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Spotting during pregnancy is more common than you think

For a few hours in the morning of November 19, 2019, I thought that I had lost the fetus growing inside of me. A costly trip to the emergency room and an ultrasound assured me that my son-to-be was just fine. If I had a chance to redo things on this day, I still would have wanted an examination from a medical professional. However, I would have benefited from just a little more prenatal education, which would have spared me considerable emotional distress. Before I tell the story of the worst day of my pregnancy, I must acknowledge the women who have experienced miscarriage and other forms of infant loss. This group of women includes one of my very best friends. My pain is a faint whisper compared to their anguished cries. Nevertheless, my story still has value for expectant mothers, so I share it for them.


That November morning, I went to the bathroom at work and saw fresh blood on my underwear. I immediately feared the worst. I called my provider and explained the situation; the receptionist advised me to go to the hospital. I somehow drove myself there, my vision dangerously compromised by my tears and racing thoughts. My husband accompanied me to one of the private rooms where we waited to learn the fate of our baby. The hospital gown and medical bracelet made everything feel so real and unreal at the same time. I hadn’t expected to be wearing these things for another six months.


An obstetrician accompanied by a medical student came in to examine me and finally, to perform an ultrasound. An image registered on the screen, an image that only just started to look more like a baby and less like a blob. The OB assured me that his heart was beating and that he looked perfectly healthy. I immediately cried a fresh round of tears that was an equal mixture of joy and utter relief.

I left the hospital with the most beautiful sonogram I had ever seen and an understanding of what happened to me. I learned that spotting during early pregnancy is common - it occurs in about “15 to 25 out of 100 pregnancies” – and is often not a cause for concern. My personal experience bears this out: Of my six closest female friends who have had children, three of us have experienced spotting during the first trimester, and we all delivered perfectly healthy full-term babies. If I had known these comforting facts before the morning of November 19, the day would have gone quite differently.


As I mentioned earlier, I still would have wanted to be seen by a medical professional, but a trip to the hospital would have seemed unnecessary. I would have preferred to see my regular provider, my trusted midwife. And, while I waited for my appointment, I wouldn’t have been nearly as distraught. Concerned, yes, but nowhere as emotionally volatile as I was on the morning of November 19. I felt alternatively panicked, numb, frenzied, and relieved in the span of about four hours. When I finally returned home, the exhaustion overtook my adrenaline, and I passed out on the couch.


OBs, nurses, and midwives: I challenge you to educate pregnant people about bleeding during pregnancy. Help us recognize when bleeding is a sign of a serious problem – and when it is not – and tell us what to do in both scenarios. I know that it is impossible and impractical to prepare us for every eventuality, and I also know that you don’t want to scare us unnecessarily. But, bleeding during pregnancy is just the right amount of terrifying and common that it’s worth mentioning to the women in your care.

 

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