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Bleeding During Pregnancy

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Bleeding in the Second and Third Trimesters

Abnormal bleeding in late pregnancy may be more serious, because it can signal a problem with the mother or baby. Call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any bleeding in your second or third trimester.

Possible causes of bleeding in late pregnancy include:

Placenta previa. This condition occurs when the placenta sits low in the uterus and partially or completely covers the opening of the birth canal. Placenta previa is very rare in the late third trimester, occurring in only one in 200 pregnancies. A bleeding placenta previa, which can be painless, is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

Placental abruption. In about 1% of pregnancies, the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus before or during labor and blood pools between the placenta and uterus. Placental abruption can be very dangerous to both the mother and baby.

Other signs and symptoms of placental abruption are abdominal pain, clots from the vagina, tender uterus, and back pain.

Uterine rupture. In rare cases, a scar from a previous C-section can tear open during pregnancy. Uterine rupture can be life-threatening, and requires an emergency C-section.

Other symptoms of uterine rupture are pain and tenderness in the abdomen.

Vasa previa. In this very rare condition, the developing baby's blood vessels in the umbilical cord or placenta cross the opening to the birth canal. Vasa previa can be very dangerous to the baby because the blood vessels can tear open, causing the baby to bleed severely and lose oxygen.

Other signs of vasa previa include abnormal fetal heart rate and excessive bleeding.

Premature labor. Vaginal bleeding late in pregnancy may just be a sign that your body is getting ready to deliver. A few days or weeks before labor begins, the mucus plug that covers the opening of the uterus will pass out of the vagina, and it will usually have small amounts of blood in it (this is known as "bloody show"). If bleeding and symptoms of labor begin before the 37th week of pregnancy, contact your doctor right away because you might be in preterm labor.

Other symptoms of preterm labor include contractions, vaginal discharge, abdominal pressure, and ache in the lower back.

Additional causes of bleeding in late pregnancy are:

  • Injury to the cervix or vagina
  • Polyps
  • Cancer

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