Spotting during Pregnancy: Causes, Risks, and Treatment

Spotting during Pregnancy: Causes, Risks, and Treatment

You may be concerned when you know you are pregnant and experience light bleeding. Most women have the same reaction. But understanding what spotting during pregnancy is and the causes for it can make them feel a lot better.

Having said that, with everything there are risks. Let’s break down what some of those risks are and how doctors can treat them and ensure you have a healthy and happy pregnancy the best way that they can. 

What is Spotting During Pregnancy?

Spotting during pregnancy can be worrisome. But no need to worry because it is not always a sign that something is wrong. Spotting during pregnancy and bleeding during pregnancy are two separate things. 

Spotting is inconsistent and may happen randomly with very light blood flow. This is maybe a few noticeable drops. It also can have a brownish color from it being dried up. It also may be a little pink or clearish but regardless of the color, it will be significantly lighter than a menstrual period.

Spotting in fact can be a sign of early pregnancy. 

What Causes Spotting During Pregnancy?

What Causes Spotting During Pregnancy?

Aside from spotting sometimes be a sign of early pregnancy, it is a sign of something else during your pregnancy. There can be several reasons for having spotting during your pregnancy where most of them can be treated or shouldn’t cause alarm. Having said that you should always consult your doctor if you suspect something is wrong. 

Let’s talk about some different causes of spotting during pregnancy. 

Implantation Bleeding

Implantation bleeding is the first sign of pregnancy, which is why many women may actually get excited when they first have signs of spotting. Implantation bleeding is when the egg that has been fertilized by the sperm (embryo) starts to implant itself in the walls of the uterus. This can cause light bleeding. 

Once implantation bleeding occurs, it lasts for a very short period. At max, you should have light spotting in no more than a few days.  It also should not be heavy enough to need a tampon or pad. 

Likely, implantation bleeding doesn’t occur until a week to two weeks after conception occurs. 


In worst-case scenarios, spotting can be a result of a miscarriage. Because miscarriage usually produces bright red blood and may be a little heavier than spotting, it should be noticeable. Having said that, determining whether you are having a miscarriage or not is difficult, especially under high stress. 

Signs that accompany a miscarriage are:

  • Lower back pain/cramping
  • Tissue in the spotting/clumping
  • Weight loss
  • Etc. 

Ectopic Pregnancy

On the opposite end of implantation, there is ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy and when the fertilized egg actually implants itself on the outside of the uterus instead of the inside. To tell the difference between implantation and ectopic pregnancy is not in the spotting itself but instead in the other symptoms that accompany it.        

You may feel pelvic pain or abdominal pain. You may start to feel weak and dizzy. It is critical to see a doctor if you suspect that you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. 

Ectopic pregnancies are less common than miscarriages, with a ratio of 1 in 60 women experiencing them. The women who are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy are:

  • Women who have previously experienced and ectopic pregnancy
  • Women who have had pelvic surgery
  • Women who have had an infection in their tubes


Sometimes when women are pregnant, and they have sexual intercourse, it can cause spotting due to aggregation and friction. This is due to the changes that occur to your cervix during the beginning stages of pregnancy. 

We will discuss more later, but intercourse should be painless and if the pain is associated with spotting, call your doctor immediately. 

Is Spotting Normal During Pregnancy?

Is Spotting Normal During Pregnancy?

Spotting has been found in 30 percent of women during their first trimester of pregnancy, so it is not unheard-of to experience. Having said that, when spotting happens, it is always safer to check with a doctor if you have any of the accompanying symptoms. This is to rule out any of the listed above occurrences or find out any other issues that may exist. 

What Does Spotting During Pregnancy Look Like?

Spotting during pregnancy should look significantly different from your menstrual bleeding. While you are likely to use a tampon for your period because of a heavier flow, you should not need a tampon or pad for spotting. Only a few drops of blood should be visible on your underwear or toilet paper. 

Light pink or brownish blood is what most likely you’ll see when you're spotting. This is because it will either be freshly mixed with fluid and diluted or brown from older blood. Bright red blood should not be what you are seeing. 

Spotting During Pregnancy Risks

Spotting During Pregnancy Risks

Spotting is one of those things that can be a great sign because you are pregnant, or can be a bit more worrisome if you know you are pregnant and there are some other symptoms that accompany it. 

Let’s go over some risks of spotting and why you should remain calm, but always treat it with caution. 


As mentioned before, one of the highest risks of spotting during your pregnancy is having a miscarriage. About half the women who experience spotting do not have miscarriages. However, 15-20 percent of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage, with most of that number resulting in the first trimester. 

