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A Period While Pregnant? Causes of Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy

Updated on April 20, 2016

You cannot have your period if you're pregnant.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, a handful of women have accused me of spreading false information to women hoping to become pregnant. When asked "I think I'm pregnant, but I'm having my period. Am I pregnant?" the easiest way to answer this question is to inform a woman who has not yet tested positive for pregnancy that it isn't possible to have a period if you're pregnant.

Because of the number of arguments I've seen with regard to this simple, biological fact, I wanted to provide a separate article to address the reasons why it's impossible to have a period if you're pregnant and to provide other possible reasons that you're bleeding while pregnant (if you've already confirmed pregnancy).

I am not a medical professional, nor am I a substitute for the advice of a doctor or midwife. If you are currently bleeding, step away from your screen, call your doctor, and then please come back and continue reading. Bleeding during pregnancy can indicate a serious problem and it's best you speak to your doctor before reading information on the Internet.

You cannot have your period while you're pregnant. It's a biological impossibility. However, you may experience bleeding from your cervix or vagina.
You cannot have your period while you're pregnant. It's a biological impossibility. However, you may experience bleeding from your cervix or vagina. | Source

Can You Have a Period While You're Pregnant?

Most of us have probably met at least one woman who claims that she "had her period" through her cycle. In at least one case, I've heard the claim of women who continue to "have cycles" during their pregnancies.

It seems like a reasonable claim, considering that many women bleed during pregnancy.

However, not all vaginal bleeding is a "period."

You cannot have a menstrual cycle (required to have a menstrual period) while you're pregnant.

Why? Because during your menstrual period, your body sheds the lining of the uterus.

Many women cite anecdotal evidence for their reasons to believe that it's possible to have a period during pregnancy. This article strives to provide accurate information on the topic so that you know whether you should take a home pregnancy test, consult your doctor, or wait. You will find several sources listed throughout the article to support the statement that it is impossible to have a period and still be pregnant.

Do you know someone who had her "period" while she was pregnant?

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Alright, but Why Can't I Have a Period and Be Pregnant?

The answer to this is both simple and complex. I'll start by explaining the answer in the simplest terms.

You cannot have a period and be pregnant, because when you have a period, your body sheds the uterine in which an embryo would otherwise be embedded. If you are pregnant but have a period, this is what is known as a chemical pregnancy.

The more complex answer is that when you become pregnant (when the embryo implants on the uterine wall), your body begins to produce a series of hormones which arrest (stop) your cycle and prepare your body to nourish a baby.

These hormones are what cause the symptoms of early pregnancy. If you have tested positive for pregnancy, your body should cease to cycle. In some cases, you may encounter a chemical pregnancy (a pregnancy which is miscarried some time between implantation and menstruation).

When you are pregnant, your pregnancy hormones tell your body to stop cycling.

Pregnancy hormones stop the menstrual cycle by telling your body to nourish a baby instead.
Pregnancy hormones stop the menstrual cycle by telling your body to nourish a baby instead. | Source

Not All Bleeding is Menstruation

Many women refer to any vaginal bleeding as a "period." The term "period" refers to the "menstrual period" during which part of the endometrium is shed as the cycle begins again, leading to ovulation. This period is controlled by the ebb and flow of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which tell your body what part of the cycle it's in at the moment, and what to do during that cycle.

A menstrual period requires a menstrual cycle in order to happen, and the influx of progesterone during the first four weeks of pregnancy stops your body from cycling.

Therefore, when you are pregnant and the hormones instruct your cycle to stop, you cannot have a menstrual cycle.

Regular bleeding during pregnancy is sometimes referred to as "intermittent vaginal bleeding" and can be caused by other factors. This type of intermittent bleeding during pregnancy is caused by unknown factors, but I've listed some possible causes of bleeding during pregnancy below.

Causes of Bleeding in Pregnancy

First Trimester
Second and Third Trimesters
Implantation
Trauma
Hormonal Changes
Infection
Miscarriage
Fibroids
Ectopic Pregnancy
Placental Problems
Molar Pregnancy
Labor (Including pre-term labor)
The bottom line is that you should call your doctor any time you have vaginal bleeding, just to be sure. If you tell your doctor you're having a "period," he'll know what you mean.

Why You Should Call Your Doctor

According to the video to the right, spotting during pregnancy is "never normal." While there are medical professionals who might disagree with this standpoint (implantation bleeding is quite typical for women), you should contact your doctor if you've had a positive pregnancy test and are now bleeding.

Note that pregnancy symptoms alone do not indicate pregnancy, as many of these symptoms are similar to what happens during your period. If you haven't had a positive pregnancy test yet, it's a safe bet that you're having your period.

However, if you have had a positive pregnancy test and you are now bleeding, you need to call your doctor. Possible causes of bleeding during pregnancy include serious complications like ectopic pregnancy (which can be life-threatening to the mother), miscarriage, and cervical disease, all of which should be treated by your doctor.

Your doctor might call intermittent vaginal bleeding a period -- that doesn't mean that it is a period.
Your doctor might call intermittent vaginal bleeding a period -- that doesn't mean that it is a period. | Source

Why Did My Doctor Call it a Period if it Isn't?

Occasionally, a doctor may tell one of his patients that she is, in fact, having a period while she's pregnant. While this creates a confusing situation in which the woman tells her friends that she had a period during pregnancy, and therefore that it's possible for other women to have periods while they are pregnant.

The question is: Why?

Fortunately, the answer is pretty simple. Your doctor may explain things in simple terms to make them easier to understand. If he tells you that you're not having a period (because you're pregnant), he will need to invest the time necessary into explaining to you why it isn't possible to have a period while you're pregnant. Furthermore, he has to explain to you that the causes of intermittent vaginal bleeding are unknown, which could create a stressful situation for you, as the expectant mother.

Trust what your doctor tells you about your bleeding during pregnancy, even if he refers to it as a "period."
Trust what your doctor tells you about your bleeding during pregnancy, even if he refers to it as a "period." | Source

The Bottom Line: Trust Your Doctor to Tell You What You Need to Know about Your Vaginal Bleeding

Your doctor might call it a "period" when he examines you, because this is a quick and easy way to explain that you are bleeding and that the bleeding isn't cause for alarm. Even if you now understand that it's not possible to have a period while you're pregnant, you should trust what your doctor tells you. If you have some reason to worry about what's making you bleed, he will tell you what to do next.

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