You cannot have a real period and still be pregnant. However, you might experience some bleeding in certain situations in pregnancy. It is always a good idea to talk about your experience with your doctor to figure out if there is cause for concern.
Bleeding and Pregnancy
If you are bleeding and have the symptoms of your regular monthly cycle, you are most likely not pregnant. On the other hand, some women who have bleeding after they become pregnant might think they have their period.
It is not possible, however, to have what is considered a menstrual cycle or a period during pregnancy. Instead, consider some of the reasons that might cause you to have bleeding or spotting while you are pregnant.
It might be easy to confuse implantation bleeding with a very light menstrual period. This is especially true if you tend to have irregular, light periods. In some cases, the light bleeding or bloody discharge can be accompanied by period symptoms, such as light cramping, bloating, and some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Implantation bleeding is not a short menstrual cycle, instead:
- It occurs when the fertilized egg attaches under the lining of the uterus soon after conception - about one week before you expect your period.
- The process sometimes results in a small amount of bleeding from the small blood vessels in the uterine lining.
- You can consider this bleeding one of the early symptoms of pregnancy.
If you experience bleeding a week before your next expected period but it continues after that time and you have other pregnancy symptoms, or the bleeding is heavy, see a physician as soon as possible.
Bleeding From Pregnancy Problems
Spotting or bleeding during pregnancy can be a sign that there might be a problem, especially if it is heavy and bright red. Pregnancy problems include:
- An ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo implants in a place outside the womb. The uterine lining bleeds because of the abnormal location of the pregnancy. The bleeding or spotting typically occurs with one-sided pelvic or abdominal pain.
- A molar pregnancy, in which abnormal tissue is present in the uterus and there is no viable fetus. Bleeding, which can become heavy, is a common problem.
- Bleeding and menstrual cramps or pain can indicate the possibility of a threatened or inevitable miscarriage in the first or second trimester. The bleeding can become heavy, especially in the second trimester.
- Cervical infection or inflammation (cervicitis) can cause irregular bleeding or spotting and menstrual-like cramps. Even the the absence of an infection or inflammation, the pregnancy changes in the cervix makes it bleed easily, especially after intercourse and cause intermittent bleeding and cramps.
- Placental abruption, which is a separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. A small separation might cause small, brief bleeding and not affect the pregnancy. Intermittent bleeding might be mistaken for menstrual periods. A larger separation will cause heavier bleeding or hemorrhage and is an emergency, especially in the late second and third trimester.
- Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix. This position can cause crampy pain and intermittent, mild bleeding, or you can suddenly hemorrhage and have a medical emergency. Sometimes a placenta previa in the first trimester can move as the uterus gets bigger.
Women who have heavy bleeding with cramping or pain and other abnormal symptoms while they are pregnant should get in touch with their doctor immediately.
Your Menstrual Period and Pregnancy
At the end of your normal menstrual cycle, in response to a drop in your hormone levels, your uterine lining bleeds and sheds if you don't conceive. The lining doesn't bleed and shed if you get pregnant. Therefore, any bleeding you have during a pregnancy is, by definition, not a period. This is because your regular monthly cycles shut down when you are pregnant.
During a pregnancy, higher levels of hormones, first from the corpus luteum in your ovary and then the placenta, turns off the normal menstrual cycle events. This prevents period bleeding and cyclic shedding of the uterine lining which is needed to implant and nurture the embryo.
Consult Your Doctor
Bleeding during pregnancy is not a period. There might be nothing to worry about but don't hesitate to contact or see your doctor if your spotting or bleeding lasts more than a day or two or is heavy. This is even more important if you also have pain in your belly or other symptoms that concern you.