Important Facts About Having A Period While Pregnant

All of the signs were there; morning nausea, tenderness in the breasts and aching in the lower back, yet, unexpectedly, there was also vaginal bleeding that leads you to wonder if a woman can have a period while pregnant.  But you know that one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy is a missed period, so what is causing the bleeding?

Causes Of Vaginal Bleeding

The typical cause of vaginal bleeding is menstruation, caused by the shedding of the lining of the uterus in a fertile woman each month.  When a woman becomes pregnant, the uterus prepares by its walls growing thick and soft, enabling the fertilized egg to attach and begin to grow.  In cases when there is no fertilized egg, the thick lining is discarded.  The discarded material passes through the vagina as blood and tissue that was not needed because conception did not take place.  This passage of material is an event that will occur monthly throughout a woman’s fertile lifetime except when pregnancy occurs and is known as a menstrual period.

While pregnant, menstruation ceases as the lining of the uterus provides a cushion and nourishment that protects the growing embryo.  Sometimes, light bleeding called spotting will occur as a result of the embryo attaching itself to the uterine wall.  This is also known as implantation bleeding.  Other than implantation bleeding, there is typically no further vaginal bleeding throughout the pregnancy.

When Bleeding During Pregnancy Does Occur

Approximately 20-30% of all women have some type of spotting early on in their pregnancy.  Most often this is the result of implantation bleeding, but can also be attributed to infection, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy or a possible threat of miscarriage.  About one half of these women are likely to experience heavier bleeding that leads eventually to a miscarriage, while the other half continue in their pregnancy unproblematic and have healthy babies. 

It is impossible to predict which category a particular woman will fall into when the spotting occurs.  Any type of bleeding when a pregnancy has been confirmed must be reported to your gynecologist immediately, especially if the bleeding grows heavier or is accompanied by pain or cramping. 

The important thing to note is that it is not possible for a woman to have a period while pregnant.  In cases where a normal period is experienced when a woman believes herself to be pregnant, it is more likely that is not the case.  There are instances when a hormonal balance or infection can create symptoms that mimic those felt when an actual pregnancy occurs.  

That being said, it is possible for a woman to experience light bleeding in the first few months of pregnancy. When irregular bleeding happens, it should not be similar to a normal monthly menstrual period.  While pregnant, the bleeding is typically a light pink or dark, rusty brown color and should be slight.  Regardless, it is vital for any woman to contact her healthcare provider when any type of bleeding happens when she believes herself to be pregnant, whether or not it has been confirmed by her doctor.

When heavy bleeding is experienced after a woman has felt the symptoms of pregnancy, she should consult with her doctor as soon as possible.  There is the possibility of a miscarriage which can be determined by an examination.  It is also possible there was no pregnancy, but the bleeding could be caused by some type of infection.

Other Bleeding During Pregnancy

Though not common, inflammation of or growths on the cervix can cause minor bleeding during pregnancy.  This can happen at any stage throughout the pregnancy.  The later in the pregnancy that the bleeding is experienced, however, can indicate a serious threat to both the mother and to the unborn baby and therefore should be reported to the doctor at the first onset of the bleeding.

In the last days of pregnancy, a woman’s body begins to ready itself for childbirth.  In most women, some softening, thinning and dilation of the cervix occurs in the days leading up to the birth.  During the pregnancy, a thick mucus plug developed at the cervical opening to prevent any bacteria from entering into the uterus.  As the cervix dilates, the plug is loosened and may be discharged through the vagina.  A discharge that could be thick, rusty brown or bloody will present, called a bloody “show”.  However, labor may not occur for weeks later, which can cause some women to become concerned that they are bleeding.  While this is rarely confused as a period while pregnant, it is nonetheless disconcerting for some women to see evidence of blood when they have become accustomed to no bleeding during their pregnancy.  As with any type of vaginal bleeding while pregnant, the woman should immediately inform her doctor of any bloody discharge.

A wonderful mystery of nature occurs each and every month for the magical process of creating new life, which is the purpose of the menstrual period.  While pregnant, it is expected by most women that this process will cease for the nine months required to bring forth this new life.  When bleeding does occur, it is essential to contact your physician to determine its cause and help to put your mind to rest.