Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy

Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy often causes feelings of worry or even panic. Although it may be a sign that something is wrong, many times it is not. Bleeding or spotting during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is common, and usually goes away on its own. Some women experience implantation bleeding, which occurs about 10 to 14 days after conception; others have cervical bleeding after intercourse, both of which are usually normal. However, if a woman does bleed during her pregnancy, she should consult her doctor immediately to rule out more serious causes.

Causes of Bleeding During Pregnancy

Some causes of bleeding during pregnancy can be serious, and require medical treatment. They include the following:

  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Molar pregnancy
  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption
  • Uterine rupture
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Cervicitis

Light bleeding toward the end of a pregnancy can be a sign of labor.

Diagnosis of Bleeding During Pregnancy

If a woman has bleeding during her pregnancy, she should consult with her doctor. The doctor may perform a pelvic examination and an ultrasound to determine the bleeding's cause. A blood test may be performed to measure levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is a hormone produced by the body during pregnancy. Low or descending levels of hCG may indicate miscarriage.

Treatment for Bleeding During Pregnancy

Treatment for bleeding during pregnancy varies depending on its underlying cause. Cervicitis or an incompetent cervix may be treated with medication. Placental problems may be treated with bed rest or hospitalization or, depending on the week of pregnancy, may require early labor to be induced. An ectopic pregnancy requires immediate treatment, either with medication or surgery. If bleeding is caused by miscarriage, medication may be administered to help the woman expel the tissue, or it may be removed surgically through a procedure known as dilation and curettage (D&C).

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