The most obvious sign that lets a woman know (or suspect) she is pregnant is missing her menstrual period.
Missed periods and light bleeding
Not all women experience a missed period in those early weeks after conception - this is not only be confusing, but can lead to miscalculated due dates and worry that the pregnancy may not continue.
A few women will experience what is called an 'implantation bleed' instead of a normal period, even though they have conceived a baby.
This is where a light bleed occurs as the growing baby burrows into the lining of their mother's uterus, usually about 12 days after the egg has been fertilised, or 'conceived' in the fallopian tube.
An implantation bleed will typically occur just before, or around the time, the next period would have been due. However, it is usually not as heavy, or as long as a normal period.
Doctors or midwives will usually try and find out if a woman's last 'period' was normal, to avoid calculating the baby's due date from an implantation bleed, which would miscalculate the baby's due date at about 3 to 4 weeks later.
Occasionally, a woman will continue to have a small, red or pinkish vaginal loss for a day or so around the time that their period would have been due, for example at around 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks of the pregnancy.
This is more common during early pregnancy, but can persist into later pregnancy as well.
Some women will experience bright spotting (fresh bleeding), or brown spotting (bleeding that happened a day or so ago), at some stage during their pregnancy. This may appear as a heavy bleed, like a period, or like a 'light period' or simply as something small which is noticed when wiping herself after going to the toilet.
About 50% of women who experience bleeding during the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy will continue to experience a normal pregnancy.
Spotting after intercourse is often the result of the increased sensitivity of your cervix to any kind of minor bumping or irritation. After the first trimester; spotting is less likely to occur, and even if it does, it’s still not necessarily an ominous sign.
Early pregnancy bleeding can be investigated by an ultrasound and any bleeding during pregnancy should be communicated to the doctors or caregivers looking after you.
To find out more about bleeding in early pregnancy
Last revised: Friday, 28 February 2014
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.