A period during pregnancy? What the…? So can you be pregnant and still have a period?
C’mon, body! Make up your mind. Surely you can’t have it both ways, can you?
Well, it turns out that your body can indeed do some very strange things during pregnancy—including giving you something that looks like a period.
Before we go any further, listen up very carefully to the next eight words: if you are concerned, talk to your doctor.
There are so many different reasons why bleeding during pregnancy can occur.
And about 20-30% of women bleed at some point in early pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Some are harmless, some aren’t—so it’s best to check as soon as possible.
Right. Now onto what appears to be the Schrӧdinger’s cat of women’s health: if you are having a period while pregnant, you’re also not having a period while pregnant.
And the reason for this takes us back to the very definition of menstruation.
If a pregnancy has taken place, there is no need for your period.
So it looks like a period, it feels like a period—but is it a period? Umm, no.
Bleeding during pregnancy, on the other hand, is less of a paradox and can happen for a variety of reasons.
So how rare is it to be pregnant and have your period? Let’s take a look.
In this article: 📝
- What causes you to have a period during pregnancy?
- Spotting or period-like bleeding?
- Period-like bleeding during early pregnancy
- Period cramps during pregnancy third trimester
- Can you be pregnant and still have a period?
- Period-like bleeding during pregnancy FAQs
What causes you to have a period during pregnancy?
Let’s be clear: a period during pregnancy is not a period at all—it is a bleed.
And early pregnancy bleeding, in particular, can lead to a whole lot of confusion about whether you’re actually pregnant after all.
So why does having a bleed while pregnant occur? Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons.
Some causes for bleeding during early pregnancy are:
Vaginal infections can cause swelling within your vagina, causing bleeding.
It’s important to get checked over by your doctor as they can take swabs to identify any present vaginal infections or STIs—for which a course of antibiotics can be prescribed.
Uterine infections that cause period-like bleeding during early pregnancy can cause harm to your baby.
2. Subchorionic hematoma
Some period-like bleeding during early pregnancy can be caused by a subchorionic hematoma ‒ where blood collects between the uterine lining and the fetal membrane or under the placenta.
Usually, they cause no harm to the mama or baby, but sometimes, they can have a higher risk. It’s always best to check with your doctor.
3. Ectopic pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy can be an emotionally difficult experience for many and can cause period-like bleeding during early pregnancy.
This is when your fertilized egg begins its growth spurt outside of where it should (the inner lining of your uterus) and instead finds another spot—often in the fallopian tube.
It can usually be determined by a combination of ultrasounds and hormone tests, which should be done as soon as possible as this can put your health in serious danger.
4. Molar pregnancy
This can be another upsetting experience that can look like a period during pregnancy, but luckily it’s quite rare.
A molar pregnancy happens when the fertilization of an egg by a sperm goes wrong—unfortunately, this can not lead to a healthy pregnancy.
This can be dangerous and should be treated ASAP. Again, don’t wait before speaking to your doctor.
5. Implantation bleeding
When the fertilized egg implants (burrows into) the lining of the uterus, it can cause what’s known as implantation bleeding.
While it’s possible to confuse this with a light period, the big difference between implantation bleeding and a period is that it’s a small amount of blood, and it stops quickly.
6. Friable cervix
This extra sensitivity can mean that you spot blood, especially after sex or a vaginal exam.
7. Hormonal bleeding
Maybe the most confusing spotting that can occur in early pregnancy is called hormonal bleeding.
When we hear people answering ‘yes, because I did!’ to the question, ‘can you have a period and still be pregnant?’ It’s most likely they had hormonal bleeding.
Because of the timing, if you hadn’t been looking out for pregnancy symptoms, you could think you were just having an unusually light period.
If you know you’re pregnant and experience some light bleeding around this stage of your pregnancy, call your doctor, but know that it’s quite common, and you may just be advised to rest and keep an eye on it.
Once the placenta starts making more progesterone again, a hormonal bleed should stop. If the bleeding keeps up, you should get further medical advice.
8. Pregnancy loss
Again, this is a difficult thing to go through if you’re trying to get pregnant.
If it happens to you, know that it’s more common than you think—as in 1 in 4 pregnant women kind of common.
We just don’t talk about it as much as we should. Make sure you reach out for support.
If you experience heavy bleeding like a period during early pregnancy, or passing blood clots in early pregnancy, get in touch with your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
No amount of online symptom searching will give you the exact answer you need for your body’s reason for experiencing a period during pregnancy.
Spotting or period-like bleeding?
Spotting is simply a term for light bleeding. It usually shows up as a small amount of blood on your underwear or as darker, streaky blood when you wipe.
Spotting is also different in color to menstrual blood—either a fainter pink or a darker brown.
When is it bleeding and not spotting? Basically, when it looks like what you’d see in the middle, heavier days of your period:
- When there’s enough blood that you need a pad, panty liner, or tampon to absorb it
- When the blood is bright red
- When there are blood clots
Period-like bleeding during early pregnancy
If you’re experiencing something like a period during early pregnancy, it can be the result of so many factors—from benign to serious—so it’s always a good idea to let your healthcare provider know about it.
