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Implantation Bleeding or Period?

by DP Nguyen

in Preconception / Trying to Conceive, Pregnancy, Women’s Health

Implantation Bleeding or Period?

Implantation bleeding, or is it a period? This article will answer your questions about implantation bleeding symptoms, normal colors, what heavy implantation bleeding means, and more.

Implantation bleeding can be mistaken for a normal period, especially for women trying to conceive. Even if you aren’t actively wanting to get pregnant, but you’ve missed your period and are now experiencing light spotting, you may be worried and asking yourself – “Is this Implantation Bleeding or a Period?” It can definitely be confusing, and worrisome, as implantation bleeding is one of the very first signs of pregnancy.

Women with irregular periods can also easily confuse implantation bleeding for a period, because sometimes, when you have irregular menstrual cycles, you don’t always have a regular flow. Some months can be lighter than others, and this can definitely make you worried about whether or not you’re pregnant.

Implantation bleeding becomes even more complex when you consider the timing of it.

A normal period, for women with a healthy 28-day cycle, occurs 14 days after you ovulate. Since most women conceive the week they ovulate (when they are most fertile), implantation usually takes place between 10 and 14 days after ovulation. This timing makes ovulation bleeding coincide with the same time your normal period would start, which can make it very confusing to distinguish implantation bleeding with a light period.

What is Implantation Bleeding?


Implantation bleeding is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Not every pregnant woman will experience it; some will and some won’t.

During implantation, the newly fertilized egg (called the blastocyst, because right now, your future baby is only a rapidly growing ball of cells) has made its way from the fallopian tubes to your uterus, where it will now completely embed itself within the lining of the uterus.

Because of the complex nature of conception and pregnancy, only half of these blastocysts will successfully implant themselves in the uterine lining. Those that fail to embed will get shed, along with all the uterine tissue, and you’ll end up having a very early miscarriage. Sometimes, these are called “chemical pregnancies,” and most women who experience them never realized they were pregnant in the first place. The bleeding that results will be like a normal menstrual period.

If the fertilized egg is successful in embedding itself into your uterine lining, you may experience some light bleeding (known as spotting or staining). This is implantation bleeding.

An estimated 25 percent of pregnant women experience implantation bleeding and light bleeding in early pregnancy, but most of these cases end up being fine and the woman has a full-term baby.

Length of Implantation Bleeding

For most women who experience implantation bleeding, they will notice light bleeding for only one or two days. However, there’s no “hard” rule on how long implantation bleeding will list, since every pregnancy and every woman is different. For some women, implantation bleeding is very light, similar to one of the last days of your period, or a very light period day, when you just need to wear a panty liner.

Your implantation bleeding can last only a couple of hours, and then it’s gone. For other women, they might have spotting on and off for a couple of days. However, there are even others who claim that they had heavier implantation bleeding that lasted up to four days, just like an average length of a period.

Because the length of implantation bleeding is different for every woman, take a home pregnancy test if you are worried that you might be pregnant.

Like with a normal menstrual period, implantation bleeding will stop on its own.

Implantation Bleeding or Period?

Are you having menstrual bleeding or heavy implantation bleeding? If you are sexually active and having unprotected sex, you should always assume that you could be pregnant.

If you think that your spotting or bleeding could be implantation bleeding, ask yourself some questions.

  • How heavy is your flow?
  • What color is the blood?
  • Is there a pattern to the bleeding? Is it on and off, or a continuous flow of blood?

You are probably experiencing implantation bleeding and not a regular menstrual period in the following situations:

  • Your menstrual flow is scanty – on and off – and spotty. You aren’t continually bleeding, like with a regular period. You notice blood when you wipe, but it’s not a gush of blood.
  • The blood that comes out is pinkish to brownish. It is not heavy like a period.
  • The pattern of vaginal bleeding doesn’t follow the normal rhythm of your menstrual period. In a normal period, the flow starts off light, then gets heavier and heavier, and at the tail end of your period, the flow becomes light again.
  • You notice bleeding a couple of days, or a week before your scheduled period. Though implantation bleeding can occur at roughly the same time as your period, it can occur before your normal period.

If your periods have always been regular, and suddenly, you experience some spotting or light bleeding, you should take a home pregnancy test.

When your vaginal bleeding is a result of a regular period and not implantation bleeding, you will have a normal flow. The bleeding will be light at first and steadily become more moderate in flow and then heavy. For the last one or two days, you will have light, on and off bleeding, similar to implantation bleeding. Period blood is always bright red, and it can come with clots. You may have uncomfortable menstrual cramps, backaches, bloating, and feel pretty yucky while on your period.

Women with irregular or abnormal menstrual periods may experience their periods differently, but I am speaking in general about normal menstrual periods. If you have irregular periods, it may be very hard for you to know if it’s implantation bleeding or a period. So take a home pregnancy test to be sure whether or not you’re pregnant.

Comparison Chart – Implantation Bleeding vs. Period

As you can see from the below comparison chart, there are differences between implantation bleeding and normal period bleeding can be similar, but there are enough differences that if you pay attention to the flow, you can tell them apart.

This is a general comparison. Remember that every woman is different, but in general, these are the differences between Implantation Bleeding and a Period.

