When Does Implantation Bleeding Occur and How Does It Look Like?

When Does Implantation Bleeding Occur and How Does It Look Like?
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Knowing exactly when implantation bleeding occurs is helpful information for women who are trying to get pregnant. Implantation bleeding or spotting can be one of the first visible signs of pregnancy and it usually happens when the fertilized egg implants itself on the wall of the uterus. Bleeding caused by implantation doesn’t happen with every woman, however, if it does, implantation spotting may occur around 10 to 14 days after ovulation.

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Menstrual bleeding can be easily mistaken for implantation bleeding because the timings can be similar. Also, the spotting on underwear when implantation takes place can look like the start of the menstrual period. Knowing when implantation bleeding starts and what the other signs of pregnancy to look for can help you know if it’s time to take a pregnancy test.

This article looks at all you need to know about implantation bleeding and how to know when implantation bleeding or spotting happens.

What is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation bleeding or implantation spotting refers to light vaginal bleeding that occurs when a fertilized egg gets attached to the wall of the uterus or endometrial lining. This causes spotting before your period.

The National Institutes of Health says that about 25% of pregnant women notice light spotting as one of the first signs that conception has happened. However, because implantation bleeding happens around the same time the period is due, it is a reason why many women mistake spotting associated with pregnancy for the start of their period.1

When Does Implantation Bleeding Occur and How Long Does It Last?

When exactly can you expect implantation bleeding to occur if you have become pregnant? There is no exact day when spotting happens due to implantation. However, doctors give a time-frame when you could see the visible signs that fertilization and implantation have occurred.

When the fertilized egg implants into the endometrial lining, some blood vessels are broken down. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this results in slight bleeding that can happen about 10 days after ovulation.2

Regarding the time when to expect implantation spotting to happen after fertilization, Dr. Nivin Todd on WebMD provides some helpful information on the steps that take place before implantation bleeding may happen:3

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  1. Ovulation occurs about 2 weeks before the start of your next period.
  2. The egg moves into the fallopian tube and stays there for about 24 hours.
  3. If a sperm makes it to the fallopian tube and fertilizes the egg it will stay in the fallopian tube for 3-4 days and start dividing into many cells.
  4. During this time, the fertilized egg moves up the fallopian tube and attaches to the uterus lining.
  5. This is the time when implantation bleeding occurs and will last for between one and two days.

Therefore, implantation bleeding can occur anywhere from 6 to 12 days after conception and it can last between 1 and 2 days.

Implantation Bleeding or Period: 5 Signs that Implantation Bleeding Has Occurred

Although implantation bleeding can occur around the same time as you expect your period, there are 5 subtle ways to tell implantation spotting apart from period bleeding.

Flow

When implantation bleeding happens, the flow will be less than menstrual spotting. According to Dr. Trina Pagano, who is a professional obstetrician, bleeding associated with the first signs of pregnancy is usually light. Unlike menstrual flow, implantation spotting when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus doesn’t increase over time. In fact, the flow that occurs with implantation bleeding will not last longer than a couple of days.4

Color of spotting

The color of spotting that occurs with implantation bleeding will be darker and a different color than regular bleeding. The American Pregnancy Association says that bleeding that happens with implantation is a pinkish or dark color. The spotting may look like rust spots on underwear and this is due to the fact that the blood is older than regular menstrual bleeding.2

Timing

If you have regular periods then it will be easier to tell when implantation bleeding occurs. According to Dr. Trina Pagano, implantation bleeding happens between 6 and 12 days after the egg has been fertilized by a sperm. The implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus causes light bleeding or spotting before your period as a result of the implantation process.12

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Pelvic cramping (implantation cramping)

At the same time when implantation takes place, you may also experience some pelvic cramping which is also called implantation cramping. Dr. Trina Pagano says that the intensity of cramping when implantation has taken place is only very slight, if noticeable at all. Some women, depending on the intensity of their menstrual cramps, can mistake implantation cramping for period pain.4 Therefore, you could have abdominal cramping but no period.

Duration of bleeding

The duration of spotting that happens at the same time as implantation will only be a short time. In fact, implantation bleeding doesn’t happen for a long time at all. The American Pregnancy Association says that implantation bleeding will last up to two days. However, it may even happen for a few hours and not all women experience spotting at the time of implantation.2

The average time that menstrual bleeding occurs is 3 to 5 days during which red blood along with endometrial tissue is expelled from the body,13 however doctors from Mayo Clinic say that period bleeding can last up to 7 days.14

Implantation bleeding vs. period bleeding – the conclusion

There are a few factors to consider in order to distinguish between implantation bleeding and period bleeding. You’ll need to take into consideration factors such as the blood flow and its consistency, its color after implantation, the light pelvic cramping (implantation cramping), and the fact that the spotting will occur before your period is due.

The combination of all the factors together can usually help you to identify the signs that implantation has occurred. Unlike menstrual bleeding, implantation spotting looks like pink or dark brown spots on your underwear, the spotting is relatively light and lasts for between one and two days.

Common Questions about Implantation Bleeding

Of course, every woman’s menstrual cycle pattern is unique and the early signs of pregnancy differ from woman to woman. Therefore, you may not experience all of the same symptoms of pregnancy as everyone else.

