Bleeding in pregnancy should always be investigated, even though in many cases it is not unusual. If you are bleeding, put in a clean sanitary pad, but don’t use tampons because they can increase the risk of infection. Monitor your bleeding whilst you seek help.
If your bleeding is light, just spotting, or a pink discharge, or if you have mild cramping in your tummy or back, speak to your GP or midwife. Ask for an appointment on the same day, and take your sanitary pad to show the discharge and describe how you feel. Check whether you feel any changes in your usual pregnancy symptoms .
Your GP will discuss your symptoms with you and may ask you to monitor the progress of minor symptoms until another appointment.Alternatively, your GP may send you to a hospital with ultrasound facilities and specialist care.
If you are unsure or have questions about what is happening, you can always call the NHS non-emergency number 111 at any time.
When to seek urgent help
If you are experiencing severe bleeding – such as soaking through your pad every hour or less – or if you have severe abdominal pain, or feel dizzy and faint, seek medical help urgently.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should also seek assistance from your GP or the nearest A&E department, just in case of an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby grows outside the womb:
- severe and persistent abdominal pain, often on one side
- vaginal bleeding or spotting, most often after the pain has started
- pains in your shoulder tip
- diarrhoea and vomiting
- feeling very faint and light-headed, or fainting
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually appear between weeks 5 and 14 of the pregnancy.
1. NICE (2012) Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: diagnosis and initial management in early pregnancy of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, clinical guideline CG154, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
2. Stillbirth (Definition) Act 1992, Definition of stillborn child, Section 1(1), London The Stationery Office, 1992
3. RCOG (2008) Early miscarriage: information for you, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, , 2008
4. RCOG (2008) Bleeding and Pain in early pregnancy: information for you, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2008
5. RCOG (2012) Recurrent and late miscarriage: tests and treatment of couples, information for you, London Royal College of Obstetricians and GynaecologistsHide details
ℹLast reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.