The Pregnancy Panic Companion: When You've Had a Period

A virtual doula to get you through this hot mess with a cool head

This is part of our Pregnancy Panic Companion. Click here to go back to the beginning.

You said you are scared about a pregnancy, but you (or your partner) are currently having a menstrual period, or have already had one since the risk.

Has the risk you are worried about occurred during a current menstrual period? If so, this is the right page for you.

If the risk that has you concerned occurred before the menstrual period you (or your partner) have had, or are now having, then it is highly unlikely you became pregnant from that risk. Menstrual periods primarily occur because a pregnancy in the previous cycle did not occur. That's why the most common first clue people get that they are or may be pregnant is a missed period.

If knowing that puts your fears to bed, then we're done here. There aren't any next steps for you besides figuring out what you need, that is within your control, from here on out to make scares less likely for you. You may also find some of the helps listed on this page helpful.

If knowing that doesn't change anything for you, and you still feel scared or uncertain, then your next step is to take a pregnancy test.

Home pregnancy tests are usually available at pharmacies, supermarkets or grocers or megastores, and typically cost around $10 - $25 USD. They are highly reliable -- just as much as one a healthcare provider does -- when used according to their directions.  Healthcare providers such as general practitioners or general clinics, sexual or reproductive healthcare providers (including abortion clinics, even if abortion isn't a choice you think you would want to make with a pregnancy) can also do pregnancy tests, some for low or no cost. 

For sound information about pregnancy tests before you have that box in your hand, you can check this out: Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests.

Here are some things you can do to help yourself now: 

Self-care: To deal with the stress and worry you've been or are still experiencing, you've got to take good care of yourself, doing things that make it more likely for you to be able to start to calm down and get through each day, rather than things more likely to keep you stuck in a panic, or that will make you panic anew. Not sure what "self-care" means, or need some ideas about things you can do? Check out our big list of ways to care for yourself at Self-Care a La Carte.

If you're still concerned about pregnancy because something seems really off with your period, check in with a healthcare provider. If there is, in fact, something you need to be concerned about with changes to your menstrual cycle or menstrual periods, then a healthcare provider can figure out what that is and fill you in. You also can get tested for pregnancy while you're there, if you like. 

Seek out some mental healthcare: If you can access some counseling -- be that through school, health insurance or low-cost to no-cost community or public health services -- you can get some good help from someone who knows their stuff when it comes to getting to the bottom of your fears and helping you learn to manage them, including if they're based in an underlying mental health  or interpersonal relationship issue, like an anxiety disorder, sexual shame or an abusive relationship. If you don't have access to that kind of help, don't want it, or want to get started with that on your own, you can take a look at You're Not Pregnant. Why Do You Think You Are? for some possibilities of the bigger issues that may be underneath these fears.

Take a break from anything that seems to trigger these fears for you for the bit: If you continue to do the things that are freaking you out, or that you're not yet able to do in a way that reduce real risks of pregnancy, then even if and when a period does arrive, you'll have a whole new cycle of worry start right up from risks you took after the last one, or things you did since that scare you. It can also be easier to stay stuck in a scare this way, as that scare may feel like it never ends for you because you keep staying in the fear those activities are causing for you. Need help figuring out what limits you want or need? You can take stock with Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist.  Need help communicating that to a partner? Have a look at Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner or Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast.

Re-evaluate what you're really ready for and want to deal with: When we feel afraid, it's often for good reason, and when it comes to fear and sex, these kinds of fears are often a cue that we're doing something we're either just not ready for, don't really want, or are in a sexual situation or relationship that's not right for us in some way. For example, you may need a reliable method (or a reliable method and a backup method) of contraception to feel okay about sex, a partner who shows a real respect and concern for your limits and boundaries or who is more willing to stick with a sexual pace you're comfortable with, a more committed relationship, more time to be sexual by yourself before hooking up with partners, more ease in your own body and sexuality, or help or support with getting past sexual fears instilled by your community or culture, or managing stress or anxiety. Want some help?  Check out Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist or Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist for some ideas about what might be the missing readiness pieces for you or your partner.

Here are some things you can avoid or limit that won't help: 

Keeping yourself in the panic, rather than doing what you can to let go and move on: How much we hold unto certain ways of feeling or thinking is often mostly within our control, and up to us. If we keep ourselves focused on the scare -- doing things like nearly breaking Google constantly searching for "symptoms" or ways people say you can miraculously be pregnant that just aren't for real or at all likely for you, or continuing to go over and over the situation again in your mind that got you so scared -- then we're putting our energy in staying stuck, rather than getting ourselves unstuck. (On that note, I just tested the awesome Unstuck app for using with a pregnancy scare, and it was actually quite helpful: check it out!) To move on and away from something, we have to invest our time and energy in letting go of it, not in holding on. If you'd like some advice about learning how to let go, here's one good starter guide for you.

It might sound bonkers, but consider if there's something this scare is giving you that you want: Sometimes when we get stuck in something that is uncomfortable, and can't seem to let it go, it's because however uncomfortable it is making us, it also is giving us something else we want and find beneficial in some way, like attention, emotional support, the chance to talk about sex or your sexual life, or even just something that makes our lives feel as big and intense as we want them to be. If this is the case for you, and you can figure out what that is, chances are mighty good you can figure out another way to meet your needs without having to stay in a pregnancy panic or keep having them.

An attachment to the idea that pregnant people still have menstrual periods through a pregnancy: they don't. Some people do have some kinds of uterine or vaginal bleeding or spotting during pregnancy, and some people also experience things like light and brief spotting (for a day or so only) as a pregnancy just begins, or decidual bleeding for a cycle or so. But none of those things are the same as a period, ane those things also will very, very rarely feel exactly like a period, only happen at the time a period is due and for the duration of a period, or look like a period. Again, if having a period didn't relieve your fears, then your best next step is to test for pregnancy, rather than trying to be a menstrual detective.