Bleeding or pain in early pregnancy
Vaginal bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy is common and does not always mean you have a problem.
However, depending on the volume of bleeding, it can be a warning sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
One in 4 women will experience bleeding and/or pain during their first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately half of these pregnancies may also end in miscarriage, which cannot be prevented.
Sadly, 1 in every 5 to 6 pregnancies are miscarried. There is no medication or treatment that can be given to prevent a miscarriage.
Most miscarriages are a one-off event and having a miscarriage doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Miscarriage – a loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation (growth).
Causes of bleeding and pain in early pregnancy
There are several possible causes of bleeding and/or pain in early pregnancy.
- Implantation bleeding – this happens when the fertilised egg implants in the uterus lining, causing some cramping pain or light bleeding.
- Bleeding from the cervix – this is more common in pregnancy due to the increased blood flow.
- Ectopic pregnancy – this is when a pregnancy takes place outside of the uterus, such as in the fallopian tube.
- Molar pregnancy – this is a rare abnormal development of the placenta.
Sometimes the cause of the bleeding or pain is unknown, but the pregnancy will continue.
At the emergency department
If you experience bleeding or pain in early pregnancy, seek immediate emergency medical advice. You may have to go to the emergency department at King Edward Memorial Hospital.
It is recommended women experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage go to the emergency department at King Edward Memorial Hospital, if this is possible.
A doctor or midwife at the emergency department will run a number of tests to check:
- how much blood you have lost
- your blood group
- your urine
- your blood pressure
- your heart rate
- your temperature.
If you have minimal blood loss and are not in severe pain, you will be assessed as a non-emergency patient and you may be referred to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Service (EPAS) clinic at King Edward Memorial Hospital.
If you previously had an ultrasound that confirmed your pregnancy is in your uterus, the bleeding you are experiencing will not be due to ectopic pregnancy.
Where to get help
- Always dial 000 in an emergency.
- See your doctor.
- Visit a GP after hours.
- Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.
- Call the emergency department at King Edward Memorial Hospital on 9340 2222.
- Bleeding and pain in early pregnancy is common.
- Heavy bleeding or blood clots could indicate a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
- Such symptoms can include bleeding, spotting, cramps and stomach pain.
Women and Newborn Health Service
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.