When Cynthia Corona from San Jose, California, was having light spotting, she was "freaking out." Her spotting had been intermittent, just some pink and brown on the toilet tissue, but she was terrified of losing the pregnancy. An ultrasound a few weeks later calmed her fears. Not only was she still pregnant, but she was expecting twins. The spotting turned out to be just her body's way of adjusting to a twin pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms
When a woman finds anything that even remotely resembles blood when she's pregnant, her first thought is usually of miscarriage. But according to Dr. Aneema Van Groenou, a staff physician at Kaiser Permanente in Hayward, California, and the author of The Active Woman's Guide to Pregnancy: Practical Advice for Getting Outdoors When Expecting, a miscarriage generally has some pretty specific symptoms associated with it aside from just spotting.
"Some people do spot during a typical pregnancy, especially in the first three months as your body adjusts to the hormone levels," says Dr. Van Groenou. "It commonly happens around the time your period would be due. Sometimes people don't even realize they're pregnant because they bleed right on schedule."
Calling Your Doctor
The first thing to do if you notice spotting is to call your doctor. Dr. Van Groenou says doctors will ask a series of questions to determine the severity of the problem, such as:
- What color is the blood? Red means it's fresh; brown means it's old.
- Are there clots or tissue?
- Is there pain? Where and how bad?
- Is there fever?
- Did the spotting begin after intercourse or is there pain with intercourse?
- Have you spotted previously in this pregnancy?
- Have you already had an ultrasound that determined the pregnancy was in the uterus?
If the answer to the last question is "no," Dr. Van Groenou's first step is to schedule an ultrasound because, though rarely, bleeding during pregnancy is a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be dangerous to the health of the mother.