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Bleeding During Pregnancy

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Bleeding in the Second and Third Trimesters continued...

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

What to Do If You Have Abnormal Bleeding During Pregnancy

Because vaginal bleeding in any trimester can be a sign of a problem, call your doctor. Wear a pad so that you can keep track of how much you're bleeding, and record the type of blood (for example, pink, brown, or red; smooth or full of clots). Bring any tissue that passes through the vagina to your doctor for testing. Don't use a tampon or have sex while you are still bleeding.

You should expect to receive an ultrasound to identify what the underlying cause of your bleeding may be. Vaginal and abdominal ultrasounds are often performed together as part of a full evaluation.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 right away if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of a miscarriage or other serious problem:

  • Severe pain or intense cramps low in the abdomen
  • Severe bleeding, whether or not there is pain
  • Discharge from the vagina that contains tissue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • A fever of more than 100.4 or more degrees Fahrenheit and/or chills
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on July 05, 2014
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