Bleeding and cramping can occur at any time during a pregnancy. Early within the first trimester, bleeding might not necessarily be indicative of a serious problem. Bleeding and cramping that occur in the second and third trimesters, however, could be cause for concern. Regardless of when the bleeding occurs, a pregnant woman should always consult with her physician to determine the status of the pregnancy and health of her developing baby.
Implantation bleeding usually occurs early in a pregnancy when the fertilized egg implants on the wall of the uterus. Not every woman will experience implantation bleeding, and for those who do, not everyone’s experience will be the same. Implantation bleeding can cause a woman to spot very lightly for one day or as many as a few.
According to the American Pregnancy Organization, 20 percent to 30 percent of all pregnant women will experience some degree of bleeding early in their pregnancies. Approximately half of those women will suffer a miscarriage within the first trimester. A miscarriage is marked by bleeding, strong abdominal cramps and the expelling of tissue from the vagina.
In approximately 1 out of 60 pregnancies, a fertilized egg will implant within the fallopian tube instead of the uterine wall. Unlike the uterus, however, fallopian tubes lack the capability to expand to support a growing fetus. Unfortunately, this results in a failed pregnancy. Women who have had a previous ectopic pregnancy, pelvic surgery or an infection of the fallopian tubes are at greater risk for a first-time or subsequent ectopic pregnancy. Signs include bleeding, cramping, sharp abdominal pains and low levels of the pregnancy hormone, hCG.
Approximately 1 percent of pregnant women will develop a placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall. Generally, placental abruptions occur within the last trimester. Women over 35 years of age who have previously been pregnant are at greater risk for developing this condition. Likewise, those who have high blood pressure or who have suffered a traumatic blow to the abdominal area are more likely to develop an abruption. Watch for signs and symptoms of heavy bleeding and abdominal cramps.
Another placenta-related condition, placenta previa, occurs when the placenta lies too low in the uterus or when it completely covers the opening of the cervix. This is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Although there is bleeding, it’s often absent of pain.
Shortly before a woman goes into labor, her body may expel the mucus plug. The mucus plug is an accumulation of secretions that collects at the opening of the cervix; it helps to prevent harmful bacteria from entering. Small amounts of blood might be expelled with the mucus plug, and early signs of labor usually include abdominal pressure and stomach cramps.
Bleeding and cramping in pregnancy is not always cause for alarm; however, pregnant women should never hesitate to contact a physician with concerns. A mom-to-be should monitor her blood flow by wearing a sanitary pad and making note of any changes in the color, duration and intensity.