By knowing the causes for heavy bleeding during pregnancy and by recognizing miscarriage signs, you can prepare yourself better for the potential complications of pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there may be several causes. Some may be serious, but not all causes result in miscarriage. To be safe, talk with your health care provider any time you experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, unexpected bleeding can be alarming, especially if you don’t know the difference between spotting and heavy bleeding. The American Pregnancy Association defines spotting as few drops of blood showing up on toilet paper or in underwear. Heavy bleeding is classified as enough blood to fill a pad.
Heavy bleeding can indicate your body is about to miscarry. The Mayo Clinic reports an estimated 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which it defines as any loss of pregnancy occurring before the 20th week of gestation. Heavy bleeding with or without pain in the lower back or the abdomen or passing any type of vaginal fluid or tissue may indicate a miscarriage; however, only a medical professional can diagnosis whether you are experiencing a miscarriage.
While heavy bleeding can be scary, it doesn’t always mean you will miscarry. According to the St. Joseph Mercy Medical Group, heavy bleeding without other miscarriage signs, like cramping or pain, can indicate a threatened miscarriage. When this occurs, the medical group reports an approximate 50 percent of pregnant women will carry the baby to full term. Doctors may conduct a physical exam of your cervix, listen for the baby’s heartbeat, or use an ultrasound to determine whether you are miscarrying.
Septic miscarriages often have more signs than regular miscarriages. The University of Virginia Health System identifies a septic miscarriage as one with an infection. This can cause symptoms like fever, abdominal pain and heavy bleeding. According to the university, a foul odor may accompany vaginal discharge, as well.
An ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus, can be one cause for heavy bleeding and pain early in pregnancy, according to the ACOG. If you have an ectopic pregnancy and the tube ruptures, you may experience pain and an increase in blood loss, which can lead to shock, fainting, weakness and death. If you suspect this has happened, get prompt medical attention.
In the later stages of pregnancy, one of the two major causes for heavy bleeding, according to Medline Plus, is placental abruption, a condition which occurs when the placenta detaches from the site of implantation before delivery. Symptoms often mirror those of a miscarriage but occur after the 20th week in gestation.
If you experience heavy bleeding without pain and you are in your second or third trimester, the bleeding may indicate the presence of placenta previa. According to the March of Dimes, this condition occurs when the placenta develops in the lower section of the uterus, blocking the opening to the cervix. The non-profit association reports that in more than 90 percent of cases the condition corrects itself before delivery. If it doesn’t, you may need to stay in the hospital until delivery, and your doctor may recommend a C-section.
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