Many women experience something similar to a period during early pregnancy.
This may simply be the result of the fertilized egg making itself at home in your uterus and could be no cause for concern.
This is called implantation bleeding, and if it’s going to happen, will probably do so in the first two weeks of pregnancy.
Another harmless reason for “pregnancy periods” in early pregnancy is due to the changes your cervix is going through. As it readies itself, it may let some blood slip.
Both implantation bleeding and bleeding as a result of cervical changes are typically pretty light and no major cause for concern.
There is no direct correlation between these causes of light period-like bleeding during early pregnancy and the health of you or your baby.
There are, however, some possibilities that are far more concerning when it comes to what feels like a period during pregnancy.
Period cramps during pregnancy third trimester
For starters, if you feel like you’re experiencing period-like cramping during pregnancy‒particularly after your first trimester‒sorry, but the menstruation ship has long since sailed.
But what if you feel like you’re having a period during pregnancy in the third trimester in other ways—as in, what if you’re bleeding?
This can be due to a range of different things, some of which include:
Yes, it’s true. If that pregnancy glow has got you in the mood, one little side effect of your bedroom activities may be a bit of bleeding that looks like a period during pregnancy.
If you’re also experiencing cramps after sex while pregnant, that’s usually totally normal, but if you’re in a lot of pain, you have flu-like symptoms, or you’re having some heavy bleeding that looks like a period during pregnancy, check in with your doctor.
That cervix of yours is getting prepped—and it may be sending a little bit of blood that makes you think you’re having a period while pregnant—just to let you know that you should acknowledge its hard work.
If placenta abruption is causing period-like bleeding during pregnancy, it can be dangerous for you and your baby and requires immediate medical attention.
Rupture of the uterus
Also very serious, a uterine rupture is when the uterus tears while you are in labor.
It’s a rare cause of bleeding like a period while pregnant and can cause you and your baby harm.
Going into early labor might trigger some bleeding. It would usually be accompanied by contractions and other signs of labor.
While this is possible in the second and third trimesters, it is far less likely as time goes on.
Can you be pregnant and still have a period?
So, can you have a period and be pregnant? Technically, no. But can you bleed and still be pregnant? Yes.
But it can be a chance of pregnancy loss or something else that could impact you or baby.
So, if you’re worried about having period-like bleeding during early pregnancy or something similar to a period during pregnancy ‒ at any point ‒ it’s best to speak with your doctor.
Period-like bleeding during pregnancy FAQs
Got any specific questions about having a period during pregnancy? Here are our quick-fire answers.
I’m 4 weeks pregnant and bleeding like a period, is this normal?
If you’re 4 weeks pregnant experiencing period-like bleeding during early pregnancy, there could be a number of causes: implantation bleeding (although this typically happens in the first two weeks of pregnancy), uterine infection, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or pregnancy loss.
Check in with your doctor‒they’ll be able to help find out what’s going on.
I’m passing blood clots during pregnancy, is everything okay?
Compared to light spotting during pregnancy, passing blood clots during pregnancy can be a sign of something potentially serious—especially if accompanied by cramps.
If you’re passing blood clots during pregnancy‒at any point‒it doesn’t always mean it’s a sign of pregnancy loss.
But you should still check in with your healthcare provider because it could be an indicator of preterm labor, ectopic pregnancy, placenta issues, or something else.
Can you have a heavy period and still be pregnant?
Simply put, no. If you do experience heavy bleeding that looks like a period during pregnancy or are passing blood clots during pregnancy, it’s not actually your period. But you can still be pregnant.
If you’re bleeding heavily during pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider straight away.
My pregnancy test is positive, but I’m bleeding‒what’s going on?
If you’ve just done a pregnancy test and it’s a BFP (big fat positive), but you’re experiencing a light bit of bleeding, it’s likely to be totally normal, so try not to fret.
Light spotting after a positive pregnancy test can be implantation bleeding.
If you’re experiencing something that looks like heavy period-like bleeding during early pregnancy, contact your doctor as soon as you can.
When do periods stop after getting pregnant?
Yes, periods stop as soon as you get pregnant. So if you experience any bleeding during pregnancy, it’s not actually your period.
As for when your periods return after pregnancy? Usually around 3 weeks.
Can I use a tampon during pregnancy?
It’s advisable not to use a tampon during pregnancy, even if you’re experiencing something that looks like a period while pregnant.
This is because tampons can carry bacteria, which could cause harm to you or baby, especially while your body is focusing on ‘building a baby’.
If you are experiencing something that looks like a period during pregnancy, it’s best to use a sanitary pad or panty liner, depending on how heavy the bleed is.
Also, avoid using a douche when pregnant for the same reason as the tampon!
Finally—and we know we’re like a stuck record on this one, but there’s method in our madness: if you’re experiencing bleeding that looks like a period during pregnancy, call your healthcare provider. Seriously.
But, most of all, try not to stress. If you’re keeping your doc in the loop, the next best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to relax and take care of yourself.
And feel free to reach out to the other mamas on Peanut for extra support. 🫂