Any bleeding in early pregnancy is very worrying, particularly if this is your first pregnancy, you’ve had trouble getting pregnant and now it looks like you are losing it.  It is tough even for the most level headed !   Early pregnancy is classified as any pregnancy that has not yet reached 11 weeks.


Bleeding during early pregnancy is very common in the first 12 weeks and is particularly common in the weeks 5-8.  Almost 1:5 pregnancies will have bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy.  There are varying degrees of bleeding, from light spotting, light brownish spotting to heavy bleeding. Some women bleed throughout the whole pregnancy, spotting, streaking and period like blood loss, so as a first line, Mr Penman suggests you read through the information below and assess your symptoms and seek either his assistance or your own obstetrician.


Causes of Bleeding in Early Pregnancy

Spotting occurs in 1/3 of all pregnancies and often poses no threat to the success of the pregnancy. Many women who have experienced bleeding in the early stages of their pregnancies go on to have perfectly healthy babies. Some may experience problems later on in the pregnancy but bleeding, cramping in early pregnancy does not necessarily herald the onset of miscarriage.

What is the Difference between Spotting and Bleeding?

  • A brownish/pink discharge similar to the end of a period would be considered spotting.
  • Bright red discharge that soaks into a pad or panty liner is bleeding.
  • Assess the volume also, a small amount is spotting but soaking a sanitary towel or sanitary napkin is bleeding.


There are several causes for bleeding that have nothing to do with the baby itself.

* Implantation Bleed – As the fertilised egg attaches to the uterine wall, a level of bleeding can occur, this would mainly be light spotting or streaking and not last for more than 3 days. This may well occur around the time your period would be due.

*Breakthrough Bleed – A breakthrough bleed is another possible cause for blood spotting early pregnancy, this is possibly due to the fact that the pregnancy hormones not being high enough in the early stages to stop a light period.

* Hormonal Changes – As the body gets used to the pregnancy hormones, the cervix becomes softened and more likely to bleed during intercourse leading to spotting and/or bleeding after sexual intercourse so nothing to do with the uterus at all.

*Infection- This can be another likely cause of light/moderate bleeding in early pregnancy and something that can be easily treated.

Sometimes no cause can be found for the bleeding.  If the bleeding is light and settles, this is a very good sign that the baby is well.

Occasionally there are more serious complications of early pregnancy that causes  bleeding or heavy bleeding, cramping in early pregnancy and these are symptoms to assess and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

*Miscarriage- It is possible that heavy bleeding in early pregnancy is heralding the onset of a miscarriage. If this should be the outcome, it is nothing that you will have done that will have caused this, most women will experience a miscarriage during their reproductive life.  Almost all cases of first trimester miscarriage, the baby has died weeks before the onset of symptoms. Please
read Mr Penman’s page regarding Miscarriages for more information.

*Ectopic Pregnancy- An ectopic pregnancy is when the developing embryo embeds outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, leading to severe pain, heavy bleeding and is a medical emergency and immediate medical support should be sought.



Treatment and Management of Bleeding in Early Pregnancy


A speculum examination or blood tests are not going to give any answers.

The only thing that most parents want to know is whether the baby is still alive, so the only way to do this would be with an ultrasound scan.  Detection of the fetal heart, showing that the fetus is alive strongly suggests that any bleeding is not heralding a miscarriage.

Mr Penman usually offers same day ultrasound scans for patients suffering with early pregnancy bleeding.

Once the heartbeat has been found, further tests can be carried out to find the cause of the bleeding. Sometimes no cause is found and the light bleeding, cramping in early pregnancy settles down.

If you are experiencing bleeding in the first weeks of pregnancy, rest as much as you can, stay off your feet, do not have sex, do not douche, or use tampons and arrange an appointment with Mr Penman to have him perform an ultrasound scan so he can assess the situation and discuss the best form of management.