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A period is a period, a pregnancy is a pregnancy, and never the twain shall meet. The simple truth is that you can’t get your period if you’re pregnant. Don’t believe the hype or random websites.

The longer story is that you may have spotting (typically dark brown or pink) in the early stages of your pregnancy. This type of bleeding shouldn’t be enough to fill a tampon or pad.

If you’re having any kind of legit flow, it’s safe to assume you’re not pregnant. That being said, if you are pregnant and you experience any heavy bleeding, get to a doctor ASAP.

Your period is basically a monthly reminder that you’re not pregnant.

Every month, an egg is released from one of your ovaries. If it doesn’t get fertilized, you get a period. Unfertilized eggs exit through your uterus and eventually your vagina, creating your monthly flow.

It’s completely normal for the color and amount of menstrual blood to vary during your period. The blood is usually lighter in volume and darker in color at the beginning of your cycle than at the end.

It’s possible to bleed during pregnancy, but that bleeding isn’t related to menstruation and could (but doesn’t always) indicate something is wrong. And there are a lot of false claims floating around the internet that spread misinformation.

Rest assured that many women do have healthy babies after spotting during their first trimester. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about the kinds of bleeding that are possible during pregnancy and when immediate medical attention is required.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 15 to 25 percent of women experience spotting at the beginning of pregnancy.

Some of the usual suspects include:

  • cervical changes
  • infection
  • implantation bleeding
  • ectopic pregnancy (one that occurs outside the uterus)
  • molar pregnancy (when an abnormal growth is fertilized in the uterus)
  • early stages of a miscarriage

Implantation bleeding

If you’re experiencing implantation bleeding, chances are you don’t even know you’re pregnant yet. This happens in the very early stages of pregnancy, when the fertilized egg furrows into your uterus.

Not everyone will experience implantation bleeding, but if you do, it’ll usually happen around the time you’d be expecting your period. Women often mistake it for a period, though implantation bleeding is a lot lighter than a typical flow.

Pregnancy also causes changes to your cervix, which can trigger spotting early on. As long as there isn’t an infection, this usually isn’t a big deal.

Other causes

Some other causes of early-term bleeding require urgent medical care.

These include:

  • ectopic pregnancy
  • molar pregnancy
  • infections
  • miscarriage

These issues usually cause much heavier bleeding and can be accompanied by other symptoms.

Some symptoms to look out for:

  • shoulder pain
  • back pain
  • fatigue
  • uncontrollable nausea and vomiting
  • severe cramps or abdominal pain
  • changes in vaginal discharge
  • fainting or passing out

Any type of bleeding that happens after your first trimester is cause for concern and requires immediate medical attention. It doesn’t matter how light or heavy.

Here are some of the common causes of late-term bleeding:

  • miscarriage
  • placental abruption
  • placenta previa
  • cervical dilation or term or preterm labor

Rare but equally serious causes include vasa previa and uterine rupture.

Preterm labor

Birth that occurs before 37 weeks is considered preterm. Sometimes the symptoms of preterm labor resemble those of a period along with a considerable amount of mucus discharge.

If you’re going into preterm labor, you may also experience:

  • changes in discharge
  • backache
  • a feeling of pressure in your vagina

Placenta previa

Placenta previa is serious, as it can hinder labor in delivery and cause life threatening bleeding. It happens when the placenta is implanted low in the cervix. As a result, it gets very close to the cervix.

Apart from bleeding (which can vary), there are no other symptoms.

Uterine rupture

While it’s very rare, sometimes the muscle of the uterus tears or separates. This is called uterine rupture, and it causes uncontrollable bleeding.

Women who have had a cesarean delivery in the past are more likely than others to experience uterine rupture, since the tear usually occurs across the previous scar line in the uterus.

In addition to bleeding, these symptoms warrant a trip to your doctor:

  • pressure in your pelvis
  • mild to severe abdominal cramping
  • dull ache in your lower back
  • abnormal or excessive vaginal discharge
  • regular and frequent contractions

Also take note of any dizziness, rectal pressure, pain on one side of your abdomen, or sharp waves of pain in your abdomen, neck, shoulder, or pelvis. These could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy.

If you have abdominal pain or think you’re having contractions, drink two or three glasses of water or juice (nothing with caffeine) and lie on your left side for an hour. Pay attention to whether your contractions change or decrease.

If your symptoms don’t subside within an hour, call your doctor. If things calm down, take it easy for the rest of the day and avoid anything that triggers your symptoms.

Any kind of bleeding during pregnancy is definitely not a period, and it’s not necessarily a reason to panic. Late-term bleeding is more serious and always requires medical attention. If you’re unsure or nervous, just call your doctor.