HomeHealth TopicChildren's Health

Is It Normal for My Baby to Have Vaginal Bleeding?

Meredith Merkley, DO, FAAPPatricia Pinto-Garcia, MD, MPH
Updated on March 11, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • It’s normal for newborn females to go through a “mini puberty” after birth.

  • During this time, newborn females can experience vaginal bleeding and discharge, breast development, and even breast milk production.

  • About 5% of newborn females experience light bleeding from the vagina that stops after a few days.

Portrait of a newborn baby laying on white sheets.
AJ_Watt/E+ via Getty Images

Having a newborn comes with excitement but also challenges. Newborns grow so quickly in those first few days that it can be hard to decide what is just “normal development” and what changes can be a sign of something serious.

Bleeding is one of those things most parents assume isn’t normal. But bleeding from a newborn’s vagina can be completely normal.

Let’s take a look at newborn vaginal bleeding and what you should know about “mini-puberty.”

What can cause vaginal bleeding in newborns?

Newborns can have vaginal bleeding because of hormone changes that happen after birth.

During pregnancy, a baby is exposed to high levels of sex hormones, like estrogen. These hormones help a baby develop their sex organs.

Once a baby is born, these hormone levels drop. As a result, a newborn female can have vaginal bleeding.

This bleeding has many names like false menses or neonatal uterine bleeding. But no matter what it's called, the important thing is that it’s a normal response and usually nothing to worry about.

When does bleeding from the vagina usually happen in newborns?

Vaginal bleeding usually starts when a newborn is 2 or 3 days old. But it can also start a little later, when a baby is one week old.

Bleeding should only last a few days. Bleeding that lasts longer could be a sign of a different medical issue.

Also, the “bleeding” is usually only a few spots of blood. It’s usually mixed with vaginal discharge, so it could look like more blood than it really is.

But your baby won’t bleed enough to cause anemia or other medical problems.

What are some other signs of “mini-puberty” in newborns?

Vaginal bleeding gets the most attention when it comes to “mini-puberty.” But it’s actually not that common — only about 5% of newborns experience vaginal bleeding.

Other signs of “mini-puberty” are more common. All of these changes are caused by exposure to hormones during pregnancy. Some changes you might notice are:

Vaginal discharge 

This is also called neonatal leukorrhea. Female newborns can have milky vaginal discharge (sometimes mixed with blood). This can continue for a few weeks but isn’t harmful.

You can wipe it off during diaper changes, but you don’t need to clean your baby’s vagina more regularly because of discharge.

Labial swelling

Some female newborns have swelling of their labia because of hormone exposure. The swelling will go away over several weeks. There’s nothing you can do to make it go away faster.

Breast development 

Both male and female newborns can develop breast buds. This usually starts when a baby is 3 days old. For a male baby, breasts usually go away around 2 to 3 weeks. But in females, it can take up to 2 months.

Breast buds will take longer to go away if they’re stimulated — meaning frequently touched. Most healthcare providers recommend not stimulating breast buds, because it can also lead to a skin infection called an abscess.

Breast discharge

Both male and female newborns can also have a milky discharge from their breast buds. This used to be called “witch’s milk,” but the proper term is neonatal galactorrhea. It usually starts when a baby is 3 days old and lasts for 10 to 12 days.

If your baby has galactorrhea, don’t squeeze their breasts to try and get it out. This will just increase the amount of discharge and can also lead to infection.

Baby acne

About 20% of babies develop baby acne. Baby acne can start anytime between birth and the time a baby is 6 weeks old. It usually goes away once a baby is about 2 months old.

Your baby doesn’t need any treatment for their acne. It will go away on its own.

Baby acne — also known as neonatal acne — is different from infantile acne. Infantile acne starts after a baby is 6 weeks old and usually needs monitoring by a healthcare provider.

Could vaginal bleeding be something more serious?

Other things besides hormone levels can cause vaginal bleeding in a newborn. These things are rare, but they’re also more serious.

They include:

If your baby didn’t get a vitamin K shot, bleeding from the vagina can be a sign of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

See your child’s healthcare provider right away if your baby has:

  • More than a small smear of blood in their diaper 

  • More than a few drops of blood coming from their vagina 

  • Bleeding from their belly button or any other part of their body

  • Any bruises 

  • Tiny red dots on their skin that don’t go away when you press on them (petechiae)

  • A temperature of 100.4 F or higher

  • Multiple flat, brown spots on their skin (café-au-lait spots

The bottom line

Newborns go through a “mini-puberty” when they’re first born. Some female babies can have bleeding from their vagina, sometimes called “false menses.” Usually this stops after 2 to 3 days, and the baby only bleeds a very small amount. Male and female babies can have other signs of mini puberty like acne and breast development. All of these symptoms go away after a few weeks and shouldn’t affect a baby’s health or development. If these symptoms continue after your baby is 6 weeks old, talk to your child’s healthcare provider.

References

American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.). Is that acne on my baby's face?

Brosens, I., et al. (2013). Is neonatal uterine bleeding involved in the pathogenesis of endometriosis as a source of stem cells? Fertility and Sterility.

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Dekker, J., et al. (2021). Neonatal uterine bleedings: An ignored sign but a possible cause of early-onset endometriosis – a systematic review. Biomedicine Hub.

Greydanus, D. E., et al. (2006). Breast disorders in children and adolescents. Primary Care.

Krisna, M. A. (2015). Café-au-lait macule. DermNet New Zealand.

Lanciotti, L., et al. (2018). Up-to-date review about minipuberty and overview on hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis activation in fetal and neonatal life. Frontiers in Endocrinology.

Madlon-Kay, D. J. (1986). 'Witch's milk'. Galactorrhea in the newborn. American Journal of Diseases of Children.

MedlinePlus. (2022). Bleeding into the skin.

MedlinePlus. (2022). Hormonal effects in newborns.

Meshram, G., et al. (2017). Breast enlargement in newborns: A folkloric-medical dilemma. Tropical Doctor.

Puttermans, P., et al. (2017). Neonatal uterine bleeding as a biomarker for reproductive disorders during adolescence: A worldwide call for systematic registration by nurse midwife. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine: The Official Journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asian and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians.

Raisingchildren.net.au. (2020). Baby genitals: Care and cleaning.

Schmitt, B. (n.d.). Vaginal bleeding. Healthychildren.org.

Van Doan, N., et al. (2021). McCune-Albright syndrome onset with vaginal bleeding. BMJ Case Reports.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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