Implantation Bleeding Period Bleeding
Scanty menstrual flow; on and off; spotty. Pattern is not normal. Light bleeding.  Normal flow; Light at first, then heavy, and then light again.
  Lasts a few hours to 1-2 days 3-5 days on average, can last up to 7 days
 Usually pinkish to brownish blood. No clots. Bright red blood. With a heavy flow, may include clots.
   Mild to moderate menstrual-like cramps.      Menstrual cramps.

*******

Sometimes, spotting can be indication that your period is about to stop. Some women will spot on and off a few days before your menstruation begins, and this can really make it confusing to know whether it’s implantation bleeding or a period. So if you experience spotting, wait a few days and if your period still hasn’t come, take a pregnancy test.

Implantation Bleeding Symptoms

Along with implantation bleeding, you may experience some cramping. They may feel like menstrual cramps. Implantation cramping can occur alone, or with bleeding.

Implantation cramps occur because as the fertilized egg (the blastocyst) burrows and embeds itself into the lining of your uterus, it can cause your uterine muscles to contract. These contractions can pinch on nerve endings, which can lead to menstrual-like cramping for 24 to 48 hours, though sometimes it can a little longer than that.

Researchers don’t know why some women experience implantation bleeding and cramping, and others don’t. It’s possible that some women are more tolerant of aches and pains, and others are more sensitive to it.

Along with implantation bleeding and cramping, you may start to experience other early pregnancy symptoms, including bloating, fatigue, mood swings and emotional changes, headaches, acne, and other bothersome symptoms.

Implantation Bleeding Color

The color of implantation bleeding can vary from woman to woman. In a majority of the cases, it’s pinkish in color. There is some variation on the implantation bleeding color, though. It can be bright red blood – signaling that it’s fresh blood, or new blood just shed by the uterine lining. Light brown to brownish blood – this is older blood, perhaps blood that was stuck in your uterine wall after the fertilized egg buried itself in your womb, and this blood has finally been shed – has also been reported as a normal implantation bleeding color.

As long as your implantation bleeding is not heavy or profuse, the color of your implantation blood doesn’t really matter. You should only experience spotting for a short amount of time, and you shouldn’t be experiencing much discomfort. However, if you are indeed pregnant, it’s a good idea to report your symptoms to your doctor and make sure you go in for all your prenatal visits to ensure your pregnancy is going well.

Can Implantation Bleeding Be Red?

Yes, implantation bleeding can be light to bright red in color. It can be normal to see red blood during implantation.

Bright red implantation bleeding signals that within your uterus or the uterine lining, there is an area that is actively bleeding, and blood is flowing from this area and out of you very quickly. It could be a sign that implantation has just taken place.

Can Implantation Bleeding Be Heavy?

Heavy implantation bleeding is not normal. Implantation bleeding is almost always light. You will notice it when you wipe and see blood on the bathroom tissue. Normal implantation bleeding should not be profuse, as this can signal that a miscarriage is occurring. You will want to contact your doctor if you notice heavy implantation bleeding to check out what is causing your heavy vaginal bleeding.

Heavy Implantation Bleeding

Because it is not normal to have heavy implantation bleeding, you will want to check with your gynecologist or healthcare provider to see if your pregnancy is still healthy, or if there is something else causing your heavy implantation bleeding.

Heavy bleeding can be a sign that you are miscarrying. It could also be a sign of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy – one that occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself in another part of your body; in most cases, in the fallopian tubes. Molar pregnancies – a pregnancy in which the embryo is missing but all the other tissues are still there – can also cause heavy bleeding.

So bottom line – check with your doctor about any heavy bleeding that you’re experiencing, especially if you think you are pregnant.

Why Home Pregnancy Tests are Important

If you have normal periods with an average flow, you shouldn’t have any trouble telling implantation bleeding from a menstrual period. However, if your periods are irregular, usually lighter in flow, you will need to take a home pregnancy test, or contact your gynecologist or healthcare provider and request a blood pregnancy test.

Testing for pregnancy will be the only way to tell whether or not you’re pregnant. You cannot verify your pregnancy without one.

You can only test for pregnancy after you’ve missed your period. Home pregnancy tests are not accurate until the day of your missed period (at the earliest). Don’t jump the gun and test too early. Their may not be enough human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your blood stream yet. This pregnancy hormone first enters your bloodstream, and finally into your urine, which is the reason blood pregnancy tests are usually more accurate earlier on.

When buying a home pregnancy test, pay attention to the sensitivity, which will be printed on the packaging. Pregnancy tests sensitivities can range between 10 to 40 mIU/ml. Obviously, the lower the level, this means the lower concentration of hCG needs to be in your bloodstream before pregnancy can be detected. Testing too early can give you a negative result, even if you are indeed pregnant. So try to wait until your missed period, and test again if you think you are pregnant but the test reads negative.

Other First Signs of Pregnancy

In addition to implantation spotting and cramping, the other signs that you may be pregnant include breast changes (sensitive, tingly, swollen); extreme exhaustion and feeling insanely worn-out (similar to how you might feel during PMS but for some women, it feels 100 times worse); feeling nauseous; the need to pee all the time (frequent urination); and just feeling that something is off. Be on the lookout for your missed period – which is definitely the most obviously earliest sign of pregnancy. Pregnancy is so different for everyone. You might have only one or two of these symptoms, or none at all. But if you are ever worried, definitely take a test!

Good luck! Have any questions that this article didn’t cover? Leave me a comment below and I will try to answer them to the best of my knowledge!

About

DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick's Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

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