Is Bleeding After Cervical Check Harmful During Pregnancy?


Bleeding during pregnancy is always a cause of concern. Whether it is just spotting during the early months of pregnancy or bleeding in your lady parts during the latter months. Sudden bleeding or spotting can be scary, especially if you are a first-time mom. However, certain instances of bleeding can be nothing to worry about, and one such instance is after a cervical check. But it’s important to know what bleeding is normal and what isn’t.

If you are a first-time mom and notice bleeding after a cervical check, don’t worry. A little bleeding after a cervical exam is normal and is absolutely nothing to be alarmed about. The cervix is vascular with many blood vessels. During pregnancy, there is more blood flow. So, if anything comes into contact with the cervix, it can lead to light bleeding. That said, remember that bleeding for too long, or very heavy bleeding, could be a cause of concern. If you notice abnormal bleeding, check with your doctor immediately.

Let’s decode a little more about bleeding and cervical exams. Knowing and understanding what to expect after a cervical check can put your mind at ease.

Why Does Bleeding Happen After the Exam?

Doctors usually do several cervical exams throughout pregnancy. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your doctor might examine your cervix during regular follow-ups to check for cervical thinning and cervical dilation.

After these check-ups, you might notice some light bleeding. That is because during pregnancy, the cervix softens, and blood flow is much higher in this area. Doctors usually manipulate and put pressure on the cervical area during these check-ups. That can sometimes rupture some of the smaller vessels leading to light bleeding.

So, if you are pregnant for the first time and notice light bleeding after your cervical exam, don’t worry. This is normal. However, if there is severe bleeding and discomfort, then it is best to check with your doctor.

What is a Bloody Show?

All pregnant women have heard about the bloody show. Some stories were scary, some were disgusting, and some were just excited that it was finally happening! But what is a bloody show?

The bloody show happens towards the end of your pregnancy and indicates that your body is now ready to bring the tiny human out into the world. It is a bloody discharge that happens when your mucus plug is either dislodged or loosened. So, what a mucous plug is?

Throughout the pregnancy, the cervix is covered with thick, sticky mucus. This acts like a plug in the uterus to protect the baby and keeps it safe inside. Hence the name mucus plug! This mucus plug protects your unborn baby from bacteria or any other infections by not letting them go past the cervical barrier.

But once your body is ready to bring the baby into this world, the cervix thins and begins to dilate. As the cervix opens, this mucus plug dislodges and gets released. Some women lose the mucus plug completely. This can cause some of the cervical blood vessels to rupture. This is the bloody show. Others lose the mucus plug in small amounts. This causes the mucus plug to be part of the discharge and not even noticeable. 

Symptoms and Signs of Bloody Show.

In most cases, a bloody mucus discharge or heavy bleeding from your privates is the biggest sign of a bloody show. However, every pregnancy is different.

Sometimes you might lose the mucus plug all at once or in small amounts, so the discharge varies. But for some women, there are cases when the bloody show happens during active labor. Other symptoms of labor with a bloody show are:

  1. Cramping: This is very similar to your period-like cramps. It comes and goes every few hours or even days.
  2. Pelvic Pressure: Towards the end, once the baby drops down, you might feel immense pressure in your pelvis, privates, or lower back.
  3. Contractions: Tightening of the uterus that increases in intensity.

A bloody show does not mean that labor might start soon. It is just a sign that your body is ready to bring your little munchkin into this world. Active labor might start in a few hours, the next day, or even after a week. It varies from woman to woman because every woman and pregnancy is different. 

Can Cervical Exam Cause Labor?

Any OB-GYN will tell you that a cervical exam by itself cannot induce labor. A cervical check is important towards the end of pregnancy to determine the thinning, position, and opening of the cervix.

But, during 36 to 42 weeks of pregnancy, when the cervix is dilated, effaced, and soft, a cervical exam could stimulate the release of the prostaglandin hormones and can induce labor.

Your doctor can sweep the membranes using their fingers during the cervical exam to separate the bag of amniotic fluid from the uterine wall. They can do this to release hormones that help induce labor. Doctors usually only do this when you are at the end of pregnancy and your body is ready to bring the baby out.

How Much Bleeding is Normal After Cervical Check?

Usually, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, your healthcare practitioner will recommend a cervical check to see how the pregnancy is going, checking for dilation and effacement. This can irritate the effaced cervix, causing it to bleed. But light spotting after your cervical check is normal bleeding. You should only be able to see the blood when you wipe, and the bleeding should resolve on its own within 24 hours. If that’s the case, it is not a cause of concern.

What is Abnormal Bleeding After a Cervical Exam?

What is Abnormal Bleeding After a Cervical Exam

After your cervical exam, if you are bleeding heavily, it could be a cause of concern. Bleeding that needs a sanitary pad or saturates a pad means you need to get medical advice immediately. 

Bleeding accompanied by period like cramps, or pain in the lower pelvic region, could mean that you are in premature labor, or a sign that something is wrong. Several complications can happen in late pregnancy. It is best to check with your doctor for further advice if you notice bleeding or cramping pain. 

Why Does it Happen? Medical Reasons.

Sometimes some women experience heavy bleeding after a cervical check. But most of the time, this bleeding has nothing to do with the cervical check. There are other medical reasons that could lead a pregnant woman to bleed heavily. Two of the most common causes of heavy bleeding are discussed below.

  1. Placenta Previa
    Sometimes the placenta covers the opening of the cervix, either partially or completely. This is placenta previa. Your doctor can discover this during your periodic ultrasounds. But if you have missed your prenatal checkups, then it’s possible your doctor could miss this.
    In cases of placenta previa, the doctor will not do a cervical exam. If you have placenta previa and see heavy bleeding towards the end of your pregnancy, you should see your doctor immediately.
  2. Placental Abruption
    Another medical condition that can lead to heavy bleeding during pregnancy is placental abruption. Sometimes the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall and this leads to severe bleeding and can be life-threatening for both the mom and the baby. However, placental abruption is very rare, and statistics show that it affects only 1% of pregnancies.

While a membrane sweep during a cervical exam can lead to some bleeding, it can never cause placenta previa or placental abruption. Both these conditions have nothing to do with a cervical exam. A cervical exam can only open the cervix and soften it to cause mild bleeding.

Cervical Exams Are Important and Nothing To Be Scared Of.

When you are moving towards the end of pregnancy, you may be anxious about a zillion things. How you will manage the baby, how you will push when labor begins, painful contractions, sleepless nights, and so much more. This stress and anxiety can worsen the feeling that something is not right. Bleeding during pregnancy is always scary and leads you to think of the worst.

But slight bleeding or spotting is fine after a cervical exam. If you see that your panties are slightly stained, or see some blood when you wipe, don’t freak out. It just means that your cervix is preparing for the baby to come. Even a bloody show does not necessarily mean labor. It just means that you are nearing labor.

We hope that if you are experiencing bleeding after your cervical exam, this article has helped you better understand what is happening with your body after a cervical exam.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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