Bleeding during pregnancy can be extremely scary, especially as you get closer to your due date. While there are some instances when a little bit of blood is nothing to worry about, it’s always good to know what’s normal and what isn’t.
One case in which a little bit of bleeding is nothing to be alarmed about is after a cervix check. The cervix is very vascular and gets even more blood flow during pregnancy. Anything that comes in contact with it can cause some bleeding.
That said, too much bleeding can indicate complications. Knowing what’s normal after a cervix check can put your mind at ease and also help you identify when there really is something to worry about.
Why Does the Doctor Do a Cervix Check?
There are a lot of reasons why your doctor does cervical exams in the last few weeks of pregnancy. While the process can be uncomfortable, your doctor needs to perform the exam to get an idea of how things are progressing.
Some physicians perform cervical checks weekly, some do not.
Here are a few of the things that they’re checking for:
Dilation. Your cervix has to be fully dilated in order to start pushing during labor but this process can start a long time before your contractions begin. It ranges from 0 cm when completely closed to 10 cm when it’s completely open.
Effacement. Effacement refers to how much the cervix has thinned. This is measured in percentages. It the cervix hasn’t started thinning, it’s considered 0% effaced. When it’s completely thinned, usually during active labor, it’s 100% effaced.
Station. This tells your doctor where the baby’s head is in relation to your pelvis. It’s measured from -5 to 5 with -5 meaning the baby has not engaged with the pelvis and -5 meaning that the baby’s head is visible at the cervix.
It’s important to note that none of these measurements on its own can tell you for sure that labor is imminent.
Your cervix can be 6 cm dilated and stay that way for days before effacement begins and the baby begins to lower its station.
All of these measurements need to be considered together to make sure that labor is progressing and the only way to check them is with a cervix exam.
How Much Bleeding Is Normal?
Light spotting after a cervix check is normal but it should resolve within 24 hours. If you only see it when you wipe, there’s no cause for concern but it should never be bad enough to require a pad.
When Is Bleeding Abnormal?
If you notice an increase in bleeding, if you saturate a pad, or if bleeding is accompanied by cramping or pain, contact your doctor right away. There are several complications that can happen late in pregnancy and heavy bleeding can be a warning sign that something is wrong.
Two of the most serious of these complications are placenta previa and placental abruption.
Placenta previa is when the placenta partially or completely covers the opening of the cervix. If you have had regular prenatal checkups, this is something that your doctor has likely already discovered through periodic ultrasounds.
In fact, your doctor likely will not check your cervix at all if it’s known you have this condition. That said, if you have not had appropriate prenatal care and begin to see a lot of bright red blood, it should be considered an emergency.
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta begins to pull away from the uterine wall. This can lead to severe bleeding and is considered a life-threatening emergency for mom and baby. It is extremely rare and only affects about 1% of all pregnancies.
It’s important to note that a cervical check does not cause either placenta previa or placental abruption. There is a chance, though, that a cervix exam with a sweep can open the cervix enough that blood from these other complications will be seen.
Bleeding in late pregnancy can be scary but some spotting after a cervix check is completely normal.
The cervix has a lot of blood vessels and even more blood volume during pregnancy. When your doctor manipulates it during an exam, some of the smaller ones can rupture and cause light bleeding.
When should you be concerned? If the bleeding doesn’t stop within 24 hours or if you notice that it’s getting worse.
You should never see enough blood to saturate a pad and any pain or cramping could also indicate a problem. If you’re concerned, call your doctor. Even if it’s nothing to worry about, it’s always better to be safe.