Seeing blood when you're only 5 weeks pregnant can be scary. But while some bleeding or spotting can signal a problem, other times it's completely normal. This guide covers the common causes of bleeding at 5 weeks pregnant, how to tell if it's a sign of concern, and when you need to call the doctor right away.
Bleeding during the first trimester of pregnancy is more common than you may think. Up to 30% of women report some spotting or light bleeding in the first 12 weeks. But unless it's heavy bleeding that lasts for days, it usually isn't dangerous for mom or baby.
Normal Causes of Bleeding at 5 Weeks Pregnant
Let's start with the benign reasons you might see blood at 5 weeks pregnant. These include:
One of the most common and harmless causes of bleeding is implantation bleeding. This happens about 6-12 days after the sperm fertilizes the egg, as the embryo burrows into the lining of your uterus.
Implantation bleeding is usually very light pink or brown colored discharge. It's caused by the blood vessels that form during implantation. The bleeding itself only lasts a day or two and appears as light spotting when you wipe.
Since implantation occurs around week 4-5 of pregnancy, any bleeding around 5 weeks could be from this process. Implantation bleeding isn't heavy enough to fill a pad or tampon. At most, you might notice a few spots of blood in your underwear or when you wipe.
If you're tracking your cycle, implantation bleeding can seem similar to the start of your expected period. But there are a few key differences:
Implantation bleeding is much lighter, like spotting. Periods start off light but get heavier.
The blood is often pink or brown, rather than bright red like period blood.
Implantation bleeding only lasts about 1-2 days max. Periods normally last 4-7 days.
It happens about a week or two before your period is due.
So if you notice light spotting that goes away after a day or so around 5 weeks pregnant, it's likely just implantation bleeding. This is a good sign that the pregnancy is progressing normally!
Another common and harmless cause of bleeding in early pregnancy is changing cervical cells. Your cervix - the opening of the uterus - is very sensitive during pregnancy. The increase in hormones causes extra blood flow to the cervix.
As a result, you may notice light bleeding after sexual intercourse, a Pap smear, vaginal exam, or simply from the sensitivity. Spotting from cervical changes is normal in the first trimester as your body adjusts to pregnancy.
Like with implantation bleeding, this type of bleeding is very light pink or brown discharge. It's not heavy like a normal period. If intercourse triggers the bleeding, it should only last a day or so afterward.
When Bleeding Can Signal a Problem
While light spotting at 5 weeks is usually normal, heavy bleeding with cramps can be a red flag. Here are some of the potential problems that bleeding can signal:
Heavy bleeding with strong cramping can be a sign of miscarriage - when you lose the pregnancy before 20 weeks. About 10-15% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, often in the first trimester.
However, light spotting doesn't necessarily mean you'll miscarry. One study found over half of women who did miscarry had no bleeding or cramping beforehand.
Miscarriage becomes more likely with:
Increasing maternal age - Risk rises starting in the mid-30s. At 40, risk is about 40%.
Previous miscarriages - After one miscarriage, risk of another is about 14-21%. After 2 or more, risk rises to 28%.
Health conditions - Thyroid problems, PCOS, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and blood clotting disorders can increase miscarriage risk.
Birth defects - Major chromosomal abnormalities that aren't compatible with life often end in miscarriage.
Smoking, drug use, and alcohol - These contribute to chromosomal issues and poor placental health.
If you have heavy bleeding with strong cramping at 5 weeks pregnant, it's important to call your doctor right away. They can do an ultrasound to see if the pregnancy is still viable and may test your hCG levels. Unfortunately miscarriages can't be prevented in most cases.
An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. This isn't viable - an ectopic can't proceed as a normal pregnancy.
Without treatment, the tube may rupture and cause severe internal bleeding. Ectopic pregnancies occur in about 2% of pregnancies. Risk factors include:
- Prior ectopic pregnancy
- Tubal surgeries or damage
- Multiple sexual partners
- PID or pelvic infections
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Light vaginal bleeding or brown/black discharge
- Severe belly or pelvic pain, usually on one side
- Pain with bowel movements or while coughing/moving
A combination of bleeding and severe unilateral pain could signal an ectopic pregnancy. Call your OBGYN or visit urgent care immediately, as a ruptured ectopic can become life-threatening.
Any infection involving the reproductive system can also cause bleeding in early pregnancy. These include:
STDs - Gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis. Bleeding is often accompanied by itching, odor, and abnormal discharge.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) - A bacterial imbalance in the vagina. May cause gray, foul-smelling discharge.
Yeast infections - Characterized by thick, white cottage cheese-like discharge and intense itching.
Bleeding from infections may be light at first. But without treatment, the infection can spread upwards into the uterus, increasing the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is of particular concern in pregnancy. PID occurs when STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea go untreated. It causes infection and inflammation in the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
PID in pregnancy can lead to serious complications like ectopic pregnancy, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and abscesses. So any abnormal discharge, bleeding, pain, or urinary issues should be checked by your doctor.
