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Dr. Rad Debunking Myths About Pregnancy and Menstruation in Parade Magazine

Is It Possible to Be Pregnant and Still Get Your Period? Doctors Share the Truth

A missed period is often the first clue of a possible pregnancy. But women will sometimes experience vaginal bleeding for a variety of reasons during pregnancy, which may make them wonder: Can you be pregnant and still have a period?

The answer is no, not technically—but it’s also a little more complicated than that. Here’s everything you need to know about whether you can have a period when you’re pregnant, and what to know about vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.

Is It Possible to Be Pregnant and Still Get Your Period

Can you have a period while pregnant?

Technically, it’s biologically impossible to get your period while pregnant, according to doctors. “Getting your period, or menstruating, is by definition, the shedding of the uterine lining which happens when there is not a fertilized egg in the uterus,” says Dr. Amy Roskin, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Favor. “Being pregnant means that you would need your uterine lining to sustain a pregnancy, so menstruation does not occur.”

Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

Although you can’t have an actual period while pregnant, you can experience vaginal bleeding—which is often mistaken for a period. “Bleeding in pregnancy may be dark brown discharge, spotting light pink, or heavy and bright red similar to or more than a period,” says Dr. Steve Rad, MD, FACOG, of the Los Angeles Fetal & Maternal Care Center. “It may or may not be accompanied by pain, but painless bleeding can still be equally dangerous!”

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Why you may experience bleeding while pregnant

There are many reasons why you may experience bleeding while pregnant, with causes ranging from minor to urgent. “Bleeding very early on may occur when the pregnancy implants in the uterus,” says Kate White, MD, MPH, OB/GYN, author of Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. Known as implantation bleeding, this can often seem very similar to a period, especially due to the timing. “This bleeding may be lighter than a period but often occurs around the same time that you would menstruate, approximately 10 to 14 days after conception,” says Dr. Roskin.

Bleeding while pregnant can sometimes indicate an emergency situation

While implantation bleeding is innocuous, some other causes of bleeding are more serious. “Bleeding early in pregnancy may also be a sign that the pregnancy isn’t in the uterus at all, but is in the fallopian tube, the cervix, or a C-section scar,” says Dr. White. “Bleeding may also be a sign of an impending miscarriage; half of the people who bleed in early pregnancy will have a loss. Bleeding later in pregnancy, in the second and third trimesters, can be a sign of a problem with the placenta, or might be the onset of labor.”

What to do if you have bleeding while pregnant

Because bleeding during pregnancy can be caused by so many things, it’s important to get it checked out immediately. “Always call your doctor right away and seek urgent or emergency evaluation and treatment,” says Dr. Rad. “For me, any type or amount of bleeding in pregnancy is not okay. Whether the bleeding is brown, light spotting, or heavy—and whether or not there is pain—I recommend all my patients get immediately evaluated. It is impossible and difficult to tell what the issue is just based on the type or amount of bleeding.”

Don’t assume the worst

While bleeding during pregnancy can sometimes signal a serious problem, it may also be innocuous and result from minor conditions. Try to think positive until you get evaluated by a medical professional. “Bleeding in pregnancy is scary, but it’s also common,” says Dr. White. “Many pregnancies that have bleeding will develop normally, so while you should have an evaluation from your doctor or midwife, try to believe them when they say that everything looks good and will likely be fine.”

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