Periods During Pregnancy:
It seems like at some point every woman has heard that their sister's friend's cousin had a period while they were pregnant. Or "oh I bled throughout my pregnancy and didn't know I was pregnant because it was my period!" This is a myth. Women often confuse any vaginal bleeding as their period because that is what they are used to happening. You did not experience a period; you experienced vaginal bleeding! This is a common occurrence and a wide misconception.
You cannot have a period while you are pregnant because both of these functions cannot happen at the same time. If you were pregnant and began menstruating, inevitably you would lose the pregnancy or have a miscarriage. Although you can't be pregnant and have a period at the same time, you can, in fact, experience vaginal bleeding and continue to be pregnant. These are two very different terms: vaginal bleeding and menstruation (period), but it is usually vaginal bleeding that women confuse as their periods.
Bleeding early in pregnancy, as in the first trimester, is scary, but luckily it usually doesn't signal a problem. It is also rather common among women. There are a few common causes of first-trimester bleeding, none of which is an indication of trouble.
1. Normal implantation of the pregnancy into the uterine wall. This bleeding, which sometimes also occurs when a fertilized egg (embryo) attaches itself to the wall of the uterus (generally two to five days after conception), is brief and light and only lasting a couple of days. Implantation normally occurs around five to ten days after conception.
2. Hormonal changes when the period would have otherwise occurred. This type of bleeding is also usually very light, but it can sometimes seem like an actual period. Many women report that they do actually bleed regularly during the early portion of their pregnancy, none of which is a true menstrual period, and this is usually the culprit for that. It is often referred as early pregnancy bleeding and is caused by hormonal changes in the body due to the pregnancy. This is also rather common among women and, again, can appear to be a menstrual period. It's not though.
3. It could be a subchorionic bleed. This is when a small blood clot forms at the edge of the placenta. It usually stops on its own and isn't normally an emergency. But your doctor will want to monitor this with ultrasound to be sure that the clot has resolved itself.
4. Decidual bleeding. This is period-like bleeding (but not your period) when your hormones may get out of whack. It will cause you to lose parts of the lining along the uterine wall. This is especially common in the very early stages of pregnancy because the lining hasn't had a chance to completely attach to the placenta. Although a scary thought, it is not generally considered to be a health risk to neither mother or baby.
5. Getting pregnant while on the pill. This is often associated with bleeding during a pregnancy and can be confused with a menstrual period. Many women will have several bleeding episodes before they realize something isn't right. This will cause the woman to be unable to accurately tell her doctor when her last real menstrual cycle because of the confusion, and an ultrasound will be required to determine an estimated due date.
Often the real case can't be pinpointed, but the bleeding stops spontaneously and in the situations above, the pregnancy continues just fine. As a precaution though, any bleeding should be reported to your practitioner so that he or she can evaluate it. Record whether it is intermittent or persistent, when it started, the color, the heaviness or lightness of the flow, any odor, or any tissue fragments (bits of solid material) that may have passed with the blood. If there were, try to save them in a jar. Also report other symptoms like excessive vomiting, any pain, fever, weakness, and whatever else you might feel.
Any other kind of bleeding than those above, you should make a quick call to the doctor, or if he isn't in, a visit to the ER. It could indicate a less common, and much worse, cause of early bleeding, which includes:
1. Miscarriage. The light bleeding will turn into heavy bleeding and will be accompanied by strong lower abdominal pain that comes and goes. When a miscarriage is taking place, you should find a passage of embryonic material in the blood. A brownish discharge may mean a missed miscarriage. Sometimes, if the fertilized egg doesn't develop, the sac is empty and no embryonic material could have passed.
2. Ectopic pregnancy. Signs include brown vaginal spotting or light bleeding, continuous or not, and have abdominal and/or shoulder pain that is often severe. This type of pregnancy will have to be surgically aborted as it poses potential harm to the mother. The fetus would not be able to survive in this type of pregnancy anyway.
3. Molar pregnancy. Signs include a continuous brownish discharge. This one is a very rare, yet very serious, problem. See the related links below for more information on this condition.
Why You Cannot Have A Regular Period During Pregnancy:
The pregnancy hormone completely prevents ovulation in the first place. Ovulation is required to have a period.
You cannot have a period while you are pregnant by the very biological definition and function of the two.
Your cycle is what causes a period! Your body releases hormones during this cycle. Those hormones send signals to your reproductive organs to perform certain tasks. An increase in hormones causes an egg to be released from your ovaries. While it travels, a layer of blood and tissue thickens to protect the uterine wall. If the egg is not fertilized, hormone levels drop and you start your period as that extra thick layer of blood and tissue detaches itself and comes out.
While you are pregnant, your body focuses on providing a healthy environment for the fetus. Your brain sends signals to your ovaries to stop the cycle so that the baby can grow. As a result, hormones continue to build and rise for the next nine months because it can't drop.
If you continued to have a period while you were pregnant, it would be shedding the lining of the uterine wall. This lining is what helps to nourish your baby each month. So in biological terms, it makes no sense to have a period while you were pregnant and simply not possible. Therefore, the spotting or bleeding that you are experiencing is caused by something other than your period.
Always Tell Your Doctor:
Make sure you record all information and even descriptions of, especially, the first and also subsequent vaginal bleeding episodes. You need to tell your OB/GYN every possible detail that you can about the odor, appearance, any tissue, color, flow, and any other concurrent symptoms elsewhere in the body. Your OB/GYN will need to evaluate you and determine whether your particular cause of vaginal bleeding is cause for an emergency, or more commonly, a non-emergency issue. If you experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy, you need to call your doctor for instructions, or if he isn't in visit your nearest ER pronto.
Don't be embarrassed about it, and don't worry about "grossing out" your doctor. If your doctor was "grossed out" by this, he or she would have chosen a different career path. They answer these types of questions and put mothers-to-be at ease every single day.
Since women confuse and accept bleeding during a pregnancy as their period, they fail to inform their doctor. Thus, there are very harsh consequences for not obtaining the proper medical attention in time when they have abnormal vaginal bleeding.