You would imagine that periods and pregnancy are mutually exclusive. Yet, sometimes things seems to get a bit mixed up. Here are a few commonly asked questions about the early signs of pregnancy, bleeding and how to know when you're pregnant.
Could I be experiencing pregnancy symptoms before I've even missed a period?
Potentially, yes. For many women, missing a period is the first obvious sign that they're expecting – and the common pregnancy symptoms arrive a bit later (such as morning sickness from around five or six weeks).
Perhaps one of the reasons why a missed period is the eureka moment for so many women is that the very early signs of pregnancy can be similar to those you'd experience just before menstruating. They can include:
I did an early pregnancy test and it was positive – now I'm bleeding! Is there a problem?
You might be experiencing what is known as implantation bleeding. This occurs early on, around the time that you would have had your period, and it is caused by the embryo embedding itself into the wall of your uterus. Implantation bleeding tends to be light (spotting), but it can last for several days.
Another cause of light bleeding early on is the changes occurring in your cervix. More blood is being directed there now, and so you might experience some spotting after a vaginal exam, or after sexual intercourse.
Is it possible to have periods during pregnancy?
No, it's not – not in the official sense anyway. As soon as you become pregnant, your normal periods stop and your body begins to concentrate on the monumental task of growing your baby.
However, it's not uncommon for some bleeding to occur in the first three months – and because the bleeding can come when your period would have arrived (not to mention the fact that you might be experiencing abdominal cramps, very similar to the ones you'd get at your time of the month), it can feel like you're still getting periods.
This is called breakthrough bleeding, and it's usually not a cause for concern – most women who experience it go on to have healthy babies. It is, however, sensible to tell your midwife or doctor, who might want to check things out.
My period is late, but the pregnancy test is negative. What's going on?
If you are trying to conceive, you'd be forgiven for thinking (and hoping!) that the cause of your late or missed period is a baby.
However, there are other reasons why your period might be late.
Are you stressed? Stress can affect your hormones, which in turn could affect your menstrual cycle. Have you been diagnosed with hypothyroidism? Sometimes this can lead to an overproduction of the hormone prolactin, which certainly has the ability to mess with menstruation.
Excessive exercise can also have an effect, as can rapid weight gain or rapid weight loss.
Certain medications might upset things – or there is a chance you could be suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition prevents eggs from maturing properly in the ovaries, which in turn prevents ovulation.
If you have PCOS, you are likely to be experiencing other symptoms too. If you suspect it, visit your GP. And if you continue to experience late or missed periods, you should also make an appointment to see your doctor, so they can help determine the underlying cause.
More on Parentdish: 10 ways to tell you might be pregnant