Periods and Pregnancy: What's Normal?

One of the perks of pregnancy is the absence of a monthly period. This is caused by a hormone that is released during pregnancy called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. This is the hormone that most home pregnancy tests detect in your urine. The pregnancy hormones signal your body to stop ovulation and therefore also stop your periods.

Does a Missed Period Always Mean Pregnancy?

Some women have irregular menstrual cycles and do not become alarmed at irregular bleeding. Home pregnancy tests are generally reliable, readily accessible and are fairly inexpensive. New tests are being marketed that can detect the pregnancy hormone sooner than before. As soon as you are aware that you have missed a period, purchase a pregnancy test and be sure to read the directions before beginning. If the test is negative and you are still unsure, you can schedule an appointment with you physician and a blood test can be drawn to check for pregnancy hormones in your blood. This test is very sensitive and more reliable than the over the counter urine tests.

Can I Have a Period While Pregnant?

Some women may experience a few days of period like bleeding while the embryo attaches to the wall of the uterus. This is does not signal a problem with the pregnancy and is not a period. This can however confuse the due date if it is mistaken for a true period and the pregnancy may be affected in terms of prenatal care.

What Is Spotting?

It is estimated that 30 per cent of pregnancies experience period like bleeding and discharge known as spotting. Light spotting early in the pregnancy is fairly common. If the spotting becomes heavier and similar to a period, your pregnancy may be in jeopardy and you should call your physician immediately.

In the later stages of pregnancy, you may experience "bloody show", which is not a period and occurs in pregnancy normally. Heavy, period-like bleeding in late pregnancy can indicate a problem with the placenta where it is either in the bottom of the uterus near the cervix or has been disrupted and detached from the uterus wall. These are medical emergencies.

Rectal bleeding can be common in pregnancies thanks to frequent constipation which can cause tears in the rectal tissue. You should attempt to determine the source of your bleeding before calling your physician or nurse practitioner.

Especially for first time mothers, pregnancy can be full of questions and anxiety. Education is the best medicine to calm your fears. Many books on pregnancy are available as well as a vast amount of information on the internet. If you still are unsure, it's best to call your physician for clarification, and don't worry, you're not the first expectant mother to call with questions.