What Is Implantation Bleeding? (5 Ways to Distinguish Period From Spotting)

If you are planning and actively trying to get pregnant, then you are probably watching and waiting for every sign of early pregnancy that you have researched online or read in a book. This means that you might have read that the presence of implantation bleeding and the absence of your period is a good sign that you may be pregnant.

But what exactly should you expect to look for when it comes to implantation bleeding and how would you differentiate between this very early sign of pregnancy and the onset of your next period?

What Is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is characterized by brown or pink spotting that happens shortly before the menstrual cycle. Although this form of bleeding usually signifies that your menstrual cycle is about to start, it could also be a sign that you are pregnant.

Implantation Bleeding or Period? 5 Ways to Tell the Difference

After the sperm fertilizes, the embryo from the egg begins to divide and grow. The walls of the uterus, also known as the endometrius, start to change. About one-third of all pregnant women experience implantation bleeding, and while it may be alarming to see, it is, in fact, natural. It happens so early on in the pregnancy, however, that a lot of women mistake it for the beginning of their period. The color, thickness and duration will help the woman differentiate between the occurrence of implantation bleeding or a period.

Endometrial thickness is critical when it comes to successful implantation. The thickness should be at least eight to nine millimeters thick and appear to have a healthy appearance. If it looks homogeneous or whited out, it will not be suitable for implantation.

Spotting during implantation bleeding occurs even before HCG tests can give a woman a positive pregnancy result. Some women might not even notice any signs associated with implantation, but instead notice the other early pregnancy signs later on.

There are several things to look for when trying to determine if you’re experiencing implantation bleeding or your normal period.

1. Flow

  • 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.

2. Color

  • 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.

3. Cramping

  • 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.

4. Consistency

  • 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.

Implantation Bleeding VS. Period: 11 FAQs

1. When Does Implantation Bleeding Happen?

2. No Implantation Bleeding

  • If you have been trying to conceive, the absence of symptoms like implantation bleeding can be discouraging to the expectant mother. However, it is not a common symptom in all women; it is simply a change in the vaginal mucus discharge rather than an entirely new discharge. If you do not see any bleeding, it is not a sure sign that you are not pregnant. Pregnancy varies from woman to woman, and all signs and symptoms could be different. Implantation bleeding is a symptom due to the ovum’s attachment to the uterine lining and can often even be misconstrued as the beginning of a period. Although the implantation bleeding occurs much sooner, there is only a small amount of discharge, and there is a marked absence of the usual period symptoms and is replaced by new symptoms.
  • Period pains that women experience monthly are usually more painful and include worse cramps and longer bouts of pain and discomfort. After implantation, you may also notice other sure signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness, general fatigue, swollen breasts, or taste disturbance. If the bleeding becomes worse and intensifies in strength and is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, then it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancymiscarriage, or the fertilized egg could be developing without an embryo. You will need to consult your doctor if your pain or bleeding worsen over the course of the days you are experiencing it.

3. Implantation Bleeding After Missed Period

  • Implantation bleeding will only last for a day or two before it goes away, unlike a period where the discharge is heavier, and usually lasts several days. This kind of bleeding is not a sure sign of pregnancy, though. It is recommended that you wait until after you have missed your period to take a pregnancy test, otherwise the results may not be as accurate.
  • There is a very slim chance of experiencing implantation bleeding several days after you missed your period. The best way to be able to tell the difference between implantation bleeding after fertilization and bleeding due to your period is to get to know your body. Pay close attention to your menstrual cycles. Check how heavy they are and when they usually stop and end.If you suspect it is implantation bleeding, then taking a pregnancy test can put your mind at ease. It is always best to test your urine for pregnancy right away in the morning when your HCG levels will be at their highest.

4. Key Differences Between Implantation Bleeding and a Menstrual Cycle

The biggest way to spot the differences between implantation bleeding and the beginning of your menstrual cycle is to take note of the flow, the timing, and the color of the blood that you are seeing.

  • Spotting is light bleeding that can occur between periods or even in the early onset of pregnancy; it could also be a symptom of a miscarriage. Other elements that can cause spotting are pelvic exams, sex, or even irritation of the cervix. A little light spotting is perfectly normal in the early weeks of pregnancy, but if you see the color changing or the flow increasing, then it is recommended that you consult with your doctor to rule out any other medical complications for you or the baby. Spotting may also be caused by uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors that grow in the uterus and trigger bleeding in the middle of menstruation. Other conditions that can cause spotting include: pelvic inflammatory disease, hormonal imbalances (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), the use of an intrauterine device (IUD), sexually transmitted infections, and certain forms of cancer, including ovarian cancer.
  • Heavy bleeding is not a symptom of implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is light and tends to stay light; more massive bleeding may be a sign of a period onset or miscarriage.
  • The color of implantation bleeding should be brown or pink in color; menstruation blood is red. If the blood is a brownish color, it only means that it is older blood that had been stuck in the uterus after the egg has implanted. The blood is this darker color because it takes some time for it to make its way out of the body. This means that the blood will begin to age and turn this darker brown color rather than a red color.
  • Cramping can be seen in both menstruation and implantation bleeding. Menstrual cramps are usually more intense and last a longer amount of time than cramps due to implantation. If your cramps are light and do not increase in intensity and pain and the discharge is a pink or brown color than it is most likely due to implantation bleeding, not your period.

