After a romantic night in bed with your partner, you notice a few spots on your underwear.
Did sex cause this? Did I hurt my baby?
Although it can be scary, many women experience spotting during pregnancy. If you experience bleeding after intercourse specifically, there could be a few causes.
In this post, we’re discussing whether bleeding after sex is normal and what you should do about it.
Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?
Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, it’s healthy to have sex during pregnancy. It will not hurt or affect the baby. While you’re doing your business, she’s protected by a strong uterus and amniotic fluid.
In some cases, doctors may advise patients to avoid sex if they’re considered high-risk. For example, you may be told to avoid intercourse if you’re at risk for preterm labor or if you have placenta problems.
Most sexual positions are safe as long as you’re comfortable. You may notice that different positions feel better or worse during different stages or trimesters. With that being said, your sex drive can also change. One day you may have a very high libido, but you’re fatigued and just want to relax the next.
Is Bleeding After Sex During Pregnancy Normal?
If you notice a little bleeding after sex, don’t panic. Seeing blood doesn’t mean you hurt the baby or that you can’t have sex again. Vaginal bleeding occurs in about 15 to 25% of pregnancies. It usually happens in the first trimester, but you may notice spotting on and off throughout your pregnancy journey. This could be brown or red spots and you may notice it anytime, including after sex. Although it can be alarming, it’s not typically a sign that anything is wrong. In fact, a 2010 study found that spotting and light episodes of bleeding are not associated with miscarriage, especially if they only last for 1 or 2 days.
Although most times it isn’t a cause for concern, you should always check with your doctor or midwife. He or she can let you know if it’s normal for you or if you need to make any changes. If you’re bleeding heavily, you should contact your healthcare provider ASAP since it could be a sign of a more serious issue.
Reasons for Bleeding After Sex During Pregnancy
There’s a few possible reasons why bleeding can occur during pregnancy. Depending on the cause, you may just bleed after sex, or you may bleed anytime, including after sex.
- Cervix Changes— Cervix changes are the most common reason for bleeding after sex during pregnancy. When you’re expecting, your hormones are changing and this can affect the cervix. When blood supply to the cervix increases, it becomes softer. Although you probably won’t feel it, the pressure from sex on this sensitive area can cause bleeding afterward. That doesn’t mean that it needs to be avoided though; this is a normal occurrence.
- Vaginal Dryness— If you’re not properly lubricated during intercourse, it can cause small tears in the vaginal wall, which may cause spotting. Even if you’re in the mood, changing pregnancy hormones could be to blame for dryness. Another possibility is that you’re less inclined to have sex because of stress or body image concerns. When your mind isn’t into it, it can stop the vagina from getting as wet as it normally would. If this is the cause, you can talk to your partner to increase comfort and use lubrication.
- Infection— Untreated sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, can cause spotting but otherwise cause virtually no symptoms. Yeast infections, which are common, can also cause light spotting. If you get these infections frequently, it can cause vaginal tears, leading to blood. It could also be a side effect of vaginal treatments since anything that affects pH balance may cause irritation.
- Implantation Bleeding— Light or medium bleeding could signal implantation. In early pregnancy, the embryo implants into the uterine wall, which can cause spotting. This happens during the first trimester around the time of your expected period. However, during this time, many women don’t know they’re pregnant yet because a pregnancy test only shows positive once implantation has happened. This means that although it’s an unlikely cause of bleeding after sex, it could be the cause if you merely suspected pregnancy but haven’t yet tested positive.
- Placenta Previa— This happens when the placenta covers some or all of the cervix. It generally happens in the second or third trimester. If this is the cause of your bleeding, it will probably be bright red.
- Ectopic Pregnancy— Although it’s rare, bleeding after sex during pregnancy can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fertilized egg attached outside of the uterus (meaning that the baby won’t survive).
- Miscarriage— More on this in the section below.
- Other Complications— Although rare, bleeding can also be a sign of other complications, such as placental abruption, cervical polyps or early labor (if accompanied by contractions).
Normal Vaginal Bleeding Vs. Miscarriage: What’s the Difference?
Not all vaginal bleeding means that you’ve had a miscarriage. If you’re wondering what the difference is, consider the other symptoms of miscarriage:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or heavy spotting (usually bright red)
- Intense abdominal pain or cramping
- Mild or intense back pain
- Tissue or fluid vaginal discharge
Women who have miscarriages may have one or all of these symptoms. If you experience any symptoms, you should contact your doctor ASAP.
If you’re bleeding heavily but haven’t had a miscarriage, you should still talk to your doctor. Heavy bleeding could put you at a higher risk. One 2010 study concluded that first-trimester heavy bleeding, particularly paired with pain, is associated with a higher risk of miscarriage.
What Can I Do About Bleeding After Pregnancy Sex?
If you’ve checked with your doctor and they say everything is okay, you can continue having sex. Your spotting may stop for good or return later during your pregnancy journey. Unfortunately, if your bleeding is normal, there’s no way to stop it. If your bleeding only occurs when you have sex, you can avoid it by not having intercourse, but there’s no medical reason to stop. Sex can be a great way for partners to destress and bond, so unless it’s causing other issues, go for it!
Although bleeding can be annoying if it’s staining your underwear, there’s a few things you can do. If the spotting is light, wear a pantyliner after sex. For medium bleeding, wear a pad. Never use a tampon for light bleeding or in anticipation of bleeding. Tampons need the moisture of blood to expand and using it without that could cause an infection.
Bleeding After Sex: Should I Contact My Doctor?
If your spotting is red or brown, light flow, lasts for a short period of time and is mixed with mucus, it’s probably normal. However, the only way to be sure is to talk to your doctor. Even if you’re 100% healthy, having the go-ahead from your doctor can make you feel more reassured next time you have sex.
If you have painful sex during pregnancy or experience other symptoms, that could be a cause for concern and your healthcare provider should know.
If your bleeding is heavy, lasts for longer than a few days and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, talk to your doctor ASAP. Although it could be nothing, it could also be a sign of complications that need to be addressed.
When you talk to your healthcare provider, they’ll ask you a few things, such as:
- When did you first notice the bleeding?
- Is it continuous or off/on?
- Does it happen every time after sex?
- Does it happen just after sex or any time?
- Is it spotting or a light, medium or heavy flow?
- What color is it?
- Is it accompanied by other symptoms?
If your doctor isn’t sure whether your bleeding is normal, they’ll run a few tests, depending on the suspected cause.
Summary on Bleeding After Sex During Pregnancy
Light red or brown spotting or bleeding after sex during pregnancy is usually normal. The most common reason is changes that happen to your cervix during pregnancy. This leads the area to become more sensitive to the pressure of intercourse. However, that doesn’t mean you need to stop. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, sex is healthy and safe for most pregnant couples. Still, you should ask your healthcare provider about any bleeding to be safe. Heavy and prolonged bleeding could be a sign of serious problems, such as ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
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