What You Need to Know About Bleeding in Pregnancy

Quick Answers to Your Practitioner's Questions

Early Ultrasound
Photo © John Fedele/Getty Images

Bleeding in pregnancy can be very frightening. If you are bleeding you will need to make note of the following for when you talk to your practitioner:

  • Time you noticed the bleeding
    This would be the first time that you noticed the bleeding.
  • Amount of bleeding
    It might be hard to quantify how much blood is present, but talk about it in terms of what type of protection you are using and how often you change it. For example, does it only appear when wiping? Do you need to wear a pad? How often do you need to change a pad?
  • Quality of the blood
    What is the color of the blood? Bright red? Pink? Brown? Is it thin and watery, or mucus tinged? Or perhaps you have clots?
  • Vaginal Activity
    Have you had a vaginal exam or had sex recently? Do you take any vaginal medications like progesterone. This will be important for your practitioner to know.
  • Anything else you can think of that might matter.
    Your doctor or midwife may ask you other questions or you may have other things that concern you.

Once you have this information, it is time to call your doctor or midwife. They may be able to give you advice over the phone, or may ask that you come to the office or the hospital, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

One of the most frustrating things about bleeding in pregnancy is that there is often nothing that can be done, and watchful waiting is the only advice. You may be advised to take it easy, to avoid wearing tampons or having sex, basically don't put anything in your vagina.

You will likely be told how much bleeding is enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.

"It was so frustrating," Robin explains. "It was my third pregnancy and I'd had two other miscarriages. I just wanted someone to listen to me. I know they couldn't do anything, but being told to just wait and see was really frustrating.

They did tell me what to look for and when I should call back, but other than that it was simply - keep your appointment next week. Thankfully, everything turned out okay for us. It wound up being some bleeding from behind the placenta. My son is alive and healthy."

You may be offered an ultrasound or blood work to check your hCG levels, but those also only give you a glance in time at what's happening right now. For example, just because an ultrasound shows a closed cervix doesn't mean that it will stay that way. It will simply be a miserable waiting game. Only you can decide if knowing that right now looks like it does is helpful or not.

Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition.

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