Here are answers to questions that you may have about the occurrence of implantation spotting and other signs or pregnancy.

Does implantation bleeding always occur?

Not every woman experiences light bleeding or spotting when implantation occurs. Dr. Yvonne Tobah from the Mayo Clinic says that many women don’t have any bleeding at all. Also, the spotting that occurs with some women is so light and insignificant that they don’t notice it at all.5

Can implantation bleeding last 3 days?

According to doctors from WebMD and the American Pregnancy Association, bleeding connected with implantation should last up to 2 days. In some cases, the bleeding may last as little as a few hours. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), some women experience light bleeding in early pregnancy, and for many, this is completely normal.6

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How heavy can implantation bleeding be?

When it does happen, implantation bleeding will always be very light. Doctors from the National Institutes of Health say that spotting is shorter in length and lighter in color than regular menstrual bleeding. Although sometimes, the implantation bleeding can look like dark brown spots on underwear.1

Will spotting continue in the first trimester after implantation bleeding?

According to the journal American Family Physician, about one-quarter of pregnant women have some vaginal bleeding during their first trimester. In many cases this is not a cause for worry; however pregnant women should mention any bleeding to their gynecologist or doctor as heavy bleeding during the first trimester could be a sign of miscarriage.7

Doctors from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say that a reason for normal vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is bleeding from the cervix because blood vessels are developing there. This could also be a reason why you may have some light spotting after sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam.6

Other Early Signs of Pregnancy that Happen with Implantation Bleeding

If you notice some light spotting before your period is due, you could look for other early signs of pregnancy. Many of these first signs of pregnancy occur because of hormonal changes in your body and may develop even before a pregnancy test shows as positive.

Changes in breast size. Around about the same time as implantation spotting takes place, you may notice that your breasts are getting larger. Dr. Trina Pagano says that you can expect your breasts to feel swollen, heavier than usual, and tender to touch.4 You may also notice bumps around your areola as your Montgomery glands become enlarged.

Nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness is experienced by many pregnant women and feeling like you need to throw up may happen at any time of the day. According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, nausea and vomiting may start about 4 weeks after conception and may even last for much of your pregnancy. Sometimes you may have a gag reaction without bringing anything up.

Extreme tiredness. As levels of hormones in your body go up and down, you may feel extremely fatigued and tired. You may also experience fluctuations in your blood sugar levels and low blood pressure.

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Increased need to use the bathroom. You may also find that you have to make more frequent trips to the bathroom to pee. Dr. Trina Pagano from WebMD says that frequent urination starts around 1 to 2 months after conception. You should also look for signs of a urinary tract infection as this can also be a reason for peeing more frequently.

However, you may find it more difficult to pass stools as changes in progesterone levels can cause constipation. If this is a problem for you, you can use some natural laxatives to ease your discomfort.

Other signs of pregnancy can include mood swings during your first trimester, headaches, back pain, and possible dizziness.

Other Reasons for Spotting if Implantation Hasn’t Taken Place

There are some other reasons that can cause spotting before your period that aren’t related to being pregnant. Some of them are:

Stress

Being under emotional or psychological stress can disrupt your hormones and cause irregular periods. Stress may also cause irregular discharge before your period. Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler from MedicineNet says that in certain circumstances, stress can make your periods stop, cause you to have heavier periods, or be a reason for light spotting.9

Ovarian cysts

Spotting that happens between periods could be a sign that you have ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are considered a normal part of the menstrual cycle. However, in some cases, they don’t disappear at ovulation as they should but continue to fill with fluid.

According to doctors on WebMD, ovarian cysts that grow larger than normal can cause irregular vaginal bleeding, pain, pelvic cramps, and nausea. Doctors will usually monitor ovarian cysts by means of ultrasound scans.10 For more information on ovarian cysts, please read my article on how to spot the signs of ovarian cysts.

There are other causes of spotting before period – read about them in my article: Why You Should Not Ignore Spotting Before Period.

When to See a Doctor

Of course, when implantation bleeding happens and you suspect that you may be pregnant, you should visit your doctor to confirm pregnancy. Implantation spotting shouldn’t last for longer than a couple of days but some vaginal bleeding is normal during pregnancy.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that if you notice any heavy bleeding at the start of pregnancy or during any of your trimesters, you should call a doctor. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can be a sign that something is wrong. Possible causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy are an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm labor, or issues with the cervix or placenta.11

Read these related articles:

Article Sources:

  1. NIH. Common signs of pregnancy.
  2. AmericanPregnancy. What is implantation
  3. WebMD. Pregnancy and conception.
  4. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
  5. MayoClinic. Is implantation bleeding normal in early pregnancy?
  6. ACOG. FAQ pregnancy.
  7. Am Fam Physician.2009 Jun 1;79(11):985-94.
  8. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
  9. MedicineNet. Vaginal bleeding.
  10. WebMD. Functional ovarian cysts.
  11. MayoClinic. Bleeding during pregnancy.
  12. WebMD Pregnancy symtoms
  13. ClevelandClinic. Menstrual cycle.
  14. Mayo Clinic. Women’s health.
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