Almost one-fourth of all pregnant women experiences vaginal bleeding at some point of their pregnancy. But vaginal bleeding at the end of the third trimester of pregnancy poses dangerous threat to the lives of both mother and the unborn child.
Any amount of bleeding during third trimester of pregnancy should always be reported to a health care provider as it may be the first sign of some possible serious pregnancy complications.
The main causes of bleeding in third trimester are placenta previa, placental abruption and bloody show.
Placenta Previa (abnormally located placenta): Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies too low in the uterus, covering the cervical opening. This can be easily spotted with ultrasound during a routine check up. If the placenta is disturbed by muscle contractions, sexual intercourse, or pelvic exam, then there can be painless bleeding through vagina. Most women who have placenta previa experience vaginal bleeding and the color of the blood is usually white red. If the bleeding does not stop on its own, it should be immediately reported to the health care provider.
Placenta Abruption (early separation of placenta): In placenta abruption (also known as premature separation of placenta), the placenta gets detached from the wall of the uterus. A blood clot forms between the placenta and uterus. This blood clot often irritates the uterus, causing contractions. As the placenta provides nutrition and oxygen to the developing baby, the baby's life will be at risk. In the early stages of placenta detachment there is no bleeding but as the placenta gets completely detached there might be some bleeding from the vagina. The bleeding may cause fall in blood pressure, which is dangerous for mother as well as for unborn baby.
Bloody Show: This is one of the most common causes of vaginal bleeding at the end of third trimester. It can occur just few minutes before labor or in early labor as the cervix changes the shape freeing mucus and blood. Bloody show is a relatively common symptom of pregnancy and it does not cause any serious health problem to mother or the baby.
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