Threatened abortion is a term used for vaginal bleeding and symptoms that suggest that a woman is at an increased risk of miscarriage during the first 3 months (or 20 weeks) of pregnancy. While some women will have bleeding in early pregnancy, a woman may or may not miscarry.
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Early-pregnancy bleeding can originate from the uterus, cervix, vagina, or the external genital area.
In many cases, the cause of the bleeding is due to a minor condition that requires no treatment. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, especially with abdominal pain, should always be reported to a doctor.
Possible causes of bleeding include:
Factors that may increase your risk of threatened abortion include:
The main symptom is bleeding during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding may be light or heavy. Abdominal cramping may also be present.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests that may be done include:
Many cases of threatened abortion require no treatment at all. In other cases, treatment options include:
Bed rest may be advised if bleeding is heavy. This has not shown to be beneficial, though. Activities may also be limited.
A mother with Rh-negative blood and a partner with Rh-positive blood will be given an injection of Rho immune globulin. This will prevent the body from producing antibodies against the fetus' blood.
In some cases, progesterone may be prescribed. This is a female hormone that supports a pregnancy.
While there is no clear way to prevent threatened abortion, to increase your chance of a healthy pregnancy:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services
Bleeding during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/bleeding-during-pregnancy. Updated August 2015. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Bleeding during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq038.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120814T1300076311. Updated July 2016. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 9/30/2013