If you’re trying to get pregnant, you may feel defeated or disappointed at the sight of pink or brown spotting just before your period. While it may be a sign that your period is about to start, it may also be implantation bleeding; a sign that you are actually pregnant. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, especially if you’re attempting to get pregnant for the first time. The flow, timing and color of the blood will help you determine whether you’re about to get your period, or if you might be experiencing implantation bleeding.
Table of Contents
- What is Implantation Bleeding?
- What is Spotting?
- What Causes Implantation Bleeding?
- Implantation Bleeding or Period? 5 Ways to Understand the Difference
What is Implantation Bleeding?
One of the earliest signs of pregnancy, implantation bleeding occurs 6-12 days after the egg is fertilized. Roughly 1/3 of women will experience bleeding after implantation. Many women mistake this light spotting for their period, but it’s much lighter and only lasts a few hours or days.
After an egg is fertilized, it travels to the uterus and attaches to its lining. When the egg burrows into the wall of the uterus, it can cause some minor bleeding. This type of light spotting will not harm the baby, and the majority of women who experience implantation bleeding will go on to have healthy, normal pregnancies.
In most cases, bleeding caused by implantation will be either brown or light pink in color. The flow is very light and will only last a short amount of time. Some women will also experience some cramping as well. Bleeding will come and go, and be very light.
Because the bleeding occurs just days after conception, it’s one of the first signs of pregnancy women notice – well ahead of morning sickness.
Okay, if you want a quick answer – just check out the implantation bleeding quiz to find out if you got a baby.
What is Spotting?
Spotting refers to the light bleeding that sometimes occurs in between periods or during pregnancy. Implantation spotting occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. In most cases, spotting is either light brown or pink in color. Heavier spotting may be red. The flow is very light; not enough to soak a sanitary napkin.
Spotting may be a sign of a miscarriage, but it can also occur during a healthy pregnancy. Having sex during your pregnancy, pelvic exams and irritation of the cervix can cause spotting.
Is spotting a sign of pregnancy? Spotting can sometimes be a sign of pregnancy. If the blood is brown or pink in color and it appears days after ovulation, it may be implantation spotting, or bleeding.
While spotting is usually normal, you may consider calling your doctor if you are concerned about the flow or color of the blood.
What Causes Implantation Bleeding?
Spotting can be caused by a variety of things; some harmless, and others more serious. Some of the most common causes of spotting (aside from implantation) include:
- Ovulation: Many women experience spotting in the middle of their cycles during ovulation. When the follicle ruptures and releases the egg, bleeding might occur.
- Uterine fibroids: Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that grow on the uterus, and can cause bleeding in between periods.
- PID: PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) can cause abnormal bleeding or spotting. PID is an infection that affects the reproductive organs, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus.
- PCOS: PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is caused by a hormonal imbalance that interferes with ovulation. Women with this condition experience irregular periods, or no periods at all. Occasionally, they may experience spotting or very light periods.
- IUD: An Intrauterine Device, or IUD, can cause spotting and irregular or heavy bleeding.
- Infections: Certain STDs can cause spotting in between periods.
- Cancers: Vaginal bleeding can sometimes be associated with cervical or ovarian cancer.
If your spotting is caused by your period or implantation, then what you’re experiencing is likely no cause for concern. However, if you know you’re not pregnant and are not expecting your period, see your gynecologist to rule out any serious health conditions.
Here are a few FAQs that help you to know a bit more:
If you’re hoping for a pregnancy, light bleeding or spotting can be frustrating and confusing, but what you’re experiencing may actually be implantation bleeding, an early sign of pregnancy. There’s a fine line between spotting and a period, so knowing the difference between the two is important.
Implantation Bleeding or Period? 5 Ways to Understand the Difference
Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. When the egg attaches, some women will experience very light bleeding as the lining of the uterus sheds. Typically, it appears as a pink or brown discharge.
There are several things to look for when trying to determine if you’re experiencing implantation bleeding or your normal period.
The primary difference between implantation bleeding and menstruation is the flow. Bleeding caused by implantation is very light and will stay light. For many women, menstruation starts off light and gets heavier over time. Bleeding from implantation will not cause blood clots like normal menstruation.
Heavy bleeding is not normally associated with implantation. Bleeding caused by implantation is almost always light, so heavier bleeding is either menstruation or a miscarriage.
