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Vaginal Bleeding and Spotting During Pregnancy

Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy can be pretty scary. But it's not always a sign of a problem. Find out what to do if you start to bleed and know when to see a doctor.

What is bleeding and spotting during pregnancy?

You might notice anything from a few light spots of blood on your underwear to a heavier flow of blood coming from “down there.”

What could be causing my bleeding/spotting during pregnancy?

It depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy, says Robert O. Atlas, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

First trimester bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage -- but don’t freak out. There are other reasons for spotting in the earlier weeks. One? Sex. “The increased blood flow to the cervix makes it more pliable and more likely to bleed right after sex,” explains Atlas. It may not be a sign of any problems with your pregnancy.

Later in pregnancy, bleeding could be a sign of placental abruption or placenta previa -- both of which are important to identify early on -- so definitely notify your OB.

When should I go to the doctor about my bleeding/spotting?

Always let your doctor know ASAP if you have vaginal bleeding. If you’ve also got cramping, or if the flow is heavy, pick up the phone right now.

How should I treat bleeding or spotting during pregnancy?

It all depends on what the cause is -- your doctor will help you out with it. If it’s early in your pregnancy, you might simply be told to take it easy. “We tell patients to rest for 24 to 48 hours,” says Atlas.

watch: more on pregnancy spotting and bleeding

Plus, more from The Bump:

Signs of Miscarriage

Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

Placental Problems During Pregnancy

-- Joanne Van Zuidam

See More: Pregnancy Symptoms , Pregnancy Health

Reminder: Medical info on The Bump is FYI only and doesn't replace a visit to a medical professional.