Though not a common concern, at least few women will have doubts whether they will get their regular menstrual cycle during pregnancy. What happens to the blood that comes out of the body every month? Will it affect my baby if I bleed during pregnancy? These are the concerns at least a few of the women might have out there.
First, let us have a look at what menstrual cycle is. Every month a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes to prepare it for pregnancy. If fertilization does not take place and an embryo is not formed, then the lining of the uterus sheds and comes out through the vagina. This is called Menstruation. On the other hand, if fertilization takes place and the woman becomes pregnant, then the uterus prepares itself to nurture the growing fetus. Then there is no shedding of the uterus lining, and hence no bleeding occurs.
Thus, there can be no menstrual cycle during pregnancy. But, unfortunately, in certain circumstances a pregnant woman might experience bleeding, though it has nothing to do with menstrual bleeding. It can occur during any stage of pregnancy, and hence special care should be taken.
Bleeding during pregnancy can be of two types – light bleeding (spotting) and heavy bleeding. Light bleeding occurs as small spots of blood that occasionally appears in your underwear. Or when you wipe your vagina with a tissue paper you observe little blood. Heavy bleeding requires the use of a pad to soak the blood.
The following can be the causes of bleeding during pregnancy.
Bleeding during the first trimester
Bleeding during the first trimester of pregnancy can be caused by the following:
Implantation: Some women experience slight bleeding when the fertilized egg gets implanted in the uterus. This usually occurs during the very early stage of pregnancy around the time of normal menstrual cycle, even before the woman realizes that she is pregnant. There is no major reason to worry as the spotting disappears in few days’ time.
Hormonal changes: A lot of hormones are produced in a mother’s body once she gets pregnant. This hormone production causes a lot of changes to the cervix making it soft and prone to bleeding.
Exercise: Strenuous exercise like running and cycling and weight lifting can cause bleeding during pregnancy.
Infection: If there is any infection in the pelvic cavity or urinary tract, it can cause bleeding during pregnancy.
Cervical polyp: Cervical polyp is a harmless growth on the cervix which might bleed as a result of a higher estrogen level in the body during pregnancy. Normally this bleeding occurs after sexual intercourse of a vaginal examination.
Ectopic pregnancy: This occurs when the fertilized ovum is implanted outside the uterus. In most of the cases it happens in the fallopian tube and is a matter of concern. Doctors recommend terminating the pregnancy as it is dangerous for both mother and the baby.
Molar pregnancy: Also called trophoblastic disease, here abnormal tissues grow inside the uterus instead of an embryo. This disease shows all symptoms of pregnancy thus mistaking it for a normal one. Trophoblastic disease calls for termination of pregnancy.
Miscarriage: Heavy bleeding along with abdominal pain and back pain can be a sign that the body is rejecting the pregnancy. Miscarriage is not an indication that you cannot get pregnant in the future. It is just a way of protecting your body from an unhealthy fetus.
Bleeding during second and third trimester
Bleeding usually happens during the first trimester, when the fetus gets implanted and all the organs are formed. But if bleeding occurs during the second and third trimester, then it is a matter of concern and you should call your doctor immediately. The normal causes of bleeding during the second and third trimester are:
Preterm labor: This normally occurs before 37 weeks. If this happens, doctors either recommend complete rest, or delivering the baby through a C-section depending on the gestational age.
Placenta previa: This happens when the placenta is low lying, blocking the cervical opening. In such situation doctor recommends complete bed rest.
Placental abruption: In this case the placenta detaches itself from the uterus causing heavy bleeding and cramps. The doctor either recommends complete bed-rest or go in for an emergency delivery depending on the severity of the case.
Uterine rupture: This occurs when the uterus separates or gets teared as a result of a previous C section.
Cervical check: If vaginal examination is done during the last term of pregnancy, it can sometimes result in slight bleeding. This need not be a matter of concern as the examination is done by a healthcare provider and they know the best way to handle the situation. But if the bleeding occurs as a result of sexual intercourse, then you should immediately consult your healthcare provider.
What to do when you experience bleeding?
When you start bleeding during pregnancy, wear a panty liner or pad to monitor the amount of blood you are losing. Your healthcare provider might ask you the color, quantity and timing of bleeding which you will be able to answer accurately only if you wear a pad. Never wear a tampon as you will not be able to make out whether the bleeding is light or heavy. Similarly, do not have sexual intercourse when you are bleeding. If you feel the bleeding is not stopping or is becoming heavy, immediately consult a health care provider.
In case of bleeding that does not require immediate delivery, your healthcare provider usually recommends the following depending on the severity of the case.
- Bed rest
- Less time on your feet like standing and walking
- Avoid lifting weight
- Limit your overall physical activity.
Thus, bleeding during pregnancy should never be mistaken for menstrual bleeding. Menstruation never happens during pregnancy. Bleeding that occurs during pregnancy can be due to some underlying health complications. Hence, it is always best to consult your health care provider irrespective of whether the bleeding is light or heavy. But the good news is that, almost half of the women who experience bleeding during pregnancy go on to have a healthy pregnancy.