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Does Early Pregnancy Bleeding Mean I'm Having a Miscarriage?


Updated July 14, 2014

Question: Does Early Pregnancy Bleeding Mean I'm Having a Miscarriage?

First things first: If you are pregnant and having vaginal bleeding, take a deep breath. It's scary and worrisome, but bleeding in pregnancy does not always mean miscarriage -- even if it is red and has clots. Anywhere between 10% and 30% of pregnant women who carry to term remember having some amount of bleeding or spotting at some point in their pregnancy.

Here’s a look at what bleeding or spotting can mean at different points in the pregnancy. Remember that with any case of bleeding or spotting in pregnancy, the best thing to do is to call your doctor for advice.

First Trimester

It’s undeniable that bleeding or spotting in the first trimester may mean a miscarriage, but it can also mean other issues. About half of women who have first-trimester vaginal bleeding have a miscarriage. That might sound scary, but that also means that half of women who have bleeding don't miscarry.

Light brown-tinged spotting can happen after a pelvic exam or sexual intercourse, but this type of spotting should stop within a day or so. Some women also have something called implantation bleeding, which is spotting that occurs in the first month as the lining of the uterus adjusts to the newly implanted pregnancy.

First-trimester vaginal bleeding is more likely to be the result of a miscarriage if it is heavy and red, and if the quantity gets heavier rather than lighter. Still, even heavy bleeding with clots does not automatically mean miscarriage. Always call your doctor for advice when in doubt.

Second and Third Trimester

Vaginal bleeding in the second or third trimester usually means you need to see a doctor right away, particularly if the bleeding is heavy and red or accompanied by other symptoms. Light brown spotting could still occur for similar reasons as first trimester bleeding (it could be from slight irritation of the cervix after sexual intercourse or from a medical exam). But bleeding in the second or third trimester could mean a more serious condition, such as placental abruption or placenta previa.

If you are experiencing symptoms like a dull backache, cramps, or contractions, you may be in preterm labor. Call your doctor immediately for advice when having bleeding in later pregnancy.


A.D.A.M. “Vaginal bleeding in pregnancy.” 23 May 2006. A.D.A.M. About.com Healthcare Center. Accessed 21 Dec 2007.

American Pregnancy Association. “Bleeding During Pregnancy.” Aug 2007. Accessed 21 Dec 2007.

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