Understanding and identifying implantation bleeding
You’re trying for a baby. You’ve done the important ‘making’ part and now it’s a waiting game. A waiting game that probably means you’re keenly looking out for any early hints you’re pregnant. Then you spot signs your period might be on its way. Before reaching for a consolation chocolate bar and ordering a new box of ovulation sticks, consider whether it could be implantation bleeding instead.
What is implantation bleeding?
Implantation bleeding happens when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus in order to begin growing. It is completely normal and does not need any medical treatment. It’s thought about one third of women experience implantation bleeding. The difficulty is that it happens at a similar time in your cycle to menstruation, so it’s often confused with having an early period.
What are the signs?
- A pink or brownish discharge or spotting
- Light or faint cramping
- Mood Swings
The tricky thing is that most of these symptoms can also be early signs of pregnancy. It’s possible that you’ve been checking your boobs for tenderness and scrutinising your undies since about day 18 of your cycle, so how do you know if this is implantation bleeding or the start of your period?
Implantation bleeding or period?
There are several key differences between implantation bleeding and menstruation which can help you work out whether you’ve conceived or not.
- Colour: for implantation bleeding the discharge or spotting will usually be pinkish or dark brown, whereas period blood tends to be bright, vibrant red.
- Duration: as implantation bleeding only happens while the egg is fixing itself to the uterus, it may last as little as a few hours or up to 1-2 days. It will remain light and possibly stop and start during this time. There are normally no clots. If bleeding starts off light, but gets heavier, has a constant flow and lasts 4-7 days it is almost certainly your period.
- Timing: implantation bleeding usually happens about 10 days after ovulation, while menstruation normally occurs after 14. So pinkish spotting on day 22-25 is more likely to be implantation bleeding than first signs of menstruation (usually around day 26-27).
- Cramping: it is possible to experience light cramping when the egg is attaching itself to the womb, but it would be very faint and not increase in strength. That’s compared to cramps caused by menstruation which are usually more intense and get stronger.
Are there any times when I should be worried by implantation bleeding?
This very early sign of pregnancy is not usually a reason to be concerned; it is perfectly normal and no risk to the developing baby. However, if you are also experiencing lower abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness or vomiting you should see your doctor as is may be an indication of an ectopic pregnancy.
Still not sure?
As with a lot of early signs of pregnancy, the only real proof that you’re on the path to parenthood is that all-important line on the pregnancy test. If you think you’ve experienced implantation bleeding, the advice is that you need to wait at least 3 days before taking a home test. Before that, there’s unlikely to be enough of the pregnancy hormone hCG to give a positive result. If you can bear to wait 5 days, there’s even more chance it will be accurate. In the meantime keep looking out for other early signs.
“I’d never heard of implantation bleeding. I just assumed I had had a slightly lighter period than normal and got back to the job of trying to make a baby. I couldn’t believe it when I got a ‘3weeks+’ reading on a pregnancy test a fortnight later!”