Vaginal bleeding in the early months of pregnancy is common, but should not occur after the first trimester.
Bleeding during the first months
In early pregnancy, vaginal bleeding is common, occurring in 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women. The bleeding is generally light and does not persist or intensify. In such cases, the pregnancy is unaffected and there’s no reason to worry. It’s often impossible to determine the exact cause of the bleeding.
Below are a few possible reasons for vaginal bleeding:
Very early in pregnancy, bleeding can occur when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Implantation bleeding is perfectly normal and is sometimes mistaken for a shorter period.
Light bleeding, or spotting, can occur after a gynecological exam or sexual intercourse. Your cervix is more sensitive because the uterus becomes highly vascularized during pregnancy. This type of light bleeding is nothing to worry about.
If your bleeding is worrisome or intensifies, contact your health care provider. They will ask you a few questions and carry out a physical exam to assess your situation and make the proper recommendations.
When should you see a doctor?
Some types of bleeding can signal a miscarriage, a detached placenta, or an ectopic pregnancy.
You should go to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Dizziness or fainting
Severe pain on one side of the abdomen (belly)
Heavy bleeding for two to three consecutive hours that soaks two normal pads or one maxi pad in one hour
Bleeding after 14 weeks
Vaginal bleeding after the first trimester should be considered a warning sign. While it doesn’t always signal an issue with the pregnancy, it isn’t normal and should be assessed by a doctor.
Bleeding from the placenta can lead to complications, which is why it’s crucial to consult a health care professional.
If the bleeding is bright red and heavy enough that you need to wear a pad, you should see a health care professional. They can do an ultrasound to find out where the bleeding is coming from.
If you’re concerned about vaginal bleeding, call Info-Santé (811) or speak with your health care provider. In case of emergency, go directly to the hospital. If you’re near the end of your pregnancy, you can also contact your hospital’s obstetrics department.
Things to keep in mind
Light bleeding is common in early pregnancy.
If the bleeding is heavy or accompanied by other symptoms, go to the emergency room.
See a health care professional if you experience bleeding after the 14th week of pregnancy.
Scientific review: Dr. Jean-Philippe Blais, family physician at a perinatal clinic
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: October 2019
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Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 2019, 776 pp. www.inspq.qc.ca
Ladewig, Patricia, et al. Soins infirmiers en périnatalité. 4th ed., Montreal, ERPI, 2010, 1,050 pp.
- AboutKidsHealth. https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/