Spotting refers to light bleeding from the vagina which is somewhat similar to but lighter than menstruation. The color of blood can vary from person to person, from light brown to red. Spotting is very common in the early weeks of pregnancy. It usually takes place when the period would have been due. One in every five pregnant women has experienced spotting in their first trimester. Conception from various fertility treatments such as IVF increases the chances of spotting. Even though it is a normal and harmless phenomenon during pregnancy it can also be a sign of something else such as a miscarriage and that is why one must get it checked by a doctor at least once.
Spotting can also be a sign of a miscarriage or complications in the pregnancy such as ectopic pregnancy where one can also experience abdominal pain, pelvic pain and cramps. It happens when the egg that has been fertilized gets implanted outside the uterus. The spotting in this case might be darker and more watery making the woman seriously ill and should be treated at the earliest. Similarly, molar pregnancy can cause abnormal spotting. It occurs when the embryo is not able to develop completely whereas the cells of the placenta keep growing. Molar pregnancy affects one out of 700 pregnant women.
If the spotting continues for more than two to three days in a month then one must consult a doctor. A hospital visit could be called for a closer examination of the vagina such as through an ultrasound, scanning, blood test, urine test and other tests to examine the hormonal levels.
Though there is no specific reason behind spotting it might be a result of the following conditions:
- Hormonal changes
- Bleeding due to the embedded fertilized egg in the uterus lining, resulting in implantation bleeding
- Change in the surface of the cervix due to pregnancy hormones
- Embedding of the placenta with the fibroid
- Infection of the cervix or vagina
- Inherited disorders that make blood clotting difficult such as the Von Willebrand Disease
During pregnancy spotting is common with about 20% of pregnant women, especially during first trimester. It is natural to be concerned but one must not panic. Most of the women who have experienced spotting during their pregnancy period have reported to have normal babies and a healthy pregnancy.
Spotting Vs Bleeding – The most common confusion for pregnant women
Even if women are aware of spotting, at time they might confuse it with vaginal bleeding which can happen in any phase of pregnancy. Light bleeding or spotting can be seen under one light if it is in the first trimester. Bleeding on the other hand is heavier and shouldn’t be a common phenomenon during pregnancy. Frequent bleeding during pregnancy is a great cause of concern and calls for urgent medical help.
Implantation bleeding is the most common cause for spotting in pregnancy and happens when the egg that has been fertilized gets attached to the uterus and results in bleeding and spotting. It can occur even before one tests positive for pregnancy and is often confused with a pending period. Another cause is a cervical polyp or a harmless but abnormal growth due to higher estrogen levels that is more prone to bleed during pregnancy. It may also happen because of higher number of the blood vessels of the cervical at the time of pregnancy. Physical contact with this area such as through a sexual intercourse or even a medical exam can result in bleeding.
Even though spotting or bleeding during pregnancy is normal but one really doesn’t expect it. It is very important to keep a track of the symptoms and changes in the cycle of spotting. The concerned obstetrician must be consulted in case there is a significant change in the time and intensity of the spotting to make sure that it is the normal spotting and not because of any complication such as ectopic pregnancy. Also, spotting during the later stages such as in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy is problematic and a cause of medical examination as it can be harmful for the baby as well as the mother. It is important to go through the essential tests to make sure that the cervix and uterus are in the right condition.
To manage through this condition the following steps can also be taken:
- Taking more rest and quality sleep. Naps are also beneficial
- Extra time off feet
- Limiting strain and intense physical activity
- Elevating feet as much as possible
- Avoiding too much lifting