Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Bleeding in early pregnancy

Heke toto i te taiawa o te wā āhua moata

About one in every five women may have some bleeding in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy (first trimester). It’s natural to worry, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are having a miscarriage.

Most women who have spotting or light bleeding in early pregnancy will go on to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Only one or two out of 10 women who experience bleeding in early pregnancy will be having a miscarriage.

Bleeding can vary from light bleeding or spotting (dark brown to light pink), to heavier bleeding.

Spotting means you sometimes notice a few drops of blood in your underwear, or you wipe yourself with tissue and see a little blood on the paper. There should not be enough blood to cover a panty liner.

With heavier bleeding, you will need a liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking through your underwear.

If you have spotting or bleeding, make an appointment to see your midwife or GP. There is never any cost to see your midwife. There should be no cost to see a doctor about your pregnancy for the first 14 weeks, as care is subsidised.

Spotting or light vaginal bleeding

You can wait to see your midwife or GP for up to 24 to 48 hours if you have spotting or light bleeding (needing a liner but not a pad). Don't go to the emergency department. Waiting might feel stressful, but no treatment can change what will happen. Often the pregnancy is fine and the bleeding will stop on its own.

Your midwife or GP can arrange either blood tests (known as hCG) or an ultrasound to check on your pregnancy. The ultrasound can often be done quicker this way than in the hospital. If the scan shows a normal healthy pregnancy, there may be a cost for the scan, as the ultrasonographer will perform a dating scan at the same time. For more information about costs, refer to the scan provider's website. There is no charge for the scan if you have a community services card or if the scan shows a problem.

Your midwife or GP will decide what to do next based on the results of your ultrasound.

Moderate vaginal bleeding

You should see your midwife or a doctor more urgently if:

During the daytime, contact your midwife or arrange an urgent same-day GP appointment. Tell the receptionist that you are pregnant and explain that you have been advised to speak urgently to a nurse.

After hours (between 5 pm and 9 am), or if your GP's office or midwife tells you to, go to an after-hours clinic (see numbers listed below).

Heavy vaginal bleeding or feeling unwell

You need to see a medical professional at once if you are:

During the daytime, phone your midwife or a nurse at your GP practice. If you can’t get an urgent GP appointment at your usual GP practice, go to the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital.

If it’s after hours (between 5 pm and 9 am) go straight away to an after-hours clinic, or to the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital.

After-hours clinic contact numbers



Calls from any Ashburton medical clinic number are redirected to a nurse or the Ashburton Hospital.

Rural areas

Most rural areas have a doctor or nurse on call – phone the local general practice in your area. If no doctor or nurse is available, use the Christchurch or Ashburton after-hours services listed above.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created June 2019. Last updated October 2019.

Page reference: 617777

Review key: HIHCP-311277