Bleeding After Sex While Pregnant: Should You Be Concerned?

Pregnancy often means you have to stop doing certain things—like having a glass of wine with dinner, drinking Diet Coke, and relaxing in the hot tub. But it doesn't mean you have to give up everything you enjoy, including sex. In fact, for most women, having sex during pregnancy is completely safe and not something that has to be avoided—unless your doctor advises it.

That being said, some women do experience post-sex bleeding when they're pregnant. Naturally, when this occurs the anxiety and fear can be overwhelming, especially as you try to figure what is causing it. Fortunately, in most cases, some light spotting or bleeding after sex is nothing to worry about. But regardless of whether or not your bleeding is light or heavy, you should always contact your doctor.

What to Know About Post-Sex Bleeding

Most of the time, light bleeding after sex is due to a normal increase in the superficial veins and capillaries in the cervix and vaginal area. Likewise, vaginal bleeding, especially in early pregnancy, also could be a sign of implantation. Bleeding could even be the result of natural changes in your cervix. Conversely, if you experience heavy bleeding that could be a sign of something more serious like a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Regardless of whether or not your bleeding is light, moderate, or heavy, you should put a call in to your doctor or midwife. They will want to know how much bleeding you're experiencing as well as what color it is. In other words, is the blood bright red, deep red, brown, or a mix of colors. You also should be able to tell them how much bleeding you're experiencing. But try not to worry. Many times bleeding after sex is usually nothing to be anxious about.

Bleeding in the first trimester happens to about 15–25% of pregnant women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Likewise, it's more common in women who have been pregnant before. It's also important to note that in almost all situations, sex during pregnancy is completely safe. In fact, your baby is safe inside your uterus and sealed off from the vagina by a thick plug at the head of the cervix. So, it's unlikely that sex will cause a miscarriage or any serious complication.

Potential Causes of Bleeding After Sex

There are many normal reasons why you might bleed after having sex. For instance, there are more capillaries in the vaginal area and cervix that are designed to carry the blood where it needs to go. Because these capillaries are often delicate and close to the surface, the slightest friction can cause them to break during intercourse and bleed. Here are some other possible reasons why you might bleed after sex.

Implantation

Early on in pregnancy, you can have what is known as implantation bleeding. This bleeding occurs when the embryo burrows into the lining of the uterus. Consequently, during sex, vaginal mucus and semen can carry some of this implantation blood into the vagina, where you may notice some light spotting or bleeding.

Infection

If you have a yeast infection or even an untreated sexually transmitted disease, you may experience some spotting or some light bleeding. Usually, you will have additional symptoms as well like itching and irritation. These issues can be easily diagnosed with a vaginal swab, so be sure to seek treatment right away though so that you and your baby remain healthy throughout the pregnancy.

Vaginal Dryness

If your vaginal area is dry, this can cause tiny tears in the vaginal wall, which results in bleeding or spotting during sex. What's more, some women experience hormonal changes late in pregnancy that can make having sex uncomfortable and cause spotting. Your doctor can help identify if vaginal dryness is the issue and suggest safe ways to add more lubrication during sex. Be sure you get your doctor's approval before using any over-the-counter lubricants though.

Cervical Changes

Your body goes through numerous changes during pregnancy—particularly your cervix. Likewise, your cervix becomes more sensitive during pregnancy so the slightest bumps and movements can cause some light spotting. Even an exam at your doctor's office may cause some spotting afterwards. If you're concerned about the spotting, be sure to talk with your doctor or midwife.

Miscarriage

If you're experiencing heavier, bright red bleeding along with pain during your first or second trimester, this could be a sign of an impending miscarriage. Additionally, the bright red color indicates that this is newer blood and warrants an immediate call to your doctor or midwife. You also may want to consider a trip to the emergency room if you're experiencing other symptoms in addition to the bleeding. But remember, sex does not cause miscarriages. So, your bleeding may just happen to coincide with having sex.

Serious Causes of Bleeding

In some cases, bleeding after having sex can point to a more serious problem. However, it's important to note that having sex likely did not cause any of these complications.

Nonetheless, if you experience heavy bleeding, this is not normal and should warrant getting immediate medical attention.

Here are some more serious causes of bleeding in pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches someplace other than in the uterus. When this happens, it can cause bleeding. It's important to note that an ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition that requires immediate medical condition. Likewise, an ectopic pregnancy will not result in the birth of a baby.

Placenta Previa

In placenta previa, the placenta covers part or all of the cervix. This condition typically occurs during the second or third trimester and often is accompanied by profuse bleeding. Because there is sometimes no pain associated with this condition, it's important to keep track of how much you're bleeding. This condition can cause catastrophic, life-threatening hemorrhaging, especially with sexual intercourse. Even though sex doesn't cause placenta previa, it can initiate bleeding that can be extremely dangerous.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption is a potentially life-threatening condition for both you and the baby. In this situation, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall during pregnancy and causes heavy bleeding as well pain usually in the abdomen and back. If you're experiencing heavy bleeding along with pain, don't delay in reaching out to your medical provider.

When to Get Emergency Care

If you are experiencing heavy bleeding or it is accompanied by cramping, pelvic pressure, contractions, or a fever, you may want to head to the emergency room for an evaluation. But even in this situation, try not to panic. There is still a chance that the bleeding you're experiencing is nothing to worry about.

In the meantime, be sure that you wear a pad and not a tampon so that you can keep track of how much you are bleeding. Doctors often want to know how quickly you're filling a pad end to end. Likewise, if you pass any tissue or clots, save those if possible for the doctor to examine.

A Word From Verywell

If you experience bleeding after intercourse and your doctor assures you there is nothing to worry about, try not to let the incident keep you from having sex, or at least some form of intimacy with your partner. If however, you are not comfortable during sex or if sex is causing you pain, try to find other ways to bond with your partner. You don't want your discomfort to interfere with this special time you have together before the baby arrives.

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Article Sources
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  1. University of Michigan. Vaginal bleeding in pregnancy. Updated May 29, 2019.

  2. March of Dimes. Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy. Updated April 2020.

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