Maternity care is still essential during the coronavirus pandemic and services are still running. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy call your GP, midwife, nearest early pregnancy unit or maternity unit.
Is it normal to bleed in early pregnancy (before 12 weeks)?
It’s common to have light bleeding or ‘spotting’ without pain before 12 weeks. This isn’t often serious, but you should contact your doctor, midwife or Early Pregnancy Unit immediately to be checked, just in case.
Bleeding in pregnancy after 12 weeks is not common. Contact A&E or your hospital maternity unit immediately so you can be checked.
Light bleeding or spotting can happen in the first trimester (first 12 weeks of pregnancy) for a few reasons.
Implantation is when the fertilised egg (developing embryo) is embedding into the wall of the womb. This usually happens around the time your period would normally have been due. Some women have had implantation bleeding after 8 weeks of pregnancy.
An implantation bleed is very light bleeding (spotting) that is usually pinkish and sometimes brown. You may see it when you wipe after going to the toilet or in your underwear. It shouldn’t be enough to soak through pads or underwear. Usually it only lasts for a day or so, though for some women it can last a little longer.
Pregnancy hormones can cause changes to the cervix, which can sometimes cause bleeding. The cervix gets an increased blood supply and becomes softer. This can cause some bleeding after sex (known as post-coital bleeding).
Occasionally, vaginal bleeding can also be caused by an infection.
Bleeding can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. Try to remember that many women who have bleeding in early pregnancy (before 12 weeks) go on to have a successful pregnancy. Just make sure that your symptoms are checked.
A miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks.
Symptoms can include:
- bleeding, especially bleeding that is bright red and and needs a pad
- back or stomach pain or cramping.
Some women may experience a 'threatened miscarriage'. This is diagnosed where there is ongoing bleeding with or without pain but the woman is still pregnant.
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tube. Symptoms can include:
- tummy pain on one side
- pain in the tip of the shoulder
- discomfort when peeing or pooing.
A molar pregnancy is when a foetus doesn't form properly in the womb and a baby doesn't develop. Symptoms can include:
- severe morning sickness
- an unusually swollen tummy.
If you have bleeding in your current pregnancy after one or more previous miscarriages, recent research has shown that progesterone can be beneficial. This research was published in 2019 and showed that the more previous miscarriages you had, the greater the benefit from progesterone treatment.
Progesterone is a hormone that helps thicken the lining of the womb and the mother’s body to accept the growing baby. It is given as pessaries (tablets) and taken twice daily in the vagina (like inserting a tampon).
The study that showed that progesterone can be an effective treatment was a large, multi-centre, randomised controlled trial, which is the gold standard of research trials.
Talk to your doctor
If you have early pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage, progesterone treatment can be of benefit. As this research is relatively recent, your doctor may not have heard of it, so please discuss this treatment with your GP or the doctors at your local Early Pregnancy Unit. If necessary, show them this information or or download this leaflet and take it with you.