Can You Be Pregnant and Still Have a Period?

You’ve probably heard stories of women who say they had their period the whole time they were pregnant. This would mean having some kind of regular bleeding while the pregnancy test says you are pregnant. Perhaps you’ve already had sex and feel as though you might be pregnant even if you got your period and want to know the truth. But is it possible to be pregnant and still get a period?

Can You Be Pregnant and Still Have a Period?

No, it is impossible to have menstrual periods when you are pregnant.
However, it is possible to have vaginal bleeding while pregnant. Some women may even notice bleeding that comes and goes, which causes the woman to feel as though she has a regular period. Vaginal bleeding during a pregnancy, however, isn't the same as having a menstrual period.

True menstruation usually occurs when you aren’t actually pregnant. In a normal menstrual cycle, the uterine lining becomes thicker in anticipation of having a fertilized egg implant in it. If this doesn’t happen, the blood and tissue from inside the uterus are expelled.

When the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus, there are hormones released that tell the uterine lining to remain as it is in order to support the fetus during pregnancy. You won’t shed this lining and have a regular period until you deliver your baby.

If It's Not Period, What Is It?

Since the answer to “Can you be pregnant and still have a period?” is “no”, you may be wondering what the bleeding is really all about. Here are some ideas:

1. Implantation Spotting or Bleeding

This is a type of bleeding that occurs when the fertilized embryo finally attaches to the uterine lining. When the egg digs deep into the uterine lining, it can cause bleeding when the embryo and the lining come together. This can result in a slight amount of bleeding about a week before the normal period is supposed to happen, which is usually a bit of red spotting, pink discharge, or a light brown discharge in most women but it can become just as heavy as a light period. You can easily confuse this bleeding with an early period or a period that just happens to be lighter than normal.

2. Bleeding Following Birth Control

It is possible to have irregular bleeding when you are taking the birth control pill. If you have just stopped the pill and have become pregnant, the hormonal changes associated with this change can result in some off and on spotting. If you get pregnant immediately after stopping the birth control pill, it can be hard to tell the difference between this bleeding and a normal period. You might actually be pregnant and experiencing some intermittent vaginal bleeding.

3. Ectopic Pregnancy

One of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy (or a pregnancy in the Fallopian tube) is intermittent vaginal bleeding. The bleeding can be just as heavy as a regular period. You can also get pelvic pain on one side of the pelvis, pressure in the rectum, dizziness, nausea, and pain in the area of the shoulder.

4. Miscarriage

You should know that about 20-30 percent of women who are pregnant will have a miscarriage. An early sign of a miscarriage is having spotting or bleeding. You can have a threatened miscarriage with spotting and bleeding but can still continue on with a normal pregnancy. Even so, the bleeding can be concerning. If the pregnancy is to end in a miscarriage, the spotting will progress to heavy bleeding. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding or other symptoms suggestive of a miscarriage, you should seek medical attention.

5. Other Causes

  • Subchorionic bleedingSometimes the placenta can form blood clots along its edge. This usually isn't dangerous and goes away on its own but it can cause bleeding. You can have an ultrasound to show these blood clots and to see when they have resolved.
  • Residual bleeding in early pregnancy: The hormones of pregnancy might become mixed up and result in certain parts of the uterine lining to bleed. This usually happens when the placenta has not become fully imbedded in the uterus.
  • Cervical bleeding: The cervix can soften in pregnancy and form cervical erosions, also called a cervical ectropion. An infection in the cervix or vagina can also result in vaginal bleeding. Polyps of the cervix can bleed. Sex can cause the cervix to become irritated so that it bleeds after sexual intercourse.
  • Bleeding after a vaginal examination or Pap test as, during pregnancy, blood circulation to the cervix is increased.

Should You Worry?

Now you know the answer to "can you be pregnant and still have a period" and some possible bleedings that may be mistaken for a period, you may also wonder if the bleeding is something serious. In most cases, it will not result in harm to the fetus. Bleeding in the first three months of pregnancy happens to about 20 percent of pregnant women and most of the time, it occurs when you were supposed to have your period in the first place. This kind of bleeding usually lasts for about 1-2 days.

Even so, if you see that you are bleeding and have a positive pregnancy test, you should talk to your obstetrician or midwife immediately, even if the bleeding has already stopped. Most women who have bleeding in early pregnancy will go on to deliver a healthy baby, but sometimes an evaluation is necessary to rule out any serious conditions.

When to See a Doctor

If you have any type of severe pain or heavy bleeding, you should go to the emergency room, where they may ask you to go up to the early pregnancy room in the hospital. At the early pregnancy unit, the staff will evaluate the cause of your bleeding. This may include the following tests:

  • A check of your urine or blood to see what the pregnancy hormone levels are.
  • An examination of the cervix to see if it is open or closed.
  • An ultrasound of the uterus.
  • An assessment of the baby’s heartbeat by auscultation or an ultrasound.
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