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Spotting in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

written by: Victoria Trix • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/31/2009

The first three months of a pregnancy are very important for the growth of the baby. While some spotting during pregnancy is nothing to worry about other times you should seek medical care. Here we will look at both of these situations.

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    The first three months of pregnancy are critical to the baby's creation as well as the mother's health. The first trimester is when any early warning signs may become apparent. Pregnant women should monitor all aspects of their condition to detect any potential problems arising. This would include looking for any unexpected irregularities in the menses (menstrual bleeding) that would signal a possibly unhealthy condition.

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    Harmless Bleeding

    Vaginal discharge in the first trimester is not considered to be unusual, including occasional blood spotting. The fertilized egg will attach to the lining of the uterus, which at times causing light bleeding. This is known as implantation bleeding. Decidual bleeding may also occur when the placenta is being attached to the uterus in this period and some uterine lining may be discharged. This is not generally a sign of a problem.

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    Causes of Spotting

    Hormonal changes in early pregnancy can lead to spotting. Sexual intercourse, pH acidity fluctuation or cervicitis (an infection of the cervix) can affect the cervix and cause internal cells to be exposed through the cervix. This is not necessarily a negative health issue. However, it may cause spotting. Other types of infection may also cause irritation of the cervix that may result in spotting, including STD’s.

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    More Serious Indications

    According to Robert James Gallo, MD, FACOG, spotting that is followed by heavier bleeding and accompanied by severe cramping may be a sign of an impending miscarriage. The chances of having a miscarriage are one in five. These symptoms should be investigated more thoroughly to ascertain the cause of the bleeding. In cases where the egg has been implanted outside the uterus or there may be problems with the uterus itself, a miscarriage will likely occur.

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    Diagnosis of First Trimester Pregnancy Spotting

    While most spotting that occurs in the first trimester is benign, a doctor or gynecologist may want to conduct some tests to decide if any danger is present. According to the National Library of Medicine a quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (HGC) test may be conducted. HGC is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. Its level of presence fluctuates in the first trimester and any unusual changes in the HGC levels may be a sign of possible problems.

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    What to Do

    If spotting occurs in the first trimester, the mother can take steps at home before going to the doctor for further testing. She should rest as much as possible and refrain from strenuous activity. She should not insert anything into the vagina, including tampons and douches. Sanitary pads should be monitored to see the number of pads that are used as well as the amount of bleeding.