One of the perks of pregnancy—you know, other than no one judging your weird Pringles-dipped-in-hot-sauce cravings—is that your period is basically MIA for months, right?
Technically, yes. You definitely don’t menstruate (a.k.a., shed blood and tissue from your uterus) each month, but that doesn’t mean your bathroom trips will always be blood-free (which can be scary AF).
So, what if you see something that looks like your period while you’re pregnant? First: Slow your roll. Bleeding a bit during pregnancy is pretty common, but it can be dangerous. Here’s what you need to know about bleeding while pregnant.
Wait, a little bleeding while you’re pregnant is normal?
It definitely can be, says Joanne Stone, M.D., director of maternal fetal medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “Spotting occurs in about 30 percent of pregnancies in the first trimester,” she says. While you should always check in with your doctor if you notice blood, just to be safe, spotting isn’t usually a reason for concern, she says.
The spotting can happen anytime, but typically after sex, or about three to four weeks into the pregnancy. “Some people have bleeding around the time they would have expected their period, a few weeks in,” Stone says. “This is usually due to implantation and is just a coincidence.”
“Spotting occurs in about 30 percent of pregnancies in the first trimester.”
But keep in mind, there’s a big difference between spotting (very light bleeding, kind of like when your period is just starting or ending) and a full-on period. That’s because you need the blood your body normally sheds during your period to nourish the embryo or fetus.
When should I be worried about bleeding while pregnant?
If you know you’re pregnant and you’re bleeding enough to fill a pad, you need to get in touch with your doctor ASAP, says Nicole Bullock, D.O., an ob-gyn in Texas. “In the first trimester, up to about 20 weeks, we worry about miscarriage with heavy bleeding,” she says.
But miscarriage isn’t the only explanation: Persistent bleeding can also mean that the placenta has grown low in the cervix. While you can have a completely normal and safe pregnancy with a low-lying placenta (called placenta previa), your doctor will likely ask you to abstain from sex and may recommend bed rest in your third trimester, says Bullock.
Heavy, period-like bleeding later in your pregnancy can be a sign of something more serious like preterm labor or placental abruption (when your placenta tears away from your uterus).
But even then, you’ll be dealing with much more than just bleeding; you’ll also notice extreme pain, says Bullock. In that case, you’ll need to go the hospital where doctors will deliver the baby, she says. Still, placental abruption is extremely rare (especially if you avoid drugs and alcohol, and go to all your prenatal checkups), says Bullock.
Of course, it’s best to play it safe. So if you’ve noticed blood and you’re worried about it—and especially if you experience any pain along with it—give your ob-gyn a call. Otherwise, enjoy your short vacay from tampons.
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