What is considered heavy bleeding during pregnancy?

Bleeding during pregnancy is an expectant mother's worst nightmare. While bleeding does not necessarily mean a miscarriage or premature birth is imminent, it is not something to ignore, especially if it is heavy. Heavy bleeding during pregnancy often indicates a serious condition is present, so you need to call your doctor immediately.


Any time a woman who is pregnant begins to bleed, she begins to panic. Bleeding can have a harmless cause, but it is always a reason to be concerned and call your doctor. Heavy bleeding is enough blood to soak into a maxi pad. If the blood is present on the toilet paper when the woman goes to the bathroom or makes a few spots on her underwear, it is not considered heavy bleeding. If you experience bleeding of any type while pregnant, wear a maxi pad so that you can monitor it.

Time Frame

Heavy bleeding during the first trimester, or first three months, of pregnancy often indicates a miscarriage is occurring. However, there are many causes of first trimester bleeding that are not indications of a miscarriage, so getting medical help quickly is important. In the second or early third trimester, heavy bleeding during pregnancy indicates a serious medical problem, so call your doctor immediately. Bleeding can indicate labour is coming towards the end of the pregnancy, usually around 36 weeks or later.


Heavy bleeding during pregnancy does not necessarily mean that a miscarriage is occurring. In the first trimester, hormonal changes and damage to the cervix during intercourse can cause bleeding, and sometimes this is fairly heavy. Placental problems are the most common causes of late pregnancy bleeding. Problems with the cervix or vagina can also cause later pregnancy bleeding. Placental abruption, or the separating of the placenta from the uterine wall, is one of the most common causes of heavy bleeding in later pregnancy and often leads to a miscarriage or early birth.


Many old wives' tales warn women not to do certain activities, such as putting their hands over their heads or lifting heavy objects, as this can cause miscarriage or bleeding during pregnancy. There is little that a pregnant woman can do to prevent heavy bleeding when they are pregnant. The conditions that cause it, like placental abruption, occur due to problems with the baby or uterus, and nothing a mother did or did not do can cause this to occur.

Expert Insight

If you are pregnant and begin to bleed heavily, call your doctor immediately. If it is after hours, call the after hours hotline or on-call nurse. If you are in the second or third trimester, your doctor may advise you to go to the hospital to be monitored for other symptoms of labour. Your doctor will probably order an ultrasound to check the condition of the baby and placenta. If you can, sit down, put your feet up, and try to relax. The less active you are, the better for your baby.