Pregnancy guide > Your baby in pregnancy > Pregnancy health > Spotting & bleeding in pregnancy

Spotting & bleeding in pregnancy

We share all you need to know about spotting and bleeding during both early and late pregnancy.
Wherever you are in your pregnancy experiencing spotting or bleeding can be incredibly worrying as you inevitably end up thinking the worst. To help you stay informed we share all you need to know about spotting in pregnancy.

Is spotting during pregnancy normal?

While it's not 'normal' per se, spotting or bleeding during pregnancy is experienced by a large number of women, many of whom go on to have healthy, full term pregnancies. In fact, the NHS estimate that 1 in 10 women notice some kind of bleeding at some stage during their pregnancy.

It's most common for women to experience spotting in early pregnancy, although bleeding can occur later in pregnancy too. It does not however always mean miscarriage although this is undeniably one of the possible causes.

Generally, spotting during pregnancy appears as a lighter bleed that can be anything from light pink to brown in colour. It tends to resemble the bleeding experienced at the start or end of a menstrual period.

What should I do if I notice bleeding?

If you experience any bleeding at all during the course of your pregnancy it's important to take it seriously and get checked out by your doctor, midwife or at a hospital as soon as you are able. While you're waiting for an appointment it's usually best if you try and rest and remain as calm as possible (although naturally that is often easier said than done).

What will my doctor test for?

When you see your doctor or midwife about bleeding in pregnancy they're likely to carry out several tests and checks to make sure that you and your baby are healthy.

To begin with they are likely to feel your abdomen and may also conduct an internal examination. They're also likely to carry out an ultrasound to check that baby is ok. Transvaginal ultrasounds are generally used as these give a more accurate picture of where your baby is positioned and whether the foetus is developing as would be expected, this is particularly the case in early pregnancy.

Your doctor is also likely to listen for your baby's heart beat and take both urine and blood samples from you to check hormone levels.

What will my doctor be able to tell me?

From the various tests and checks he or she carries out your doctor should be able to tell you if your baby is well and whether or not they are developing healthily. If there is an obvious cause for the bleeding such as an infection they will be able to prescribe treatment or, if it is a more serious condition, refer you to a specialist.

What causes spotting in early pregnancy?

Bleeding in early pregnancy can be caused by a number of reasons these include:
  • Implantation bleeding - This occurs when a fertilised embryo attaches itself to the wall of your uterus. As the placenta begins to develop and links between your own and your developing baby's blood vessels begin to occur a small amount of blood can be lost. This is usually experienced 6 - 12 days after ovulation although it's not experienced by all women.

  • Breakthrough bleeding - When you fall pregnant it can take a while for your body to adjust completely and some of the hormonal fluctuations that governed your menstrual cycle can continue to rise and fall. As a result a few women experience light breakthrough bleeding around the time their period was due although this tends to be much lighter than regular menstruation.

  • Trauma - A fall or knock to the stomach may result in spotting or bleeding wherever you are in your pregnancy.

  • Infection - Infections or inflammations of the cervix or vagina or sexually transmitted infections may result in spotting or light bleeding particularly after sexual intercourse.

  • Cervical polyp - These are benign growths that can occur on the cervix and can cause bleeding.

  • Fibroids - These are growths made of muscle fibre that can develop in a women's reproductive system and may cause bleeding.

  • Ectopic pregnancy - This is where a pregnancy attaches and begins to develop outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tubes. Many women experience a sharp, persistent pain in one side of their lower abdomen (either with or without bleeding) when a pregnancy is ectopic. However, unfortunately, for the safety of the mother ectopic pregnancies are not usually allowed to continue developing and have to be removed as soon as possible.

  • Molar pregnancy - This is a relatively uncommon cause of bleeding in pregnancy and is however sadly one in which the mother's safety is at risk. It is for this reason that molar pregnancies are also ended prematurely.

  • Miscarriage - It is possible that bleeding during early pregnancy is a sign of miscarriage, this is particularly the case if it is experienced with abdominal cramping and an increasingly heavy flow of blood. Unfortunately once a pregnancy begins to miscarry there is little that anyone can do to stop it. However, just because you experience bleeding it doesn't necessarily mean that this is the reason so you shouldn't give up hope.

What causes spotting in late pregnancy?

There are also a number of causes of bleeding later on in pregnancy, these include:
  • Cervical ectropion - Cervical ectropion is the most common cause of bleeding in later pregnancy and is simply a result of hormone led changes to the neck of the womb.

  • Placenta praevia - Placenta praevia occurs when the placenta attaches in the lower portion of the womb. It can cause bleeding from the second trimester onwards as the uterus begins to stretch and adapt to your growing baby. Bleeding can also occur if the placenta attaches over the entrance to the cervix.

  • Placenta abruption - This occurs when the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb. Generally, the greater the area of separation, the heavier the bleeding. Bleeding due to placenta abruption is usually accompanied by stomach pain or cramps.

  • Labour - Bleeding later on in pregnancy can be what is known as a show, where the mucous plug that sealed the cervix comes away. This can often appear as heavy, bloody discharge and is often a sign that labour will soon start.

Will my baby be ok?

The sad fact is that when bleeding occurs it is very difficult to predict whether or not a pregnancy is going to end in miscarriage. However, women frequently experience bleeding during pregnancy with no lasting effect on the health of their baby so it's not a foregone conclusion.


