Not sure what a miscarriage looks like? Learn more here.
Since spotting is one of the primary signs of a miscarriage, it’s natural to panic at the first sight of blood during your pregnancy—I know I did. It took me close to two years to conceive my first son Bode and I spent my first trimester in a constant state of miscarriage fear. I relaxed a bit once I passed the first three months, only to feel my panic return when I started to spot at 17 weeks. When I experienced cramps the next day I immediately called Telehealth Ontario, a 24-hour hotline where you can speak with a registered nurse to obtain medical advice. The nurse didn’t hesitate. “Go to the emergency room,” she said.
My husband and I went straight to the hospital where I was rushed for an emergency ultrasound. Thankfully, the news came back positive. A benign cyst had formed during my pregnancy (a fairly common occurrence due to your body’s hormonal changes). The cyst’s implantation was causing the spotting and bleeding. The baby was fine.
“If there’s a little blood with no other event, chances are it’s not a miscarriage,” says Dr. Doug Wilson, department head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Calgary. In addition to ovarian cysts, there are a host of other reasons for bleeding during pregnancy.
“Around the time of your expected menstrual period some women experience bleeding,” says Dr. Wilson. In fact, many women mistake this for a period and fail to realize they’re pregnant. Implantation bleeding can occur when the egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. Since it takes time for the blood to move from the uterus out of the body, the blood is usually dark brown in colour. Spotting may also be accompanied by minor cramps. Implantation bleeding is completely normal and will disappear in a few days.
After those first few weeks you may experience minor bleeding due to trauma to the cervix caused by sex or physical activity, or because of placenta implantation. “Where the placenta implants itself in the uterus can result in bleeding,” says Dr. Wilson. Placentas that are implanted lower in the uterus are more likely to result in some spotting, as are those that become stuck to the wall of the uterus.
Although there are lots of benign reasons for spotting during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to call your doctor if you see any blood, even if it’s just to rule out a potential miscarriage and put your mind at ease.
Do you think you’re having a miscarriage? Here’s what to do.