated earlier on, implantation is the attachment of the fertilized egg to the walls of the uterus where it will grow into a baby in the next nine months.

The attachment process is characterized by some light bleeding and cramps in the abdomen.

It, not an issue to worry about.

What does spotting and cramping in early pregnancy mean?

Spotting and cramping in early pregnancy simply mean that the fertilized egg is attaching itself to the walls of the uterus. The whole process is referred to as implantation with the spotting and cramps being referred to as implantation spotting and implantation cramps respectively.

Again, it is nothing to worry about as long as the pain isn’t too much and the discharge not too much. Too much discharge is when it requires a tampon or sanitary pad to soak up.

When to see a doctor

You should always keep in touch with your doctor during your pregnancy as it is a delicate period in your life. However, while you are allowed to overlook minor cases of the spotting, you should not ignore the following;

  • When the bleeding is heavy
  • When you have painful cramps
  • When the discharge has a foul smell to it
  • If you feel nauseated
  • When you feel light-headed
  • When the discharge is thick and cheese-like

Generally, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, give your doctor a call.

References:

Women’s guide to getting the timing right – Your Fertility

How to Chart Your Cycle to Know When You Can Get Pregnant – WebMD

7 pregnancy complications to watch out for | BabyCenter

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