Experiencing spotting or bleeding during pregnancy is undeniably a worrying experience whatever the cause. For this reason the best thing you can do if you do experience spotting is to seek medical assistance right away. This way you can stay informed so that you don't stress unnecessarily and get the help you need to make sure you and baby stay as healthy as possible.

Share your worries, concerns and questions about bleeding during pregnancy or anything else with other members on the AskBaby forums.

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I am 16 weeks and 4 days pregnant today I started bleeding light pink in colour is this something to worry about I also have a cramp pain on my right side near my right hip
by megamel32 19th Sep 2013, 10:43am
its quiet interesting because i have been to a hospital seen aa doctor after experiencing bleeding and some clots,she put me on ultrasound and told me i'm pregnant but she suspects i have a cyst and should come back after 2 weeks and gave me some folic acid and pregamal,my worry is its been 5 days and i'm still bleeding is it normal.i have cramps now and then but i dont experience morning sickness i still pregnant thats my answer or should i go back to the hospital?
by owame 20th Jun 2013, 3:41pm
im just over 10 weeks pregnant and experianced slight bleeding yesterday, a red/brown colour and then spotting over last night and this morning. i had a very busy day yesterday and i'm not sure if i just over did it or if something is wrong. i haven't had any bleeding since but am still very worried as this is my first baby so i don't know what to expect. i have left a message for my midwife but she hasnt got back to me yet. if anyone has any suggestions i would really appreciate it.
by aly92 13th Sep 2010, 4:26pm
I am 5 weeks pregnant and over the last 3 days Iv been experiencing quite abit of cramping and today I have a dishcharge brown in colour. I'm getting quite worried as it looks very similar to the sort of discharge I get at the begining of my period. Anyone have any suggestions..
by Nsbm 12th Aug 2010, 10:38am
My best friend is 25 weeks preg and this morning she found a little blood spot on her panties. When she checked under,there was no trace of blood. Should she worry or not and she has been having regular bowel movements evn though its not painful. Plz help im worried about my friend coz she has been trying 4 this baby 4 a long time.
by Primmy 12th Aug 2010, 9:39am
I am 16 weeks pregnant. Yesterday morning my husband and I had sex. Nothing rough just our usual. I went to the bathroom afterwards and I was bleeding bright red like a heavy period. We panicked and went to the OBGYN right away. They didn't do any blood or urine tests but they did give me a roGAM shot because my blood type is RH Negative. The also did an ultrasound to make sure the baby is okay. I was told that the baby is fine and perfectly healthy and that I had to skip work that day and be on light duty for the rest of the week until my appointment with my Dr. on Monday. I still never received any solid answers though. ???
by katebug1585 14th May 2010, 5:00pm
I had a miscarrige last year. I started bleeding a week before which was spotting. A week later a miscarrige started. I found it very difficult to get over as i was a week away from my 12 week scan. I am now pregnant again and im 6 weeks 3 days pregnant. I just experienced bleeding which was a brown discharge. Hopefully everything will be ok and ive got a scan next week!
by xJESSiiCAx 14th May 2010, 3:22pm
I am 6 weeks 4 days pregnant and had some light pink bleeding Sunday, then brown dry blood for next 3 days. Went to docs on Monday and he sent me for an early preg scan this morning (Thurs) Scan went well and baby was correct size and we also got to see the heart beat. Nurse said light bleeding can still be settling in at this stage and not to worry. All the best to you all
by Debja 11th Jan 2010, 3:08pm
i thought it was a period but i bleed for one day and for the last few days i have been having a brown blood/discharge! which it stopped today! i took a pregnancy test day and it was negative but is there a chance that i may still be pregnant?
by staceylynn25 18th Dec 2009, 1:43pm
I too am pregnant (13 wks)and had brown blood/discharge late last night and then again this morning! I have experienced a miscarriage 2 yrs ago and i really dont want it to happen again! I totally freaked out went to doctors where i was a blubbering mess. Was then sent to A&E where i had internal exam blood tests and urine tests - all of which i was told were ok. Have to wait till tomorrow for an ultra sound ! I also had to have an anti-D jab as i am rhesus negative ! I am sooooo nervous ! Just want everything to be ok ! Good luck to all of you in this very scary time !
by dizzygirl 30th Sep 2009, 10:04am
I experienced light bleeding when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. I went to my GP the next day who arranged an ultrasound (3 days later). Everything was A OK and I'm currently in my 19th week. Bottom line-get it checked out, if only to set your mind at rest, your GP/maternity department WON'T mind (and if they do, report them). The well being of you and your baby is THE MOST important thing to focus on!!!
All the best, mum's-to-be
by blackstone 18th Aug 2009, 9:58am
HI im 6 weeks pregnant and today started with a brown discharge when i wipe myself is this normal ?
by inez 17th Feb 2009, 9:53am
hi there im 14 weeks pregnant on my third child and i had a bleed 2 weeks ago n it was bright red it happend dureing intercourse i went 4 a scan n all was well the baby was fine and now and a week later i started 2 get brown blood /discharge and i get a few cramping pains i went to the hospital and nothing they sent me home . im still having brown blood/dischasrge and it has bin a week nw im worried as no 1 is helping me and i wonder if this as happend 2 anybody else xx
by nic244 8th Dec 2008, 8:35am