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Can You Get Your Period While Pregnant?

Can you have a period while pregnant? It’s a common question. Here, experts offer a comprehensive answer.
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profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Updated
August 1, 2022
pregnant woman standing in the bathroom looking in the mirror
Image: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

Pregnancy brings lots of changes to your body, so it’s normal to wonder what might remain the same. One commonly asked question: “Can you get your period while pregnant?” Here, we tapped experts to find out. Keep reading to learn more about whether you can have a period while pregnant, and what to do if you experience period-like bleeding or cramps during pregnancy.

Can You Get Your Period While Pregnant?

Experts agree that you cannot get your period while pregnant. Let’s revisit why women get periods in the first place: Over the course of a menstrual cycle, the lining of a woman’s uterus slowly thickens in preparation for a fertilized embryo to implant in the uterine wall, explains Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, located in Orlando, Florida. However, if a woman doesn’t get pregnant at the end of her menstrual cycle, that uterine lining is then shed, resulting in a period, Cynthia Flynn, MD, a Florida-based ob-gyn with JustAnswer, adds.

Here’s the thing: Though you can’t get your period while pregnant, some women might experience some spotting and bleeding, and even cramping, that may mimic your period. (More on this below.)

What to Know About Period-Like Bleeding During Pregnancy

It’s understandable to be concerned if you experience period-like bleeding during early pregnancy, as it can potentially be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. But bleeding during pregnancy doesn’t always mean that something is terribly amiss. In fact, approximately a third of women will experience some spotting and bleeding during their first trimester, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale School of Medicine. While half of these cases may sadly end in miscarrage, the other half will proceed as usual.

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Some possible reasons someone might experience bleeding during pregnancy include:

  • Implantation bleeding: This happens during early pregnancy, when the newly fertilized embryo travels from the fallopian tube and attaches to the uterine lining, Minkin says. Implantation bleeding is usually light and not a cause for concern.

  • A subchorionic bleed: This is a small collection of blood behind the placenta that could appear during early pregnancy. “It’s very common and usually resolves on its own,” Flynn says.

  • A sensitive cervix: This could be a result of the cervix getting softer during pregnancy. “Occasionally even having intercourse can lead to some spotting,” Minkin says.

  • Placenta previa: This occurs when the placenta is very low in the uterus and covers the cervix, blocking baby’s exit path.

  • Placental abruption: This is when the placenta begins to detach from the uterus before labor starts.

  • Preterm labor: This is when labor begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy. However, you might also experience bleeding at the onset of labor at term, Minkin states, due to the stretching of the cervix.

  • Cervical polyp: Cervical polyps are small growths of tissue on the cervix. They’re typically not a cause for concern but may bleed due to the increased number of blood vessels in the cervix.

The best thing to do if you’re experiencing period-like bleeding during pregnancy is to call your ob-gyn or midwife, so they can make sure everything is okay with you and baby. While some circumstances may call for further treatment, “in many cases, an ultrasound will show that everything is okay and may even determine the cause of the bleeding,” Flynn notes.

What to Know About Period-Like Cramps While Pregnant

You can’t get your period during pregnancy, but you may still unfortunately experience some period-like symptoms, such as cramps during pregnancy. They could be due to implantation pain in early pregnancy or the growth of the uterus in the first trimester. “It often feels like you are about to get your period, but it never comes,” Flynn explains. “In the second trimester, you may get a few Braxton Hicks contractions or round ligament pain. Both are felt as cramping.”

While some period-like cramping is par for the course, severe cramping at any point during the pregnancy could be a sign of a more serious issue, such as an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or preterm labor. If you do experience any cramps during pregnancy, reach out to your ob-gyn or midwife, especially if the cramping is persistent. More moderate cramps are likely no cause for concern, but as Flynn says, “These are the symptoms your doctor wants to hear about.”

About the experts:

Christine Greves, MD, FACOG, is a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, located in Orlando, Florida. She received her medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

Cynthia Flynn, MD, is a board-certified ob-gyn based in Florida with over 20 years of experience. She is also an expert with the online platform JustAnswer. She received her degree from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, is a practicing gynecologist and a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. She also received her medical degree and completed her residency there.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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