Anyone who has periods during pregnancy, or what seem to be periods, may be puzzled – and a little worried – about what is going on. In fact, it’s not at all unusual to experience symptoms that are very similar to periods in pregnancy…so how do you know whether everything is normal or not? To suddenly discover that you’re bleeding is not uncommon, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy: it’s thought that more than 1 in 10 women experience this. But it can come as a big shock and it’s important to know how to decide whether you should call a doctor.
In the first few weeks of being pregnant, particularly around the same time that a period would have occurred, some women experience similar symptoms: light bleeding or spotting and sometimes a heavy feeling. This probably means that your hormone levels, which are changing all the time, haven’t yet reached the level where they prevent blood loss from the parts of your womb not covered by the placenta. If you have had your pregnancy confirmed by a doctor or a 100% positive test and you’re still in your first trimester, then the chances are that what you’re experiencing is what is called decidual bleeding and things are normal. However, if you are at all worried about bleeding during early pregnancy or you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or midwife and get checked over:
1) If you lose more than just a very few drops of bright red blood.
2) If the bleeding is profuse or heavy. If it is heavy, especially if it is bright red, rest immediately and get the doctor to come to you. The biggest risk in this situation is that the blood is coming from a low-lying placenta or that the placenta is parting from the womb lining.
3) If you have moderate to severe abdominal pain or backache as well as any bleeding, whatever the colour of the blood. Brownish blood can be a sign of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy and whilst this is rare it needs to be diagnosed a fast as possible.
It isn’t, therefore, possible to have actual periods during pregnancy, because a period happens when an egg isn’t fertilised and the walls of the womb lining break down and come away. The symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for periods but are more likely caused by decidual bleeding, as above, or by having a polyp in your cervix (not usually serious), or can result after sexual intercourse. Occasionally the cause might be a vaginal infection. Getting pregnant whilst on the Pill can also cause bleeds in early pregnancy that can seem to mimic light periods.
In any event, don’t hesitate to call a doctor if you’re worried about bleeding in early pregnancy. If you’re reading this because you’re not sure whether you might be pregnant or not – if in doubt, get a test! After the first trimester, any apparent periods during pregnancy should be taken more seriously and checked out by a medical practitioner. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are having a miscarriage – but you need to take care and be sure. The one thing NOT to do is ignore any bleeding in pregnancy…hoping it will be nothing or will just go away is a bad idea, as your baby’s and your own health is paramount.
Good luck and best wishes for a healthy pregnancy.