Simply put, implantation bleeding is very light and stays light. If the consistency of the flow gets heavier, you are likely getting your period.
- Discharge or light bleeding that is brown or pink in color may be a sign of implantation. Red blood is a sign of menstruation.
- In rare cases, implantation blood is a light red color. This indicates that the blood has just been shed from the uterine lining.
- Brown blood is older blood that may have been stuck in your uterus after the egg implanted itself. Most women report seeing brownish smelly blood during implantation.
It’s important to note that women rarely experience red blood with implantation. It takes time for the blood to move out of the body, which causes the blood to age and turn a brownish color. Some women may even experience dark brown blood.
Menstruation and implantation bleeding can both cause cramping and pain. Menstrual cramps are generally more intense than cramps caused by implantation. If you are experiencing light or faint cramps that never increase in intensity and light pink or brown discharge, this is a good indication of implantation bleeding.
Why does implantation cause cramping? The fertilized egg burrows and attaches itself to the uterine lining, which can cause the uterine muscles to contract. When these contractions occur, they can pinch the nerve endings and cause pain that feels similar to menstrual cramps. Cramps may last a few hours, or a few days.
Is the bleeding on and off, or consistent? With implantation bleeding, spotting will come and go. During menstruation, the bleeding will continue throughout the full duration of your period (typically 4-7 days).
Bleeding from implantation will generally last for one to two days, but some women may experience spotting for a longer or shorter period of time. Every woman and pregnancy is different, so the length of bleeding can vary from one woman to the next.
For some women, bleeding will only last a few hours before it stops. Other women will experience spotting on and off for two to four days.
5.Other Implantation Symptoms
Implantation may also be accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- Spotting instead of period
- Light cramping
Some women will experience cramping as the egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. However, these cramps are usually much lighter and milder than the pain women experience during their period.
When cramping and light spotting is accompanied by other symptoms of early pregnancy, it may be time to see your doctor, or take a home pregnancy test.
Other early pregnancy symptoms include:
- Nausea: Morning sickness is one of the first signs of pregnancy that women notice. An aversion to certain smells, nausea and vomiting are common.
- Fatigue: Most women feel unusually fatigued during the first trimester. This level of fatigue is much more intense than what you may experience if you’re just lacking sleep or overly stressed.
- Breast soreness or tenderness: In the early stages of pregnancy, a woman’s breasts undergo many changes. The increased blood flow to the breasts makes its veins more noticeable, and its milk ducts are growing in preparation of breastfeeding later on. All of these changes can cause your breasts to feel sore, tender or swollen.
- Change in bathroom habits: During pregnancy, a woman’s body is constantly changing, and these changes can have an effect on your bathroom habits. Pregnancy can cause frequent urination and constipation. If you cannot find an explanation for your increased urination and sudden constipation, you may be pregnant.
- Mood swings: A woman’s body undergoes some major hormonal changes during pregnancy. These changes can impact your mood, causing you to feel happy one minute and crying the next.
When to See a Doctor
While spotting and light bleeding can be perfectly normal, it may also be a symptom of a more serious health condition.
If you think you might be pregnant or have a confirmed pregnancy and experience heavy bleeding, you may be having a miscarriage. As mentioned previously, heavy bleeding is generally not associated with implantation, so you may be having an early miscarriage. If you are further along in your pregnancy, seek medical attention right away. The further along the pregnancy is, the more complicated the miscarriage may be.
Some women may experience mild cramping during implantation but when those cramps persist or intensify over time, it’s important to see a doctor. Worsening cramps that are not associated with your normal monthly period may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
Other Medical Conditions
If the pain continues, becomes more intense and you know that you are not pregnant, the cramping may be a sign of another medical condition.
A bladder infection and appendicitis are just two of the many health conditions that can cause cramps. If the pain is accompanied by chills, fever or very heavy bleeding, see your doctor immediately.
When to Take a Pregnancy Test
If you’re engaging in unprotected sex and are experiencing light spotting right around the time of your period, you may be pregnant. If you’re also experiencing other signs of early pregnancy and your period is late, consider taking a pregnancy test or seeing your doctor to confirm your pregnancy.
Remember, implantation bleeding is light in flow, pink or brown in color and short in duration. If bleeding gets heavier and lasts more than a few days, your period has likely started. However, if the bleeding stops, was very light, and your period does not start, you may be pregnant and should get tested as soon as possible.