Some vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis don't cause symptoms for 50% of women. Your doctor may recommend routine screening for STDs and infections in early pregnancy. Prompt antibiotic treatment can resolve most vaginal infections before they impact your pregnancy.
When is Bleeding a Cause for Concern?
As you can see, light bleeding and spotting is common in the first trimester and usually normal. But how do you know when bleeding warrants a call to the doctor?
Here are some red flags to watch out for:
Heavy, bright red bleeding - More than light spotting that can fill a pad or tampon signals a potential problem. The heavier the bleeding, the higher the risk.
Severe cramps or pain - Mild cramping can accompany normal implantation or cervical bleeding. But severe cramps paired with heavy bleeding are of concern.
Bleeding lasts more than 2 days - Implantation bleeding goes away after 1-2 days max. Anything longer could be problematic.
Bleeding accompanied by lightheadedness - Significant blood loss can cause you to feel faint. This warrants an immediate call to the doctor.
Fever, chills, foul-smelling discharge - These can indicate infection alongside bleeding and need medical attention.
Tissue or clots in the blood - Passing tissue may signal miscarriage. Large blood clots are also worrisome.
Trust your instincts - you know your body best. Even if bleeding starts out light, call your doctor right away if it gets heavier or if you have significant pain. Getting checked out quickly can prevent complications.
Distinguishing Implantation Bleeding vs a Period
For many women, the trickiest part is figuring out whether spotting around 5 weeks pregnant is implantation bleeding or your regular period starting. Here are some ways to tell:
Implantation bleeding: Light pink or brown colored discharge
Period: Bright or dark red blood
Implantation bleeding: Very light spotting, barely noticeable when you wipe
Period: Flow starts light but gets heavier, enough to fill pads/tampons
Implantation bleeding: Only lasts 1-2 days
Period: Normally lasts 4 to 7 days
Implantation bleeding: Happens about 1-2 weeks before expected period
Period: Happens when expected from your cycle history
Implantation bleeding: A few drops or spots in underwear, not even needing a liner
Period: Enough flow to require sanitary products to absorb
The bottom line - if bleeding is very light, lasts only 1-2 days, and happens earlier than expected, it's likely implantation spotting. When in doubt, take a pregnancy test. If it's positive, then bleeding is likely not your real period starting.
When to Call Your Doctor About Bleeding
Bleeding during pregnancy can feel scary. But remember that light spotting is very common and usually nothing to worry about.
That said, call your obstetrician right away if you have:
- Heavy bleeding - soaking a pad/tampon in an hour
- Severe cramps or unilateral pelvic pain
- Bleeding accompanied by dizziness, fever, or foul discharge
- Bleeding that lasts longer than 2 days
Your OBGYN can do an ultrasound to identify the cause and check that your pregnancy is progressing normally. Early treatment of any issues causing bleeding leads to the best outcomes.
Most of the time, bleeding stops on its own and the pregnancy continues just fine. But it's always better to get checked out for peace of mind. If you take anything away from this article, know that light spotting is common and you only need to worry with heavy, prolonged bleeding.
When to Go to the ER for Bleeding
In rare cases, heavy bleeding warrants an immediate ER visit. Seek emergency care if you have:
- Bleeding enough to soak >2 pads per hour for 2 hours
- Lightheadedness, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure
- Severe pain alongside heavy bleeding
- Signs of shock like clammy skin, confusion, nausea
Going to the ER allows doctors to rapidly assess if you are miscarrying, have an ectopic pregnancy, or are hemorrhaging. You may receive IV fluids and medication to stop bleeding and prevent complications.
Don't wait - go to the ER right away if you have any symptoms of shock or are bleeding heavily through multiple pads. Timely treatment is crucial.
Causes of Bleeding in Early Pregnancy: Key Takeaways
If you notice any bleeding at 5 weeks pregnant, remember:
Light spotting is common and usually due to normal implantation or cervical changes. This type of bleeding isn't dangerous.
Heavy, prolonged bleeding can sometimes indicate a problem like miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Contact your doctor right away.
Distinguish implantation bleeding from a period through color, consistency, duration, timing, and amount. Implantation bleeding is very light.
Seek emergency medical care if you're soaking through multiple pads an hour, feel faint, or have severe pain.
Your doctor can do ultrasounds and lab tests to identify causes of bleeding and check your pregnancy.
With prompt care, many pregnancies continue just fine even after bleeding. But don't ignore heavy bleeding - get checked out.
Knowing what's normal versus worrisome can give you peace of mind if bleeding occurs. Always call your doctor with any concerns.
Bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy is scary but doesn't necessarily mean disaster. Arm yourself with knowledge on the common causes and when to seek help. Stay in close contact with your doctor and call any time bleeding seems abnormal. With the right care, most pregnancies safely progress.