Why do you usually bleed during early pregnancy?
While it is not normal for you to have period-like bleeding during pregnancy, light bleeding early in the first trimester is actually very common and usually not cause for concern. The most usual cause of bleeding during the early stages of conception is implantation bleeding.
It usually occurs a few days prior to when your body is ready to answer positively to a pregnancy test. Once your egg has been fertilized by the sperm, it forms an embryo. Travelling through the fallopian tube, the embryo makes its way to the uterus, during which time it multiplies into multiple cells that bunch together.
Once the bunch of cells, known as the blastocyst, reaches the uterus, it attaches itself to a good spot into the uterine wall, and the process is termed implantation. It usually occurs about a week or two post fertilisation, which happens to be a few days before a woman is supposed to bleed. But, instead of being greeted by your usual period, you may find light bleeding or spotting for a few days.
Is implantation bleeding normal?
Implantation bleeding is perfectly normal, affecting about 25% of pregnancies. In fact, it may be one of the very first signs of pregnancy in a lot of cases.
What causes implantation bleeding?
After the embryo (now the blastocyst) implants itself to a spot it considers good on the uterine wall, the process can sometimes rupture a few blood vessels in the wall, causing light bleeding in the early stages of the pregnancy. The bleeding may last up to a few days but does not indicate any problems pertaining to the foetus.
The differences between implantation bleeding and an actual period
Even though bleeding occurs on both occasions, there are a few differences between an implantation bleeding and an actual period that can help you tell them apart:
- Period: A regular period can last up to 8 days at a time.
- Implantation bleeding: Usually ends in 2 days.
- Period: The bleeding is usually heavy in the first few days and the flow gradually decreases towards the end.
Implantation bleeding: The flow is usually very light throughout.
- Cramps can begin a few days before periods, become severe on heavy flow days and gradually lighten as your flow reduces.
Implantation bleeding: Cramping is usually very mild or non-existent.
What are the other probable causes of early bleeding?
Apart from implantation bleeding, there can be a few other causes of bleeding during the early stages of pregnancy:
Ectopic pregnancy - In rare cases, the embryo may implant itself somewhere outside the uterus in any of the places like the cervix, uterine tubes, ovaries or abdominal cavity. Heavy vaginal bleeding followed by cramping, nausea, dizziness and even vomiting can happen in this case. It is usually a life-threatening condition and you should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the symptoms.
The threat of an abortion - Sometimes, your body may be threatened to forcibly terminate your pregnancy in the case of an infection, physical trauma or even due to certain strong medication. When this happens, you may notice some bleeding which indicates that the embryo is still planted inside the uterus but the pregnancy is facing a possible threat.
Miscarriage - Miscarriages can happen due to a variety of reasons at any stage of pregnancy. During the earlier stages, if a miscarriage occurs, the symptoms can include vaginal bleeding accompanied by fluids or tissues and cramps in the abdomen or lower back regions. Immediately visit a hospital if you notice any of these signs and follow the doctor’s advice.
Cervical issues - You may also experience bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy due to cervical problems ranging from infections in the cervix, abnormal growths and inflammation of the area.
Molar pregnancy - It is a rare condition in which, instead of a foetus, an abnormal mass of cells develops in the uterine cavity causing symptoms like dark brown vaginal bleeding with the passage of grape-like cysts, severe nausea and vomiting and pain or pressure in the pelvic region. If you suspect a molar pregnancy, visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Infections - If you contract any kind of infection, be it in the vagina or cervix, or even an STI like chlamydia, herpes or gonorrhoea, you may experience bleeding during early pregnancy.
Sex - During pregnancy, the cervix becomes very tender and sensitive, and any engagement in penetrative sexual activity can cause vaginal bleeding. This is usually not serious, but you should consult a doctor just to make sure.
What are the signs and symptoms of implantation bleeding?
When implantation bleeding occurs, you may confuse it with a regular period, but there are a few symptoms that may help you in identifying the cause of this early pregnancy bleeding.
The other signs of implantation bleeding can include:
- Mild fever
- Mood swings
- Headaches and dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tender breasts
- Food cravings or aversion to certain foods
- An increased sense of smell
Do you need to treat it?
Implantation bleeding is usually normal and is no cause of concern. It goes away on its own in a few days and the symptoms are easily manageable. You don’t require any formal treatment for implantation bleeding.
When should you see a doctor?
With light spotting that usually goes away within a few days, you don’t need to visit a healthcare professional. However, if your bleeding becomes very heavy or you notice unnatural symptoms and discharge, you should visit a doctor to check that everything is okay. Heavy bleeding is never a normal part of pregnancy and in case you notice that you should immediately visit a health practitioner.