For most women, bleeding is an unavoidable part of our adult life, from teenage years even. We bleed on a monthly basis, we bleed during childbirth, but there are times we don’t want to see blood, literally. Like when we are pregnant. When you’re expecting a baby, any kind of bleeding or spotting is unnerving.
It’s quite ironic that we have something called implantation bleeding, which occurs when the embryo finally settles into the uterus lining and begins its growth missions. The sighting of this blood comes with lots of mixed feelings and that is when you know the consistency of the blood matters a lot. Is it spotting, dark brown or, God forbid, bright red.
Although I never bleed while pregnant (those were months of holiday from the witch), I know several women, close to me, who bled and what they went through at those times is better imagined.
Bola was one of those moms. She is mom to three kids, the oldest of whom is a teenager. She often tells the story of how she bled for most of her first pregnancy. One time, as she was telling the story, she was literally vibrating with emotions, as she recalled those days and the visits to the hospital and calls to her husband to tell him the witch had showed up again.
You see, up until that moment, everything was on an even keel in her life; she had gotten married and gotten pregnant soon afterwards and then the extra ordinary started. After it was confirmed that she was pregnant and they had celebrated that fact, imagine her shock when Aunt Flo showed up the next month, right on the date, it should have come if she were not pregnant.
She said, she had tearfully called her husband at work, to tell him she was bleeding again. Understandably, they were both worried, and he asked her to get a taxi to the hospital, and he would join her there.
True to his words, he joined her at the hospital, where a scan was done and it was confirmed again, that she was indeed pregnant.
“So, why is she bleeding?” Was the question, her husband asked.
Their doctor told them that it was normal for some women to bleed in the first trimester of their pregnancy.
Bola was, however, admitted in the hospital overnight, for observation. By the next morning, nothing much had changed; she was still pregnant and bleeding. She was sent home and told the bleeding should stop soon.
It did, two days later. Unfortunately, for most of the nine months, she was bleeding, except for two months in her second trimester when the witch did not show up. Even when she was heavily pregnant and in her ninth month, she was still bleeding, even though it was mostly light.
Her confession at those times was, “I will have my baby, even if I bleed till the day, labour starts.” Indeed, she had a healthy baby boy. Interestingly, for the one year that she breastfed that boy, Aunt Flo did not show her face. She also did not have that scare during her subsequent pregnancies.
Another mom, Doris, even had a shorter time to live through this; her two week wait but it did not lessen the impact. With the craziness of symptom spotting during this longest 2 weeks of an IVF cycle, it became worse when she started to feel cramps around day 10 and soon, the blood followed.
Mehn, it was crazy! That was when she knew the differences between the blood colour, from spotting, to dark shades to the on and off nature of the cramps. After blowing up her clinic’s phones lines, and going back and forth, she decided to test and it was a BFN. Disappointment couldn’t even begin to describe how she felt.
All her excitement that it was implantation cramps and spotting stopped immediately and she was now worried what the whole cramps and spotting were about. The next day, she was asked to come in, when the spotting started to stain her underwear and they did a blood test on her, even though it was not test day.
It was a positive. Her numbers were quite low but positive nonetheless. When she tested on her test day, her levels had gone up and she was confirmed that the IVF cycle had been successful.
All of this drama was less than 48 hours but it felt like forever. The anxiety was on another level. The positive result felt cathartic.
The truth is any type of bleeding is terrifying during pregnancy, even for the most level-headed of moms-to-be. The good news is although spotting occurs in over half of all pregnancies, it often poses no threat to the mom or baby.
According to my research, it’s even common for a small percentage of pregnant women to have spotting after intercourse, for example, and others may have bleeding for reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy, such as infections or tears to the vaginal wall.
In the second half of a pregnancy, although the risk of miscarriage (known as a stillbirth after the first 20 weeks) diminishes, any bleeding should be taken very seriously, especially if it’s on-going.
Some causes of bleeding in the second half of a pregnancy include; sexual intercourse, cervical checks late in the third trimester when they become more frequent and placenta previa, which is when the placenta covers the cervix either partially or completely.
Others include, placental abruption, where the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus. This can cause severe vaginal bleeding and is life-threatening to both Mom and Baby. Thankfully, it’s a rare occurrence. Lastly is preterm labour in which vaginal bleeding is accompanied by cramping or contractions, diarrhea, pelvic pressure, or back pain before 37 weeks. It could have serious repercussions for the baby if not well managed.
The bottom line is, it does not matter when it occurs, if the bleeding is before pregnancy is confirmed or during pregnancy, it warrants a phone call to your doctor or clinic, if only to confirm nothing is wrong and if you can manage it, then a visit shouldn’t be amiss.
However, be prepared to answer detailed questions about the colour, amount, and timing of blood in order to best help your doctor determine the possible cause and best treatment.
In the end, the scare does not matter, what does is having a healthy baby.
Oluwakemi is a member of The Fertile Chick family, and she is a writer, dreamer and mother of two sets of twins. She is passionate about issues that concern women, and does not shy away from airing her views. And words are her weapon of choice! She is reachable on her handle @oluwakemine
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