Around one in 10 mums-to-be experience bleeding. 'It's natural to panic and assume you're losing your baby, but there are many different causes,' says midwife Sharon Broad. 'Some are serious, but 75 per cent of women who bleed in pregnancy do go on to have healthy babies.'
Nothing to worry about
Bleeding in later pregnancy is less common. Cervical erosion, where hormones cause the cervix (the neck of the womb) to become fragile, may cause some light spotting. 'There's no risk to you or your baby,' says Sharon.
A blood-tinged blob of mucus, close to your due date, is likely to be a 'show', when the plug that seals the uterus comes away. This means labour is about to start, although it may not be for several days.
What to do
Any blood loss needs to be investigated, so call your GP or midwife. 'If we suspect cervical erosion, we'll ask if you've recently had sex,' says Sharon. 'We may need to examine you to see if the blood is coming from the surface of the cervix or inside the womb. We'll then monitor you closely.'
When it's more serious
Bleeding in later pregnancy can be caused by placenta praevia, where a low-lying placenta blocks, or partially blocks the cervix. 'This bleeding is light red and painless,' says Sharon. If it's a small, one-off bleed, it's likely you'll simply be offered extra check-ups. But if the placenta is completely blocking the cervix, it may cause severe bleeding. In this case, you'd probably be admitted to hospital for observation until the baby is born, usually by Caesarean.
The other cause of bleeding in late pregnancy is placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the wall of the womb. 'It's often accompanied by pain,' says Sharon. 'It's rare but needs attention - if a lot of the placenta separates, it will stop oxygen getting from you to your baby.
What to do
If the bleeding is very heavy or accompanied by pain, go to hospital straight away. A scan will find the cause, so you'll get the right treatment - whether it's monitoring, bed rest or an early delivery.
Find more info...