Pregnant woman touching her belly and smiling at the doctor's officePregnant woman touching her belly and smiling at the doctor's office

Some women may experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and wonder if they can have a period while pregnant. The simple answer is ‘no.’
The next obvious questions are why this would happen and if it is a sign of trouble with your pregnancy. While it may only be spotting, it is best to see your doctor or midwife, particularly if it continues or if you experience pain.
For the health of you and your baby, do not ignore these symptoms.

Can you have a period while pregnant?

Your body only menstruates after it ovulates each month. Therefore, it is not possible to have a period while pregnant.

Women who experience vaginal bleeding during the first three months of pregnancy often mistake spotting for their period. The good news is that most women who experience spotting go on to have healthy babies without any complications. On average, 15 to 25 percent of women have spotting early in pregnancy.

Although spotting can catch you off-guard, it does not mimic the flow of a period. When you menstruate, you begin with light bleeding, which then becomes heavier before tapering off.

However, if you are bleeding heavily enough to soak through a pad, you may no longer be pregnant and should seek medical attention.

Other causes of bleeding during pregnancy

The obvious next questions are: ‘why are you bleeding?’ and ‘what does it mean?’.

Bleeding during the first three months of pregnancy

Always seek medical advice if you are experiencing bleeding or spotting during your pregnancy. Your doctor is in a better position to identify the cause based on your symptoms and health history.

The possible causes of bleeding at this stage:

  • Cervical changes – Once you conceive, your cervix remains in a high position and may become softer. As a result, you may experience light bleeding, particularly after having sex. If you are concerned, make an appointment to see your doctor.
  • Implantation bleeding – This occurs when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus, which is a normal process. This normally occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy, usually around 12 – 15 days after conception, and rarely lasts more than 24 – 48 hours.
  • Ectopic pregnancy – When a fertilised egg implants itself outside the uterus, it can lead to medical complications. Request an ultrasound immediately.
  • Infection – Ask for a prescription to clear this up without harming you or the baby.
  • Molar pregnancy – In this case, an abnormal mass of cells settles in the uterus and displaces the foetus. This is also known as gestational trophoblastic disease.
  • Miscarriage – This happens in 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies as the foetus does not form in a normal way.

The last four causes often come with heavier bleeding and other symptoms, such as back or shoulder pain, fainting, fatigue, fever, severe cramps, unusual vaginal discharge or uncontrollable vomiting.

You may also experience bleeding from a haematoma between the uterine wall and the placenta.

If you experience any bleeding during the first three months of pregnancy, you should always speak to a doctor.

Bleeding later in pregnancy

If you experience bleeding after the first three months, you should seek emergency medical help immediately, regardless of how much blood you see. Always make a note of the colour, volume and consistency of the blood to help your doctor diagnose you more quickly.

Disclaimer: This information aims to answer some of your questions or concerns. If you are worried about your health, talk to your family doctor or your gynecologist for professional medical advice.