What Is a Subchorionic Hematoma During Pregnancy?

A Condition that Usually Results in a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnant African American mother holding her stomach in bed
Getty Images/JGI/Tom Grill

When your physician says the words "subchorionic hematoma," your first response might be to panic. But although finding out you have a subchorionic hematoma is not great news, it does not always mean you are destined for an unhappy outcome—and many pregnancies affected by subchorionic hematoma turn out fine. 

What is a Subchorionic Hematoma?

A subchorionic hematoma is a collection of blood found between the pregnancy membranes and the wall of the uterus.

Scientists do not know why it occurs but it is believed to result when part of the placenta detaches from a woman's uterus.

Scientific reports on how common subchorionic hematoma is are hugely variable. In fact, according to a 2011 report in Obstetrics Gynecology, some studies report its incidence as low as 0.5 percent of all pregnancies, whereas others report it as high as 22 percent. 

Signs of Subchorionic Hematoma

A woman with a subchorionic hematoma may have bleeding of varying quantities, ranging from light spotting to a heavy flow with clots, or she may have no bleeding at all. In fact, sometimes subchorionic hematoma is found incidentally on a routine ultrasound—the main tool used to diagnose subchorionic hematoma. 

Risk of Complications

A subchorionic hematoma increases the risk of some pregnancy complications like threatened miscarriage, preterm labor, preterm premature rupture of membranes, and placental abruption.

While doctors are not sure why some women develop complications and others do not, there may be factors that influence a woman's individual risk like the size of the hematoma or when it is diagnosed in the pregnancy (early versus late). That being said, it is still hard to say, and the precise cause behind subchorionic hematoma remains elusive.

Unfortunately, there are no ways prevent these potential complications either. Instead, following your doctor's recommendations and being attentive to new symptoms can allow for a quick diagnosis and proper treatment if they do occur.  

Coping with the Diagnosis

There is probably nothing worse than knowing something might be threatening your pregnancy and that you do not have the power to fix it. Be reassured that it is normal to feel anxious and distracted. But remember that there is a good chance that everything will turn out okay, especially if the hematoma is small. In fact, the odds of a positive outcome are much higher than the odds of losing the baby—so there is every reason to think positively.

A Word From Verywell

In this stressful time, the best you can do is follow your doctor's recommendations and try to find ways to keep your mind occupied. If your physician has recommended bed rest, rent some movies or have your partner pick up a stack of new novels for you to read. 

Keep in touch with your physician on when you need to come in for a follow-up, at which point you should hopefully get more information on how things are progressing.

Sources:

Deutchman M, Tubay AT, Turok D. First trimester bleedingAm Fam Physician. 2009 Jun 1. 79(11):985-92.

Leite J, Ross P, Rossi AC, Jeanty P. Prognosis of very large first-trimester hematomas. J Ultrasound Med. 2006 Nov;25(11):1441-5.

Palatnik A, Grobman WA. The relationship between first-trimester subchorionic hematoma, cervical length, and preterm birth. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Sep;213(3):403.e1-4.

Tuuli MG, Norman SM, Odibo AO, Macones GA, Cahill AG. Perinatal outcomes in women with subchorionic hematoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2011 May. 117(5):1205-12.

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