Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
My husband Eric and I had just had sex, and I was going pee. I wiped, and froze. There was bright red blood on the toilet paper. I was ten weeks along, so according to a study published in British Medical Journal I had about a 9 percent chance of miscarrying. I know this because I immediately used my shaking hands to look up miscarriage stats. Then I did what any normal woman would do and called my mom while crying so hard I was snorting. She’s an RN and always does a spectacular job of under-reacting to most physical ailments. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Blood is not a definite sign you’re miscarrying.” Because we have no boundaries, I told her the blood came after sex. She assured me the blood was likely coming from my cervix, which bleeds more easily during pregnancy because blood vessels are developing in the area. Because of her aforementioned under-reacting, I still made an emergency appointment with my OB, who seconded everything Mom said. I was fine.
So while it’s never a bad idea to check in with your care provider if you experience vaginal bleeding, you don’t need to panic like I did. Beyond sex, there are many reasons why a bit of blood may flow out as your body moves through all these wild changes. For one, it’s common to have light to medium bleeding as the embryo is implanting in the uterine lining, about ten to fourteen days after fertilization. In addition, the cervix goes through a process called “cervical remodeling” that includes softening, ripening, dilation, and postpartum repair. The softening begins in the first trimester and can cause bleeding in some women; the ripening begins a few weeks or days before you go into labor; and the dilating and postpartum repair stages are self-explanatory. Additional causes of bleeding include a vaginal exam and excessive exercise.
To assure you even more that bleeding is pretty normal, I’ll cite a study, published in Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, that found that 22 percent of women experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy — and many of these go on to have healthy babies, even those that had some heavy bleeding. The study also reported slightly higher rates of bleeding in women of advanced maternal age, those with passive smoking exposure, or women who have had a prior preterm birth or multiple miscarriages or induced abortions.
While I’m here to uplift and not to freak you out, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the more alarming causes of vaginal bleeding, which include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa (when the placenta covers part, or all, of the cervix), placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus), and early labor. But know that these are much less common than the other mentioned causes of bleeding.
What to do
If your trips to the bathroom are shrouded in fear, take five long and slow breaths before sitting on the toilet. These breaths help to pull you out of fight-flight-freeze and allow calm, rational thoughts to return. You can also say an affirmation, like “I am on the exact path to motherhood I’m meant to be on” or “My self and my baby are glowing with health.” Say whatever you need to return to a space of trust.
Then, if blood does appear when you wipe, repeat the process — five deep breaths and repetition of your affirmation of choice. Next, take note of the color and amount of blood, and check to see if any clots or tissue is present. If there is enough bleeding to require absorption, use a pad — never a tampon. Finally, give your care provider a ring to talk through the possible explanations for the bleeding, and then decide whether you need to be checked. All the while, keep breathing and reminding yourself of all the nonthreatening causes for a bit of vaginal bleeding.
After you’ve received the all-clear from your care provider, they might still recommend the following: Netflix-ing and chilling, drinking more water, propping up your feet, backing off physical activity, and not lifting anything over ten pounds.
Anxiety Release Tool: To enhance that deep breathing and affirmation practice, try the tapping technique EFT, which stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. This can reset any fearful, chaotic energy running through your body. Instructions can be found here: yourserenelife.wordpress.com/eft/