There is a significant difference between spotting in pregnancy and bleeding in pregnancy. Spotting is a few light dots of pink, red or brown blood. Bleeding is a steady flow of blood from the vagina. Both spotting in pregnancy and bleeding are a cause for a call to the obstetrician’s office no matter what time of day or night.

What causes spotting in pregnancy?

Spotting in pregnancy can be caused by implantation of the blastocysts, or fertilized egg, in the uterus. Most often, this occurs early enough in the pregnancy that a woman has no idea she is pregnant. After fertility treatments or IVF, women may find out they are pregnant via a blood test taken within one week of the procedure. In this case, the woman may know she is pregnant when the spotting occurs.

Spotting in pregnancy can also be caused by sex. More blood is flowing to the cervix during pregnancy, so intercourse can cause some spotting if the cervix has been “scuffed” or “bumped” too hard. An internal exam by the obstetrician may also cause spotting in pregnancy. The doctor will typically go over the chances of spotting in pregnancy before the exam or after the exam is complete.

If there is an infection of the vagina, such as a yeast infection, spotting in pregnancy can occur. The infection will need to be treated with antibiotics approved for use during pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage can cause spotting in pregnancy. The spotting in pregnancy will typically be associated with other symptoms like cramping, back ache and abdominal pains.

As the pregnancy comes to an end, spotting in pregnancy can be associated with beginning labor. This spotting will occur when the cervical mucus plug dissolves, as well. Some women report spotting in pregnancy just before the bag of waters breaks and active labor begins.

When does bleeding in pregnancy occur?

Unlike spotting in pregnancy, bleeding in pregnancy is often associated with health risks to mom and baby. The bleeding may be attributed to an injury to the vagina during intercourse, but a vaginal exam will need to be performed to determine if this is the cause of bleeding during pregnancy or some other health issue.

Bleeding during pregnancy can also be associated with miscarriage. Pregnant women need to call their physician immediately when bleeding during pregnancy occurs. It is important to be calm and follow these three steps. First, place a menstrual pad in place. Second, have someone drive you to the emergency room or call 911. Third, contact the obstetrician to tell them you are bleeding in pregnancy and you are on the way to the hospital.