Implantation Bleeding: Signs and Symptoms
What is Implantation Bleeding?
June 28, 2021

What is Implantation Bleeding?

What is Implantation Bleeding?.
What is Implantation Bleeding?

If you’re trying to conceive, you’re probably hyper-aware of any little sign, symptom or out-of-the-ordinary twinge that you’ve noticed during your wait, especially if you see any bleeding before your period is due. And even if you’re not officially “trying,” the sight of any unexpected blood can still give you pause. A friend may have mentioned implantation bleeding as a possibility, but exactly what is implantation bleeding? We’re here to break down all things implantation bleeding: the truths, the myths and the need-to-knows surrounding this part of early pregnancy.

What is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is defined as a small amount of spotting or light bleeding that occurs anywhere from 10 to 14 days after fertilization and a few days before your next menstrual cycle. You may experience it, but likely won’t—only about one-third of all women report experiencing it. “Implantation usually has no symptoms but can be associated with [light] spotting,” explains Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG, OBGYN. “The spotting is usually just a little and lasts a few days at the most,” she adds.

Implantation bleeding occurs during the time when the fertilized egg is implanting into the uterine wall. Implantation bleeding is not a sure sign of conception, though; one study found no link between implantation and vaginal bleeding, and since spotting can occur in cycles that end in both pregnancy and not, it’s not an accurate way to tell whether you’re pregnant or not.

Implantation Bleeding Symptoms

Implantation bleeding can often be confused for a light period. The same is true for a lot of the signs and symptoms that could accompany implantation bleeding—they’re very similar to those you may experience when you have your period. But there are some specific things to keep an eye out for:

  • Light spotting/brown discharge
  • Light cramping (much less severe than a normal period)
  • Nausea
  • Sore breasts
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings

What Does Implantation Bleeding Look Like?

If symptoms of implantation are so similar to menstruation symptoms, how can you tell the difference between the two? You’re not alone if you’re finding this really confusing. There’s no real way to tell which one you’re experiencing until you take a pregnancy test later on in your cycle, but there are a few things that could distinguish implantation bleeding from menstrual blood.

  • Blood color. Although the color of your menstrual blood can vary, especially according to where you are in your cycle, it tends to be a brighter red, especially during the first few days of your period. Implantation bleeding, however, is usually light pink or dark brown in color.
  • Clots. Menstrual bleeding often contains clots, while implantation bleeding usually does not.
  • Heaviness/amount. Even though every woman’s period is different, menstrual blood is often heavier and lasts for a much longer time than implantation bleeding. A good way to visualize it is to think about how much blood it takes to fill a pad or a tampon. If there’s enough blood to do that, it’s usually your period; if you’re noticing something more like light spotting or a trace of blood when you wipe, it could be implantation bleeding.

Implantation Bleeding vs. Period

Blood color, clots and the heaviness of the bleeding you’re experiencing are all good indicators as to whether you’re dealing with implantation bleeding vs. your period. But there’s another important thing to consider: length of time you’re bleeding.

Most women’s menstrual cycles last anywhere from 3-7 days. Implantation bleeding, however, lasts anywhere from a few hours to up to three days at the most. (If it’s your first pregnancy, you may end up on the longer side of that range, while women who have already been pregnant will be on the shorter range.) So if you’re only bleeding lightly for a short time and the flow never increases, odds are you’re experiencing implantation bleeding.

When to See a Doctor

If you’re truly experiencing implantation bleeding, there’s no cause for concern. It’s normal, harmless for you and for baby, and will go away on its own. However, in some instances, there are a few reasons to reach out to your healthcare provider.

If your bleeding is not subsiding, you may be experiencing a miscarriage or an issue such as an ectopic pregnancy. It’s definitely worth a call or a visit to your doctor. And if you’re pregnant and experiencing spotting or bleeding, especially if you’re in your second trimester or third trimester, it’s also important that you speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Bottom line: it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to bleeding and pregnancy, so if you’re ever worried, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.

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