Spotting During Early Pregnancy

The early days and weeks of your pregnancy are exciting times, and it's normal to have a million questions, especially if your body starts doing some unexpected things. One of the strange things you might notice is vaginal spotting. Read on to learn more about what can cause it, and what other types of vaginal bleeding can occur in early pregnancy.

What Is Spotting and What Causes It?

Generally speaking, spotting refers to the light vaginal bleeding that can sometimes occur between periods. However, it can also occur during early pregnancy. Although the sight of blood early in your pregnancy can be unnerving (leading you to wonder “Is this spotting normal?”), it's helpful to know that this is quite common and doesn't usually mean there's a problem.

As many as one quarter of moms-to-be experience some spotting during early pregnancy. Two common causes are described here.

Bleeding From the Cervix

One possible reason for spotting during pregnancy is that your body is now pumping almost 50 percent more blood. With more blood vessels forming in your pelvic region, your cervix may bleed more easily. You may be more likely to experience this kind of very light bleeding after sex, a pelvic exam, or a Pap test.

Implantation Bleeding

Another common cause of light spotting in early pregnancy is implantation bleeding. This happens when the fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of your uterus, causing some drops of blood. In terms of timing, implantation bleeding usually happens about one or two weeks after fertilization.

It can be easy to mistake implantation bleeding for a light period, but this type of spotting is in fact an early sign of pregnancy. Implantation bleeding might also be lighter in color than what you normally see during your period, and it only lasts a day or two.

If you think you might be experiencing implantation bleeding, read up on some other symptoms of early pregnancy to see if you recognize any and consult your healthcare provider.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Spotting

Light spotting can be a normal part of early pregnancy. It might even be so light that it's only noticeable on toilet tissue after you wipe, or you might see a few drops on your panties. It usually lasts about a day, and is usually light in color. Most of the time it's lighter in color than your normal menstrual flow, though, sometimes, it can be red or brown in color. It is often painless.

Although spotting is usually nothing to worry about, it's important to report any bleeding to your healthcare provider just to make sure all is well.

Other Types of Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy

If you experience vaginal bleeding during what you think is early pregnancy, it could simply be that it is your period and you are not actually pregnant. Sometimes, it can be tough to tell the difference between the light spotting associated with early pregnancy and a light period. Remember, menstrual bleeding can come with abdominal cramps and may appear as a dark red or brownish discharge, as opposed to spotting, which is often painless and light pink in color.

During early pregnancy, there are times when light spotting or heavier bleeding can be a warning sign you should not ignore. That's why it's always safest to mention any bleeding to your healthcare provider, especially if it's a heavy flow.

Heavy bleeding during early pregnancy can sometimes be caused by:

  • Early pregnancy loss. Losing a pregnancy in the first 13 weeks is known as an early pregnancy loss or miscarriage, and it can happen in as many as 1 in 10 pregnancies. You may experience some cramping along with bleeding, so always let your healthcare provider know if you have bleeding, either with or without cramping.

  • Ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy happens when the fertilized egg doesn't make it all the way to the uterus, and instead implants itself somewhere else, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy cannot progress. As the fertilized egg grows, the fallopian tube can rupture, leading to bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy can also cause abdominal or pelvic pain, so if you notice these symptoms along with any bleeding, let your provider know right away.

  • Infection. A cervical infection or cervical inflammation can also cause bleeding in the first trimester. Your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose and treat any cervical issues causing the bleeding.

During early pregnancy, a little light spotting might seem scary. It's reassuring to know that it's often normal and nothing to worry about, but your healthcare provider will be able to completely put your mind at ease.

In the meantime, you can download our go-to Pregnancy Guide that's full of information about pregnancy health, nutrition, fitness, and more.