Early pregnancy can be a very special time for many women. You begin to daydream of what it will be like to hold your baby. You might begin to buy just a few items in preparation for when your baby arrives. And you might even share the news with family and close friends. But the first trimester can also be a time of great anxiety and worry as this is the time period when most miscarriages occur. The American Pregnancy Association estimates that 15-20% of all pregnancies end with miscarriage and these quite often occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. So if you find that you are spotting or bleeding during this time you may become frightened that this is a sign of impending miscarriage. The American Pregnancy Association tells us that anywhere from 20-30% of women experience some degree of bleeding in early pregnancy. The good news is that half of these women who bleed early in their pregnancy will not have a miscarriage.
In my case, when I had a miscarriage, I did not bleed at all.
I was about ten weeks along and when I went in for a sonogram they could not find a heartbeat. I had no physical indication that I had lost the baby. I did not bleed. I did not cramp. So it was both shocking and heartbreaking news that I had a miscarriage. I assumed that I would bleed. If they had not checked me, the bleeding would have probably begun at some point. But in my case I would require a D&C (dilation and cutterage) to finish the process of emptying my uterus. It was psychologically every bit as horrible as it sounds. I had wished that my body had given me some kind of warning of impending miscarriage but it did not.
Following my miscarriage I had experienced infertility for over two years before conceiving again. I was a nervous wreck. I was so afraid of losing this baby that I did worry over any sign which could indicate something was wrong. So I don’t have to tell you that when I began to spot during the first trimester, I was terrified. I remember finding blood in my underwear and crying because I was so sure this was a very bad sign. I called the gynecologist who told me I could either wait to see her the next day or I could go to the emergency room.
I opted to go to the emergency room and it was so crowded that I had to sit on a table for magazines. We waited for one hour, then two, then three. Meanwhile I was sitting there thinking that I was losing my baby and nobody would help me. It was well past midnight when my husband and I agreed that we were not going to be seen so we went home. The bleeding had stopped and I tried to sleep.
The next day we saw my doctor first thing in the morning. She checked me physically. She then got blood work to check my hormonal levels and also ordered a sonogram to be done that day. After a long day at the hospital, it was determined that my baby was fine. But the doctor couldn’t explain my spotting and bleeding except to say that sometimes during pregnancy the cervix and surrounding tissues are more sensitive and sometimes bleeding is possible. I do want to note that I never experienced any cramping with my bleeding. I only noticed it when I went to the bathroom and saw it on my underwear and wiped.
I was so relieved to hear that my baby was okay and that my bleeding did not mean I would have another miscarriage. My faith would be tested greatly during my first pregnancy as I bled again on two other occasions. Each time they would do the blood tests and sonogram. For my first pregnancy I think I had about four sonograms which is rather unusual. They kept good track of me because I had so much trouble getting pregnant in the first place. Finally I did give birth to my first son after a somewhat difficult and prolonged labor. But after nine months of worry and trepidation, my son was perfectly healthy and fine. The nurse joked with me that he should give me extra love on mother’s day after all he put me through.
I was fortunate in my case to finally deliver a healthy baby. But sometimes the bleeding does indicate that something serious is wrong. Some of the signs of a miscarriage given by The American Pregnancy Association include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Intense cramping felt low in the stomach
- Seeing tissue pass through the vagina
These combined symptoms can mean that you will have or are having a miscarriage. For more information about miscarriage and how to deal with the emotional grief please follow this link.
Vaginal bleeding during the early part of pregnancy can also indicate that you may be having an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy means that the fertilized embryo does not reach the uterus but instead implants somewhere outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. If the embryo keeps growing it can cause a life threatening emergency for the mother as the fallopian tube can burst. This type of pregnancy is rare and is said to occur in about 2% of pregnancies. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy in addition to bleeding may be intense cramping of the lower abdomen and feeling lightheaded.
A non-serious and normal reason for bleeding early in a pregnancy is “implantation bleeding.” This slight spotting or bleeding lasting from anywhere from a few hours to a few days can be confused for a period for some women who may not even realize that they are pregnant yet. Implantation bleeding usually happens after the first week or so after you conceive when the fertilized egg implants itself to the lining of the uterus.
Bleeding during the first trimester can be a very frightening experience. I know this firsthand. But before you panic please do seek the guidance and consultation of your doctor. They will do the necessary tests to determine if the cause is serious or not. Listen to your body. If you are worried about any symptoms or changes that you cannot explain, it is best to see your doctor. Your doctor is the best person to give you the answers that you need.