Implantation bleeding doesn’t always signal that you’re pregnant, but it can! Some women experience light bleeding or spotting as a fertilized egg implants, but some do not. Learn whether the spotting you’re experiencing is a sign of pregnancy or something else.
What Is Implantation Bleeding?
Implantation bleeding is a natural side effect that sometimes occurs after an egg is fertilized and begins developing into an embryo. Once male sperm has fertilized a woman’s egg, the cells remain in the fallopian tube for a few days as cells divide and form into a blastocyst. After about 6-12 days, the now rapidly dividing cells travel from the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it begins to implant into the walls of the uterus.
The uterus is lined with a tissue called endometrial tissue. This is the same tissue that is shed each month when a woman does not become pregnant, causing her period.
As a fertilized egg begins to implant in the wall of the uterus, or the endometrium, light bleeding or spotting can happen. This is due to the movement and disruption of the tissue by the egg. Not all women experience implantation bleeding, however. Only about a third of pregnant women report noticeable implantation bleeding.
Symptoms Of Implantation Bleeding
Implantation bleeding can often be confused with regular monthly spotting since it occurs close to the time a woman can expect her period. Here are some symptoms that may indicate spotting is actually implantation bleeding:
- Tender breasts
- Low back aches and pains
- Light cramping
- Mood swings
Not all women who have implantation bleeding will experience the above symptoms. Similarly, you could have the above symptoms of pregnancy without any bleeding. The only way to know for sure if you are pregnant is to take a home pregnancy test. Read more about the types of pregnancy tests that are available and how they work at AmericanPregnancy.org.
When Does It Occur?
Implantation bleeding typically occurs around day 9 following ovulation, but it could be 6-12 days after conception. The bleeding happens for some women as the egg attempts to implant in the uterine lining, disrupting some blood vessels and resulting in some light spotting. Some sources report that women who are pregnant for the first time are more likely to experience implantation bleeding since it is the first time their uterine lining is being disturbed in that way.
How Long Does Implantation Bleeding Lasts?
Implantation bleeding usually only lasts a few days, if it occurs at all. This type of bleeding is typically lighter and shorter in duration than spotting related to a menstrual period. While the most common time to experience implantation bleeding is 6-12 days after conception, light spotting can occur any time in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy without causing major concern or risk.
What Does Implantation Bleeding Look Like?
Many women report that implantation bleeding looks different than spotting from a menstrual period. It can be hard to tell the difference, though, especially because implantation can be close in time to a woman’s expected period.
Here are some of the key differences in the appearance of period blood and implantation bleeding:
Color: Period blood is typically dark or bright red. Implantation bleeding tends to be light pink or light brown. Some report a rust-color.
Consistency: Period blood often contains clots. Implantation bleeding shouldn’t produce any sort of clot.
Duration: A menstrual period lasts several days: on average, 4-7 days. If spotting continues past a few days and becomes heavier, it is likely a period. Implantation bleeding only lasts 1-2 days and does not increase in flow.
Amount: A menstrual period can begin with light spotting, increasing in flow as the days go on. Implantation bleeding is actually more likely to appear as a pink-tinged or light brown discharge.
The Difference With Your Period
It’s not always easy to tell the difference between your period and implantation bleeding. You can observe the color, presence or absence of clots, duration, and amount to give you some clues. However, since implantation bleeding often happens before pregnancy can be detected by a test, you’ll need to wait a few days to be sure.
If the bleeding is noticeably different than your regular menstrual period, and you haven’t had any major changes to your health, stress or your activity level, it could be implantation bleeding.
Why Does Implantation Bleeding Occur?
Implantation bleeding occurs because the fertilized egg disturbs the endometrial lining of the uterus. As it attempts to implant into the wall of the uterus, the tissue and its tiny blood vessels can be irritated and aggravated. The result is small amounts of blood that can present as spotting or light bleeding.
The egg works so hard to implant in the uterus because it needs nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s body in order to survive. If it can’t implant successfully, the egg will not be able to develop further.
Implantation bleeding is not dangerous, nor is it a sign that anything is wrong. It is a natural part of pregnancy for many women. The absence of implantation bleeding also is not a sign of anything wrong with the developing cells.
Concerns You Might Have
If you think you might be pregnant, any form of bleeding or spotting can be cause for concern. If you only experience light bleeding for a couple of days, it’s possibly implantation bleeding. If you continue to experience bleeding after a positive pregnancy test, inform your doctor. Light bleeding can be common in early pregnancy for reasons that don’t harm the developing fetus.
Some causes of bleeding during the first trimester, besides implantation bleeding, include:
- Vaginal infection
- Irritation of the cervix, for example following an OB/GYN exam
- Tissue irritation from sexual intercourse
- Heavy lifting or physical exertion
There are some serious conditions that can cause bleeding in early pregnancy. It’s important to always notify your doctor of any bleeding.
Some serious conditions that cause bleeding include:
- Ectopic pregnancy, when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus
- Molar pregnancy, an abnormality of the placenta
- Early miscarriage, pregnancy loss during the first trimester
Always inform your doctor of any bleeding or spotting that you experience so they can advise you on any areas of concern.
Other Symptoms Of Pregnancy
We know it can be hard to wait it out through the first couple of weeks of a positive pregnancy. You can usually get accurate results from an at-home pregnancy test around a week past your missed period. If you’re really anxious, some early tests advertise being able to detect pregnancy days before the missed period.
Taking an early test won’t hurt anything, but know that it is less accurate and can give false results. As you’re waiting for that missed period, you’re probably analyzing all your little symptoms here and there.
The earliest signs of pregnancy include the following:
- Tender, sore breasts
- Low back aches and pains
- Light cramping
- Light bleeding or spotting for a day or two
- Craving or aversion to certain foods or smells
- Mood swings
- Frequent urination
- Motion sickness
- Elevated body temperature
- Missed period
Most of these symptoms are due to the presence of hCg, human chorionic gonadotropin, the hormone that helps your body maintain a pregnancy. This is the hormone that can be detected by at-home pregnancy tests once you have missed your period. Once an egg has implanted, the body begins producing hCg at a steadily increasing rate.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and think you could be pregnant, it’s wise to abstain from any alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, and to plan to take a test as soon as a few days after your missed period.
If you receive a positive test at home, contact your doctor to schedule your first prenatal visit. This initial visit will include a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and a urine test. In some cases, a doctor may want to perform a transvaginal ultrasound to further confirm the pregnancy and to check for any issues.
Are You Still Unsure?
The two-week wait between when you think conception may have occurred and when pregnancy can be detected can be difficult. We understand! Try to distract yourself with other activities to keep your anxiety at bay.
If you’re still not sure whether you’ve experienced implantation bleeding or an early period, sit tight for a few more days. Of course, at any time, if you experience bleeding that is heavier than normal, or bleeding after getting a positive test at home, contact your doctor right away.
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