Bleeding in early pregnancy

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Emergency department factsheet
Bleeding in early pregnancy
What is bleeding in early pregnancy?
In early pregnancy (less than 12 weeks) more information
is gained by using a small slender scanner which is placed
Bleeding from the vagina in early pregnancy is common.
in the vagina. You will need to have a full bladder prior to the
It is thought to happen in almost one-in-four pregnancies.
scan. An ultrasound scan takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
It is not always possible to find out why a woman is bleeding.
If an ultrasound is needed, it can be arranged through the
One cause is called an implantation bleed. This occurs when
emergency department or your local doctor. Most women
the pregnancy implants (buries) itself into the lining of the
are eager to know very quickly what is happening. However,
uterus (womb). The bleeding wil often last a few days then stop. there is usually no urgency and the ultrasound can be done
About one in three women who have bleeding will go on to
in the days ahead.
miscarry. A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before
the foetus (unborn baby) can survive outside the womb.
Home care
Miscarriage usually occurs in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
No specific treatment can prevent a miscarriage, but there
Most miscarriages occur without a clear cause. The development are some general measures that may help.
of a baby is a complex process. If something goes wrong,
• Get plenty of rest.
the pregnancy will fail.
• Use pads rather than tampons while you are bleeding.
• Avoid sex while you are bleeding. Sex can resume once
the bleeding has stopped.
• Take mild painkillers, such as paracetamol, if needed.
• Report any changes in your condition to your local doctor.
What to expect
The bleeding may be light and stop in a day or two. Many
people go on to have a healthy baby at full term (38-40 weeks).
Sometimes the bleeding can become heavy and a miscarriage
is likely. During a miscarriage, some of the pregnancy tissue
It can take some time for the doctor to find out why you
may remain inside and this can lead to very heavy bleeding
are bleeding. You may require a number of tests, including:
if it is not treated.
• a vaginal examination
The doctor will advise if you need further treatment.
• blood tests
This may include a dilatation and curette (D&C) to remove
• an ultrasound scan.
pregnancy tissue.
A vaginal examination looks at the size of your uterus and
How will I feel?
the amount of bleeding. The examination lasts a few minutes
You may feel a range of emotions over this time. Guilt is a
and there may be mild discomfort.
normal feeling but do not blame yourself, as you have most
Blood tests are taken to check your blood type and sometimes likely done nothing wrong. Your body will be going through
the amount of pregnancy hormones in the blood.
changes in hormone levels and this can make you feel very
If you are Rhesus (Rh) negative, you may require an injection
emotional. It may help to talk to family or friends.
of anti-D immunoglobulin to prevent problems with the
Rh factor in future pregnancies.
An ultrasound uses sound waves to look at the pregnancy
and foetus. The scan involves placing some gel on your
abdomen (tummy) then a hand-held scanner provides
pictures of the pregnancy.

Emergency department factsheet
Bleeding in early pregnancy
Seeking help
Return to the emergency department
promptly or call an ambulance (dial 000) if:
• you have severe pain
• are losing a lot of blood
• your are dizzy or collapse
• the vaginal discharge is offensive smelling
• you have pain in the tip of your shoulder/s.
For other medical problems or any concerns see
your local doctor or health care professional.
For health advice from a Registered Nurse you
can call NURSE-ON-CALL 24 hours a day
on 1300 60 60 24 for the cost of a local call
from anywhere in Victoria.*
NURSE-ON-CALL provides access to
interpreting services for callers not confident
with English. Call 1300 60 60 24.
*Calls from mobile calls may be charged at a higher rate
Want to know more?
• Ask your local doctor or health care professional.
• Visit the Better Health Channel
If you would like to receive this publication in an accessible format,
please phone 9096 8064 or email [email protected]
June 2008. Also available online at
Disclaimer: This health information is for general education purposes only. Please consult
with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you.