Although an early period can signify nothing more than an especially stressful month or a change in your diet, it can also be an early sign of pregnancy or an indication of a hormonal imbalance. By paying attention to the type of bleeding you experience—heavy or light, short in duration or long—and reporting any unusual bleeding or severe cramping ensures your doctor receives the information necessary to diagnose and treat any underlying medical conditions that might cause you to experience an early period.
Some women experience light bleeding and spotting when the embryo implants in the uterus about six to 12 days after conception, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It is easy to mistake this bleeding for an early period because it usually occurs shortly before or right around the time you normally get your period. If you suspect pregnancy, verify it with a home test as soon as possible and make an appointment with your primary care provider.
The light bleeding that accompanies pregnancy implantation—usually pinkish or light brown—will normally be much lighter than your regular periods. It can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The American Pregnancy Association stresses that heavy bleeding, which fills up pads and tampons, is usually a good indication that you are not pregnant. Cramping in early pregnancy often feels a lot like mild menstrual cramps and occurs because of all of the changes taking place in your uterus.
Occasional menstrual irregularities usually do not pose serious problems, but they can signify hormonal imbalances or other complications. If you usually experience regular periods and your cycle becomes increasingly erratic, Womenshealth.gov recommends making an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation. You should also make an appointment with your doctor if you regularly bleed between periods or if your periods occur more often than every 21 days.
Cramping and bleeding during early pregnancy does not necessarily mean that you will miscarry the baby. Twenty five percent to 30 percent of women experience bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Half of these women will go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies, and the other half will experience heavier bleeding and cramping that ultimately leads to a miscarriage.
Because there is no way to determine whether your vaginal bleeding is “normal” or if it will progress to miscarriage, the American Pregnancy Association urges you to report any bleeding or spotting in early pregnancy to your doctor. Whether you are pregnant or not, Larissa Hirsch, MD, an instructor in pediatrics at NYPH Cornell and a medical editor at the Kid’s Health by Nemours website, advises calling your doctor immediately if the bleeding or cramping become especially heavy and/or painful.