Although you may have heard of women that had “periods” during pregnancy, the truth is you cannot be pregnant and have a period at the same time. Once a woman conceives her body starts producing hCG and her menstrual cycle stops. This is not to say that a woman cannot have bleeding that resembles a period when she is pregnant, but the bleeding is not actually a period. This can be confusing for some and this is why you may know someone that claims to have had a period while she was pregnant.
What can cause bleeding (or a mistaken period) during pregnancy?
During early pregnancy, it is not uncommon for a woman to have bleeding or spotting. This bleeding can sometimes be mistaken for a period. Twenty to twenty-five percent of women have bleeding or spotting during pregnancy. The bleeding is generally not as heavy a regular period. However, if a woman did not know that she was pregnant, she may assume the bleeding was just a light period. Often early pregnancy bleeding occurs around the same time a woman anticipates having her period so this can add to the confusion.
Some causes of bleeding during pregnancy include:
Implantation bleeding or spotting - Implantation bleeding happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. As the egg burrows into the lining, it sometimes causes some of the lining to shed. A woman might notice light bleeding a week to a few days before her period is due. Implantation bleeding is usually light brown, pink, or red spotting but can be as heavy as a light period. It could conceivably be confused with a light period or an early period.
Bleeding after birth control - Women sometimes have irregular cycles after taking the pill. If you have recently stopped taking the pill and are pregnant, you may have some spotting off and on due to hormonal changes. Getting pregnant shortly after stopping taking birth control can make it more difficult to differentiate intermittent bleeding from an actual period. You may be unclear when your last period was or you could be pregnant and continue to have some irregular bleeding.
Ectopic pregnancy - The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include vaginal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy may cause vaginal bleeding that is similar to a period. Other symptoms include abdominal pain (usually on one side), rectal pressure, nausea, dizziness and shoulder pain.
Miscarriage - About 20-30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Bleeding or spotting can be an early sign of miscarriage. Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy does not always mean that the woman will not go on to have a healthy pregnancy but it is reason for concern. A miscarriage often starts with light spotting that turns to heavy bleeding. If you are having bleeding and are pregnant you should consult your doctor.
These are some of the reasons why a woman might have bleeding that resembles a period during pregnancy.
Bleeding that occurs during pregnancy is not, however, from having a period. Any time you have bleeding and our pregnant you should discuss this with your doctor.
Think you might be pregnant? Find out when you're due by using JM's Due Date Calculator.