No. Despite all of the claims out there, it isn’t possible to have a period while you’re pregnant. During early pregnancy, you might experience “spotting,” which is usually light pink or dark brown in color. As a rule of thumb, the American Pregnancy Association states: “If you’re bleeding enough to fill pads and tampons, then this would be a good indication that you’re probably not pregnant.”
Your period is a monthly event that occurs in lieu of an egg becoming fertilized. Eggs are released once a month from the ovary. When they aren’t fertilized, the egg travels out of the uterus and sheds through the vagina. Bleeding during a “normal” period often starts off light, then gets heavier and darker red. It also lightens in color and quantity toward the end of the cycle.
The differences between menstruation and being pregnant are supposed to be clear-cut: Once you’re pregnant, you don’t get periods anymore. Unfortunately, it isn’t always so obvious. Some women claim they’ve gotten periods while pregnant. Fueling some of the inquiries in the “periods while pregnant” conspiracy are social media, blogs, and even television shows like “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.”
Bleeding isn’t necessarily a sign of something bad. Many women go on to have healthy babies after experiencing spotting during their first trimester. If you do bleed during pregnancy, it’s related to something else other than regular menstruation.
After all, periods only happen when you’re not pregnant. Learn about the different types of bleeding during pregnancy and when you need to call your OB-GYN.
Between 25 and 30 percent of women spot during early pregnancy. Some of the causes are:
- implantation bleeding
- changes in the cervix
- molar pregnancy (abnormal mass fertilizes instead of a fetus)
- ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus)
- early signs of a miscarriage
This happens in the earliest stages of pregnancy. At this point, you likely haven’t even gotten a pregnancy test yet. This type of bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg implants into the uterus, usually around the time your period would be expected. Implantation bleeding is sometimes mistaken by pregnant women as a period, though the bleeding is usually light or spotting.
Shortly after pregnancy, you might also experience spotting from cervical changes. Unless there’s an infection, this isn’t often cause for concern.
Other types of early bleeding that can indicate an emergency medical issue include:
- ectopic pregnancy
- molar pregnancy
These can also be accompanied by:
- severe cramps or abdominal pain
- back pain
- faintness or losing consciousness
- shoulder pain
- vaginal discharge changes
- uncontrollable nausea and vomiting
The bleeding is also much heavier, unlike spotting. It’s more like a normal period.
Bleeding beyond the first trimester is usually a sign that something is wrong. Regardless of whether bleeding during the second and third trimester is light or heavy, with or without any other symptoms, you need to call your doctor for an emergency visit.
Common causes of bleeding during the rest of pregnancy include:
- term or preterm labor or cervical dilation
- placenta previa
- placental abruption
- uterine rupture (rare)
- vasa previa (rare)
This refers to any birth that happens before 37 weeks. Before preterm labor, some women experience symptoms similar to a period, as well as a large amount of mucus discharge. While cramping may also be felt, preterm labor also causes contractions. Symptoms of preterm labor might also include backache, a sensation of pressure in the vagina, and changes in discharge.
This happens when the placenta is implanted low in the uterus and very close to, or covers the cervix. The bleeding varies, but there are no other symptoms. Placenta previa can hinder labor and delivery.
This occurs most commonly during the last few months of pregnancy. The placenta detaches from the uterus, usually causing heavy bleeding and possibly severe stomach pain and cramping. Certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, can increase the risk for placental abruption.
A uterine rupture means that the muscle of the uterus separates or tears. This can cause uncontrolled bleeding. In the United States, it occurs most commonly in women who have delivered via cesarean delivery in the past. Though rare, this type of tear happens on old scar lines along the uterus.
Many of the conditions that happen in the latter part of pregnancy cause bleeding and other symptoms similar to a period. But, these are not really menstruation.
It’s not possible to get your period while pregnant, but many pregnant women experience similar symptoms of a period during their first trimesters. These include:
- vaginal bleeding (light, and short-term)
- light cramping
- lower back pain
The difference is that these symptoms are related to your body’s natural preparation methods for pregnancy. If any of the above symptoms are severe or don’t go away, and/or you’re in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, seek immediate care.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether bleeding is indicative of a medical emergency or not. As a rule of thumb, if you are bleeding at any stage of pregnancy, you should call your doctor right away.
What’s the earliest you can test and get a positive pregnancy result?
Home pregnancy tests measure a level of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine. Urine usually has less measurable hormones than blood, so urine tests may not be as accurate early in the pregnancy. Several factors can impact the accuracy of the home urine pregnancy test: the type of test or brand, error in interpreting the results, female cycle length, and interference from another diagnosis or treatment are a few examples. The best time to take a home pregnancy test is at the time of a missed menstrual cycle. However, even on the first day after a missed period, more than a third of pregnant women will have a negative home pregnancy test result. Some women report having positive results before the date of their expected menstrual cycle, though this isn’t common.Kimberly Dishman, MSN, WHNP-BC, RNC-OBAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.