Spotting in the First Trimester: When to Worry

Sometimes telling someone not to worry when they're spotting during their first trimester is easier said than done. But really, worry won't get you very far.

Spotting in the First Trimester: When to Worry Alliance/Shutterstock

Is there anything more frightening than a threat to your child? Even if your child is still just a squiggle on the ultrasound screen, a little nausea and a whole lot of hope? Kelly wrote about being newly pregnant and spotting. She's only known about her pregnancy for a couple of weeks and says she felt "elated" for the first 6 days. Then the spotting started and the worry. Ultrasounds have been reassuring that the baby is, indeed, alive and well with a tiny beating heart. She continues to spot though and her doctor has recommended she take it easy, quit running for a while and don't have sex. He also told her that other than that, there's nothing she can do about the bleeding except hope for the best and try not to worry. Yeah, right.

It doesn't take long for a pregnant woman to bond with her baby. Whether it's 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 years, that's our baby and we don't want anything bad to happen to it. The first trimester is one of the most vulnerable times in a mother's life because there really is very little we can do to protect our young. Kelly's bleeding is common. It's not normal but it's common. Somewhere around 25-30% of all pregnancies involve some kind of bleeding episode and more than 50% of those go on to produce healthy babies. Unfortunately, the others produce miscarriage—also not normal but very common. It's reported that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage due to genetic anomalies, infection, hormonal imbalances or problems with the placenta. Most of the time, there's no way to know "why." It's just a sad, sad fact of life. It's been said that miscarriage is Mother Nature's way of making sure babies that weren't going to develop properly don't make it. Tough Love. Survival of the Fittest—that sort of thing. Mother Nature can be a real, ehem, witch.

Kelly's doctor ruled out an ectopic pregnancy—one that's developing in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Thank goodness for that. Ectopic pregnancies are extremely dangerous. The baby won't survive it and sometimes, if it goes undetected for too long, neither does Mom. Kelly's doctor said there was a tiny separation between the placenta and her uterus that was causing the bleeding. The placenta is an amazing organ but it can be a real troublemaker. If it grows in the wrong place or is particularly fragile it can be the cause of bleeding, not to mention a lot of worry. Again, there's not a lot we can do but wait, hope and, of course, worry.

Kelly was advised to quit the long runs and don't have sex. Surprisingly, the part Kelly's having a hard time with is the running. Not surprisingly, a lot of us lose interest in sex during the first few months of pregnancy when we're tired, nauseous and particularly vulnerable. Not to worry, that's what the second trimester is about—big boobs and hormonally enhanced girl-parts to make sex hot again. Kelly's a runner though. They're a special breed unto themselves. My husband's a runner and well, they HAVE TO run. Like the rest of us have to breathe, drink coffee and shop at Target. They HAVE TO run. Yeah, I know, go figure. Having been married to one of them for oh these many years though, I don't have to "get it" to understand.

Kelly, honey, here's my tough love advice—suck it up and quit running for a while. I know you're going to get crazy over this because you HAVE TO run but honey, this is just the first in a long list of stuff you're going to have to do for your baby that you're not going to be crazy about. You won't like getting up 5 times a night for diaper-changes and feedings. You won't like wearing barf in your hair. You won't like the endless hours of Barney, Bob the Builder and Wiggles. You won't like stepping on Barbie shoes, Star Wars Legos or whatever incredibly sharp, tiny toy they'll have invented by the time your baby's in second grade. You won't like the sassing that starts around age 9 and continues through the teen years and you won't like sending them off to college and out of your clutches. Just like now, in your fragile first few weeks of pregnancy, you'll worry, do what you can and hope for the best. As your doctor said, that's all you really can do and it doesn't last forever. Most likely, your placenta will toughen up pretty soon and you can speed-walk, work out on an elliptical trainer, swim and maybe, if your doctor says OK, even run again. But for now—chill. When there's nothing else you can do to protect your baby, sometimes that's the best advice.

And that part about trying not to worry? Yeah, right. I've never met a mother who's mastered that one. You said it's been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for these two weeks you've known you're pregnant. Hang on for the rest of it, Kelly. As far as I can see, now that you're a Mama, they don't let you off this ride. Good luck, honey. I'll be rooting for you.