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Bleeding during pregnancy is always an alarming experience, and sometimes the symptom of a serious complication. Here, we explore the possible causes of vaginal bleeding at various stages of pregnancy, and discuss what you should do when you notice any.

Bleeding In Your First Trimester

Bleeding plays quite a large role in the first trimester of pregnancy, when you think about it. Most women realize they are pregnant because of a lack of bleeding their missed period! Around one fifth of all women will still experience vaginal bleeding or light spotting during the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy, and this does not have to indicate a medical problem.

Very early on in pregnancy, you may notice what is called an implantation bleeding. This light spotting can be seen as a result of the newly fertilized egg implanting into the lining of the uterus. Though not every woman will have an implantation bleeding, it is an absolutely normal phenomenon that takes place between seven and 10 days following fertilization. Brown spotting is also common during the first trimester, as old blood is expelled from the uterine cavity.

Heavy bleeding after your pregnancy was confirmed usually indicates a more serious problem either a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. Any pregnant woman who notices red (thus new) heavy bleeding should consult her doctor immediately. Severe and stabbing pain, on one side of the abdomen, may tell you that you are experiencing a tubal pregnancy. If you are not sure whether you should be worried, err on the side of caution and call your doctor. Miscarriages can't usually be stopped and will usually complete on their own, but an ectopic pregnancy requires immediate medical attention; it can be fatal for the mother if left untreated. Did you know that sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can also be responsible for vaginal bleeding at this stage of a pregnancy? Make sure you get tested, as STDs can have a serious impact on a pregnancy but can usually be treated.

Second Trimester Bleeding

Bleeding during the second trimester can also be a miscarriage symptom, though the risk of miscarriage dramatically reduces after a woman reaches her 12th week of pregnancy. Second-trimester miscarriages will usually come with rhythmical cramps (like labor contractions) as well as bleeding. What's new in the second trimester is that placental complications are more usual causes of vaginal bleeding.

There are two that you want to know about: placenta previa, and placental abruption. Placenta previa is a complication in which the placenta has implanted in a spot that covers the cervix. This is often accompanied by bleeding, as the baby puts pressure on the placental site. A placental abruption is a situation in which the placenta prematurely detaches from the uterine wall. Bleeding is one symptom, and rapidly following contractions and a very hard and tender uterus are others. A placental abruption can also cause large blood clots to present. Still, not all causes of second-trimester vaginal bleeding are serious.

If you notice light bleeding after sexual intercourse, an irritated cervix could be the sole cause. You'll want to check with your OBGYN if it happens to you, just in case. Make sure you have an ultrasound to rule out placenta previa, which would require more intensive prenatal care.

Bleeding During Your Third Trimester

The causes that can be responsible for bleeding during the second trimester continue to be possible reasons for bleeding in your final trimester, as your baby's due date approaches. If you suffer from placenta previa, it is likely that your regular prenatal care will already have identified this through an ultrasound. You would have been advised to take it easy and may be on bed rest pending your scheduled c-section. Remember that placental abruption is a possible cause of heavy bleeding, along with the other symptoms we already mentioned. You will want to head straight for the maternity ward if you present with heavy bleeding and other placental abruption symptoms at this time. Uterine rupture is another possible reason for heavy bleeding in the third trimester, particularly in women who have previously delivered a baby through cesarean section. Keep in mind that uterine rupture is a possibility even for those moms who did not have a c-section before. The most likely cause of light spotting or bleeding in the later stages of the third trimester is simply that your body is getting ready to have your baby. If you notice a thick cluster of mucus and blood, either all at once or in portions, you can count on that being your mucus plug. When you lose your mucus plug, you will usually go into labor within 24 hours.

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