Again, likely with miscarriages you will experience other symptoms and the spotting will likely turn into heavier bleeding. Cramping or any sort of pain is a sign to contact a doctor immediately. 

Molar Pregnancies

Slightly different from ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies are when there is abnormal tissue growing instead of an embryo. This pregnancy has absent fetal heart tones. This means that it is a “false” pregnancy and sometimes even if there is an embryo it won’t be able to survive. 

When to See a Doctor About Spotting During Pregnancy

While there is no need to hit the panic button if you start spotting, it is never a bad idea to check in with your doctor and let them know you are experiencing spotting or other symptoms. There are, however, times when you should immediately call a doctor. 


Anytime spotting requires a pad or a tampon to stop the bleeding; this is not spotting. This is more than spotting, and you should contact your doctor straight away. If you have severe pain with the bleeding, you can even go straight to an urgent care to get seen quicker than waiting for your doctor to return your call. 

If the spotting persists over a week, you should still call your doctor, as spotting typically will go away after a few days. This can help them rule out any other causes that may be a risk to you or the baby. 

Abdominal/Pelvic/Back Pain

Any sort of back pain, pelvic pain, or abdominal pain, should urge you to call your doctor. It can be sharp and sudden or dull and achy. While there are certainly times when the body experiences all different kinds of pains, it is good to get it checked up on and squared away with the doctor. This way you can have peace of mind and maybe even take something to help you with the aches. 

Second Half Bleeding

Most of the spotting we have talked about is likely to occur in the first trimester or first half of your pregnancy. Having said that, no occasion there is bleeding in the second half of the pregnancy, and it can be due to more alarming things like placental abruption. 

With more serious issues like these, it is important to contact your doctor right away. Luckily, you will be seeing your doctor more often for checkups as you near your pregnancy, so they will be monitoring you closely. 

Spotting During Pregnancy FAQs

It’s normal to still feel worrisome when talking about any sort of bleeding during your pregnancy. This is especially true if it is your first pregnancy. That’s why we can take this section to talk about the most frequently asked questions that come up with spots. 

Does a missed period and spotting after definitely mean I am pregnant? 

No, definitely not! While spotting and a missed period can be a could tell if you are pregnant, it does not guarantee anything. There are several reasons for spotting when you are not pregnant, such as having an irregular period, to begin with. It’s also possible that some women will experience spotting after sex due to similar reasons when they are pregnant. Breakage in the tissue is one of them. 

What are some second-half spotting reasons? 

There are a few different reasons that women will experience bleeding or spotting in the second half of the pregnancy. These are likely more serious than anything that occurs in the first trimester and should be checked out immediately.

Placental Abruption: Only 1 percent of women experience placental abruption. This occurs when the placenta detaches itself from the uterus. This is more common for women who are 35 or older or who have already had children. The symptoms include pain in the stomach and bleeding.

Placenta Previa: This is when the placenta is partially or completely blocking the vaginal canal and opening. This can cause bleeding as well and usually results in a pregnant mother needing to have a c-section if it becomes too difficult for the baby to pass safely. 

Preterm labor: Bleeding can occur when you lose your mucus plug too early and have a baby that is born preterm. In other words, you start to have your baby before your due date, which can result in spotting or bleeding. 

Other causes can result in other issues during the second half of your pregnancy and bleeding, but these are some of the more common ones. Having said that, even the more common ones have lower percentage rates of occurring. If you think you may be experiencing any of the following, be sure to contact your doctor immediately. 

Is it safe to have sexual intercourse when pregnant?

Unless told otherwise by your doctor or midwife, sex is completely safe to have during your pregnancy. Because the penis can not penetrate beyond the vaginal canal, the baby is safe. Even if spotting occurs after sex, it is likely just due to tissue breakage or the cervix experiencing changes. 

Is it important to be careful to have safe sex in a way that you won’t put yourself in a position to fall or hurt yourself, which can be a danger to the baby? This can result in a miscarriage if a woman who is pregnant were to fall or hurt themselves. 

Don’t Stress!

It is always a good idea to continually monitor your health and situation when pregnant. This is why continual checkups, when scheduled and communicating with your doctor, is a great thing. It is perfectly normal to experience light bleeding or spotting in the first trimester of your pregnancy and even early on as a sign that you are pregnant. 

If there are no accompanying symptoms, and you don’t feel pain, then likely everything is normal. If bleeding persists for a few days and any other pain symptoms are accompanied, this is when you should notify your doctor or head to an urgent care center. 

Because spotting is usually light pink and brown rather than bright red, it is easy to spot and normally distinguishable from your period. If it is still a concern to you then feel free to call your doctor as they will be happy to go over this with you during your pregnancy.