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Spotting in Pregnancy: Should You Worry?

spotting in early pregnancyIf you’ve ever watched Discovery Health TV show, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” you’ll discover there’s a common theme among the different women. They all had irregular periods and they all had light “periods” throughout their pregnancy. In a nutshell, many of the women experienced spotting throughout their unknown pregnancies.

Any vaginal bleeding can be scary, but if you experience spotting (light bleeding – similar to a very light day of your period), you shouldn’t worry too much. Spotting in pregnancy is normal. In fact, between 20 and 30 percent of all pregnant women will experience spotting in the first trimester.

Try not to worry if you experience spotting (which is usually light pink or brownish in color – never bright red). Your risk of complications is less than five percent, according to new research from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

What Causes Spotting in Pregnancy?

Spotting in early pregnancy is almost always due to implantation (when the fertilized egg embeds itself into the lining of your uterus). Implantation can trigger a few days of light bleeding, and it can occur before the woman realizes she’s pregnant.

Another possible cause of spotting in the first trimester is a cervical polyp, which is a harmless cervical growth that’s more likely to bleed in pregnancy due to the elevated levels of estrogen in your body. Since there are more blood vessels in the tissue around your cervix in pregnancy, any physical contact with this area (i.e. having sex or undergoing a cervical exam) can lead to light spotting or bleeding.

Sometimes, your spotting is unrelated to any hormonal or pregnancy changes. Other causes of spotting in pregnancy include yeast and urinary tract infections (both of which are rather common when you’re expecting) and hemorrhoids.

When to Call Your Doctor about Spotting

Although spotting in early pregnancy is normal, it’s always a good idea to call your doctor to make sure that the light bleeding you’re noticing isn’t due to a complication – such as a threatened miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor or physician to examine you to make sure that everything is OK.

Signs of a potential miscarriage include bright red bleeding that comes with abdominal cramping. If your spotting is brownish or reddish, and it does not come with any pain or discomfort, your pregnancy is most likely fine.

Later in your pregnancy, you should always talk to your doctor about any bleeding you experience. Spotting in late pregnancy can be a sign of:

  • Loss of your mucus plug – A sign that labor might be on its way. You can lose your mucus plug weeks or days before labor starts.
  • Placental abruption – Your placenta starts to separate from the uterus before your baby is ready to be born.
  • Incompetent cervix – Your cervix starts to efface and dilate too early.
  • Placenta previa – The placenta starts to partially or completely covers the cervix.

Try not to worry about complications, however. Spotting is normal in most situations. But it’s a good idea to contact your caregiver. He or she can give you reassurance that everything is just fine with your baby.

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Randa August 9, 2016, 1:04 pm

    Hi! I had my period on July 15th. It’s usually 32-33 days apart. My period didn’t come at all in June. I started spotting light pink on August 7th and I’m still spotting. It’s nt enough to fill a pad though. I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago. But I’ve had a period every month since then. I had an ectopic pregnancy last year. Which makes me concerned about this spotting. I’m wondering could I be pregnant. If so when should I test and how long does this spotting last if it’s implantation bleeding. I don’t want to stress myself out but I can’t help it giving that I’ve experienced an ectopic pregnancy before. Any advice would help. Please and thank you.

    • Randa August 9, 2016, 1:09 pm

      I forgot to mention that June was the first time I’ve missed a period since I was 16 or 17 years old. I’m 28 now. So I don’t know what’s going on but I’m very concerned. My husband and I have been TTC since the ectopic pregnancy. Still no luck. Fingers crossed on this one because I’ve never had light pink spotting before.

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  • Christine July 27, 2012, 1:21 pm

    I have just recently got my period and the blood is a bright red color but not as heavy as it normally is. I am also feeling some symptoms such as bloating, nausea, cramping, and fatigue. Am I just going through regular PMS symptoms? Or could I be pregnant and just spotting? I’d live some input on this!

  • adi May 22, 2012, 4:16 pm

    Hi I’m 25 years old I’m a mother of a 2 year old girl when I had her I didn’t know I was pregnant till the 3rd month cause I was irreguler after I had her I started getting my period every month I got my period on April 7 and havnt got my period yet I did 2 pregnancy test and they came out negative on May 21 and 22 if bled but just a little bit not my normal bleeding at all how long should I wait to take a pregnancy test? Or am I not pregnant I don’t know what to think pleas I need advice

    • DP Nguyen May 22, 2012, 9:52 pm

      Just take another home pregnancy test, or I would recommend going to the doctor and getting a urine pregnancy test. They tend to be more accurate.

  • Elaine Dyer December 29, 2011, 1:46 pm

    my last period was november 15 on 26th n 27 th december i was spotting bleeding red blood. …deffo wasnt my period as i am so regular 28 day cycle and always very heavy…peroid last for 7 days normaly…only went through a pad a day and a fresh one at night….it wasnt a flow of blood just now and again mainly when i wiped …. i have had no more spotting at all …i am bloated have nite time sickness and very tender breasts …could i be pregnant ? went to my docs she was a waste of time seeing ….she wouldnt check me over ….as i had had red spotting ..no blood test just got told to do a pt in ten days time …..would be nice to get a bit off info back please …

    • DP Nguyen January 1, 2012, 9:34 pm

      I would switch doctors if I was you. If she wasn’t concerned, since you went to her with your problems, she is not a very caring doctor. I would go see a gynecologist for this problem.

      From your symptoms, it does sound like there is a good chance that you are pregnant. Take a home pregnancy test, and schedule an appointment with a gynecologist to do a blood pregnancy test.

      The bleeding you experienced may have been implantation bleeding. It does sound like you are possibly pregnant to me. So, find a new doctor and get tested for pregnancy. Good luck,

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  • Beth C. May 26, 2011, 9:21 am

    I just went through this and it is so frightening. With my first pregnancy I never had any spotting. Now, with my second, I’ve had three different episodes of spotting. I was calmer this last time but it still sets off warning bells. I have a wonderful OB that isn’t phone shy like some and he set my fears at ease. 🙂

  • small Kucing May 25, 2011, 10:59 pm

    I had a scared when I was into my 2nd month of pregnancy. Lucky nothing bad happened

  • TheBusyChick May 25, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Ditto DP. Better safe than sorry.

    This is a great post. I’m going to FB it for my friends.

  • Kate May 25, 2011, 8:54 am

    I had light bleeding that everyone said wasn’t a big deal, but ended up with a miscarriage. In my current pregnancy, I also had some minor spotting, but it turned out to be fine, and baby is doing great! I think it all depends of the time and place to determine an outcome.

    • DP May 25, 2011, 8:59 am

      Spotting is always scary, but it’s always a good idea to contact a doctor about it to make sure everything is OK. (And not due to a miscarriage, as in your case).
      Hope everything goes well with this pregnancy!

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