Can you get your period while pregnant? – bleeding during pregnancy

By (gynecologist), (embryologist) and (biochemist).
Last Update: 09/05/2022

Many women wonder if they can get their period while pregnant. It is common for this question to arise, as spotting or bleeding may occur at different times during pregnancy. Although it is generally not serious to have a small bleed, it is advisable to consult a specialist in case it could be an indication of a problem in the pregnancy.

It is not possible to be pregnant and have menstruation at the same time, although it is common to experience a small amount of vaginal bleeding that has nothing to do with menstrual periods.

About 30% of women experience blood loss during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, although it is not uncommon at other times either. In fact, approximately one in 200 pregnant women also experience vaginal bleeding in the second and third trimester.

Why is there no menstruation during pregnancy?

Menstruation is the shedding of the endometrium, that is, the process by which the endometrium detaches from the uterine walls when the ovum has not been fertilized.

The brain sends hormonal signals to the ovary so that, if the eggs is fertilized and then the embyro implants, the uterine endometrium does not detach and develops properly to house, nourish and protect the baby. For this reason, there is no shedding of the endometrium during pregnancy, that is to say there is no menstruation.

If normal menstrual periods were to occur, it would mean that the woman would discard the uterine membrane responsible for nourishing the baby. Therefore, the baby would not be able to develop and the pregnancy would be lost.

You can find out what the endometrium is and its role in pregnancy in this link: What is the endometrium?.

Is it normal to bleed during pregnancy?

Although menstruation during pregnancy is not possible, many women experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, especially towards the start. This is called decidual bleeding.

This is usually vaginal blood loss caused by the hormonal imbalance characteristic of pregnancy. They do not normally pose a danger to the baby or the mother.

However, if the bleeding becomes heavy and painful, it is recommended to see a gynecologist, as this is indicative of serious complications that can lead to miscarriage.

Other causes of bleeding in pregnancy

Spotting and light bleeds are common in the following physiological processes during pregnancy:

  • Implantation of the embryo: it is common for implantation bleeding to occur during the first weeks of pregnancy, usually before the delay in menstruation. It is caused by the rupture of blood vessels neeeded so that the vessel connection between the mother and the baby, which will be the future placenta, can begin to form.
  • Changes in the cervix: to prepare the way for the birthing process, more blood flows into the cervix and some minor bleeding is common.

As gynecologist Nadia Caroppo tells us:

In pregnancy there is a change in the hormones, estrogens and progesterone, that favour the development of the pregnancy and block the function of the ovaries. Menstruation is not possible, as it would lead to loss of the embryo.

Other bleeding patterns that may occur during pregnancy could be due to such occurences as alterations at the cervix, polyps that may develop in the cervix during pregnancy, or pathologies linked to pregnancy itself.

Although small leaks are usually caused by the normal physiological development of pregnancy, there are occasions when bleeding becomes dangerous. Some pregnancy complications that can lead to severe bleeding are:

  • Problems with the placenta: such as placental abruption or placenta previa.
  • Ectopic pregnancyectopic pregnancy: occurs when the embryo has implanted outside the uterine cavity, for example in the fallopian tubes, which may rupture, causing internal bleeding.
  • Molar pregnancymolar pregnancy: This is a malformation of the placental tissue that may cause genital bleeding.
  • Intrauterine hematomasare crescent-shaped structures formed by the appearance of small pools of blood between the chorionic tissue and the superficial layers of the endometrium. When these hematomas appear, the pregnancy is considered high risk.
  • Presence of polyps, fibroids or vaginal infections.

Vaginal bleeding is often of great concern to pregnant women, as it may be a sign of miscarriage. However, it is important to note that only a fraction of these bleeds result in miscarriages or serious consequences.

You can find out more about the possible causes of bleeding during pregnancy here: Is bleeding in pregnancy normal?

FAQs from users

Can you get your period while pregnant?

By Sara Salgado B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

No, it is not possible to have a period while pregnant. Bleeding or spotting at this time is usually caused by the normal hormonal changes of pregnancy, implantation bleeding or physiological changes in the cervix in preparation for childbirth.

It is important to monitor the bleeding and consult a doctor whenever it is heavy or painful. If in doubt, it is best to see a doctor in case there could be a serious situation.

I have bleeding in my first month of pregnancy, does it mean something is wrong?

By Sara Salgado B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Not necessarily. Slight spotting or bleeding in early pregnancy is very common. It may be due to normal hormonal changes caused by pregnancy. If you have heavy bleeding, pain or are concerned, it is best to see your doctor.

Can implantation bleeding be heavy?

By Sara Salgado B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

It is usually a light spotting, less abundant than menstruation and of short duration. It is usually slightly brown in color, but may be pinkish or even red. If it is abundant and of long duration, it is most likely your menstruation and therefore there is no pregnancy.

Find out more about this very characteristic bleeding in this link: What is implantation bleeding?

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References

Authors and contributors

 Nadia Caroppo
Nadia Caroppo
M.D.
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine by the University of Buenos Aires, with specialization in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Large experience working as an OB/GYN at several Spanish and international hospitals. Experience as the Supervisor of Female Genital Tract Pathology & Colposcopy Unit. More information about Nadia Caroppo
License: 460844481
 Sara Salgado
Sara Salgado
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Embryologist
Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Master's Degree in Human Assisted Reproduction from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Certificate of University Expert in Genetic Diagnosis Techniques from the University of Valencia (UV). More information about Sara Salgado
Adapted into english by:
 Michelle Lorraine Embleton
Michelle Lorraine Embleton
B.Sc. Ph.D.
Biochemist
PhD in Biochemistry, University of Bristol, UK, specialising in DNA : protein intereactions. BSc honours degree in Molecular Biology, Univerisity of Bristol. Translation and editing of scientific and medical literature.
More information about Michelle Lorraine Embleton

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