Implantation bleeding can easily be confused with a regular period, especially in women who are actively trying to conceive (TTC). They may automatically assume that any vaginal bleeding is a period. Women who have irregular periods can also make the mistake of thinking that implantation bleeding is a period.
What makes this early sign of pregnancy even more confusing is that it typically occurs 10 to 14 days after conception. Your regular period arrives roughly 14 days after ovulation, and most women conceive the week of ovulation.
So, if you are reading this article, you are probably asking yourself, is this implantation bleeding or a period?
What is Implantation Bleeding?
Implantation bleeding – a very early sign of pregnancy – occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. During implantation, the fertilized egg (called a blastocyst at this stage of development) burrows and embeds itself underneath the wall of the womb (uterus). Because the uterine lining is rich with blood, some women can experience spotting and even cramping during this process.
Experts aren’t sure why some newly pregnant women notice implantation bleeding and cramping, and why others don’t experience it at all.
For the most part, implantation bleeding is lighter and occurs earlier than your regular menstrual period. Sometimes, however, implantation bleeding may be heavier, so it can be easily confused with a regular period.
How Long Does Implantation Bleeding Last?
Unfortunately, there is no set-in-stone length of time that implantation bleeding lasts. Every woman experiences this early sign of pregnancy differently. For many women, their implantation bleeding is light – similar to a light day of their period – and it only lasts for a few hours. Other women may have light spotting on and off for several days. There are also women who claim that their implantation bleeding was heavier and lasted three to four days.
Because the length of implantation bleeding varies for every woman, the only sure way to tell whether or not you’re pregnant is with a home pregnancy test.
Like with a menstrual period, implantation bleeding will stop on its own. If you continue to experience vaginal bleeding, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. Heavy bleeding can be a sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy – a pregnancy that grows in the fallopian tube or in another part of your body.
Implantation Bleeding or a Regular Period?
Women who have heavier implantation bleeding can easily mistake this sign of pregnancy with a regular period. When this happens, you may automatically assume that you’re not pregnant. This can lead to errors in determining your baby’s due date in the future.
For this reason, you should pay very careful attention to your flow. How heavy are you bleeding? What color is your blood? What is the pattern of the bleeding?
There’s a good chance that it is implantation bleeding and not a period in the following cases:
- The flow is scanty, on and off, spotty. You aren’t consistently bleeding.
- The blood is pinkish or brownish. It is not bright red and heavy like a period.
- The pattern of bleeding doesn’t follow the regular pattern of your period. A menstrual period always starts off light, gets heavy, and then becomes lighter again.
- You start to bleed a few days or a week before your period is scheduled to arrive. Implantation bleeding typically occurs earlier than a regular period.
If you have always had regular periods, and all of a sudden you develop early spotting, you should take a home pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant.
When it’s not implantation bleeding, but a regular period, you will notice that the flow follows a consistent rhythm. It is light at first, and then becomes medium or very heavy for a few days, and then the last day or two, you experience light, on-and-off bleeding. Period blood is bright red, and it can come with clots. You may have strong cramps, backaches, and feel quite uncomfortable.
Still Confused? Take a Home Pregnancy Test
If you cannot tell whether or not you are experiencing implantation bleeding or a regular period, you should take a home pregnancy test, or call your doctor and schedule a blood test. A pregnancy test is the only way to know whether or not you are indeed pregnant.
Sometimes, if you take a home pregnancy test too early, you will get a false negative result – even though you are indeed pregnant. Not all pregnancy tests are created equal. Some are more sensitive than others. There are home pregnancy tests that will not give you an accurate result until the week after your missed period. If you think you are pregnant, keep on testing. However, it’s always a good idea to contact your gynecologist of primary care provider and get tested at their office.