5. How Long Can Implantation Bleeding Last?


  • The earliest implantation bleeding will occur is within three days of ovulation. The latest you will experience bleeding is after twelve days. The bleeding typically only lasts for a couple of days, but then again, every woman is different. The duration can be different for everyone as well. It is usually only noticed once or twice in the early portion of the pregnancy and is one of the clear signs available to show pregnancy, even before a pregnancy test has been taken. The length of time may depend on how much blood was released during the egg attachment process and how long your body is going to take to get rid of it. Therefore, the duration is from a couple of hours to a couple of days, or even not at all.
  • While menstruation is characterized by a reddish color, implantation discharge is characterized by a pink or brownish color as a result of the time spent by the fertilized egg implanting itself into the uterine wall, and restricting normal blood flow. The implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall will eventually cause a partial, but harmless, rupturing of the wall which causes the discoloration in the blood.
  • Some women who experience implantation bleeding will wonder if it is one of the cervical mucus stages or bleeding due to implantation. A woman’s cervix produces cervical mucus on a daily basis, and the cycle occurs every month with several stages, including egg white cervical mucuswatery cervical mucus, creamy cervical mucus, and sticky cervical mucus. The amount of mucus depends on the amount of estrogen that is found in the woman’s body and sometimes they may not notice any at all.During implantation, the cervical mucus can be a little different. The spotting or bleeding usually occurs when you are not already supposed to be on your period, and it is very light in most cases. The amount of mucus will increase to levels that can be seen as similar to their ovulation levels. The mucus may contain more water and is there to protect the egg.
  • The color of the blood after implantation is based on the amount of time it takes the blood to expel from the body. Fresh blood leaving the body like when you are on your period is usually brighter red in color, while blood from implantation bleeding takes up to twelve days, so it turns the darker brownish color and is no longer considered fresh blood.

6. How Heavy Is Implantation Bleeding?

  • When it comes to how heavy implantation bleeding is, it again depends on the cause. Most implantation bleeding is characterized by very light bleeding, and, in some cases, may not even be noticeable. Bleeding through implantation does not trigger a blood clot and any bleeding associated with a heavy flow, or a blood clot must be investigated because it may be a result of a miscarriage or another complication. If the consistency of implantation bleeding becomes heavier, then you might be going through menstruation.
  • In rare cases, implantation bleeding may be characterized by a very light red color, as opposed to a brownish or pink color. Implantation bleeding may be accompanied by cramping and pain, but cramping and suffering caused by menstruation are much more severe than those caused by bleeding due to implantation. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding after implantation, it is not considered standard. The ovum is not large and will not destruct blood vessels enough to produce that much blood. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding with intense cramps after conception, this could also point to an ectopic pregnancy. Heavy bleeding can also occur if the fertilized ovum attaches itself to the abdomen, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or cervix. Symptoms accompanying this type of occurrence include dizziness, shoulder aches, pelvic pains, and bloody discharge with the presence of clots.
  • The bleeding should never last for more than three days at the most, and, if it does, it is highly recommended that you seek medical assistance for the health and well-being of yourself as well as your unborn child. It is particularly the case if the pregnancy has been confirmed and the bleeding is accompanied by dizziness and acute pain.

7. Implantation Bleeding Timing

  • Implantation bleeding timing cannot be controlled, but it typically occurs between six and twelve days following conception. The main reason why implantation causes cramping is that when a fertilized egg burrows into the uterine wall, it causes the uterine muscles to contract. This contraction causes a pinching sensation in the nerve ends. Cramping associated with implantation bleeding may last for just a few short hours to just a few short days.

For some women that only experience the bleeding for a few hours can also experience other symptoms such as light cramping, nausea, fatigue, breast soreness or tenderness, and mood swings.

8. Signs of a Successful Implantation

  • After the successful fertilization of the egg by the sperm, it travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus where it attaches itself the lining. The process of fertilization to implantation should take between nine and ten days, but when the implantation is not successful, the body will flush out the egg through light bleeding. In most cases, a successful implantation can mimic a menstrual period, and one of the signs of successful implantation is developing menstrual cramps that may last for up to a week and the shape of the uterus can also change.

9. Other Early Pregnancy SymptomsWoman experiencing morning sickness

  • Other than the presence of implantation bleeding, other early pregnancy symptoms can include: nausea or morning sickness with a sensitivity to certain smells. Fatigue that is considered more intense than if you just aren’t sleeping well or are stressed. Breast soreness and tenderness, along with increased blood flow, which can make your veins more noticeable, as well as frequent urination, and constipation. Mood swings, due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, can also be considered an early symptom of pregnancy.

10. When Must You Consult a Doctor?

  • Light bleeding and brief spotting, associated with implantation bleeding, can be normal but could also be a sign of some other underlying medical condition. If you have confirmed that you are pregnant and your implantation bleeding has become heavier, then you should see a doctor immediately. The bleeding should not last for more than two days. If it does, you should visit your doctor.
  • Stomach cramps and bleeding alone cannot be relied upon as symptoms of implantation bleeding because other conditions, such as appendicitis, late periods, and bladder infections may also cause stomach cramps. If your implantation cramping is accompanied by fever, chills, and heavy bleeding, then you must also consult your doctor immediately.
  • An increase in progesterone which is a hormone produced by the corpus luteum is what keeps your menses from starting. The progesterone supports the thickened uterine lining, and this is what allows the embryo to implant itself and grow ultimately. The implantation bleeding occurs as the embryo begins to burrow itself into the uterine lining but by the seventh week of pregnancy this symptom should be gone. If the bleeding is still present after the seventh week, then you should seek advice from your doctor because excessive bleeding during early pregnancy could signal a miscarriage which can occur in around fifty percent of pregnant women still experiencing the bleeding after this time frame.
  • When trying to conceive a woman will watch carefully for any and every sign that could point to a successful conception. Implantation bleeding would be one of the very first noticeable signs of pregnancy, but while only about one-third of every woman experiences this, it can be disheartening for those that are waiting and hoping for this sign. Not every woman or even every pregnancy is the same. What might occur with one woman may be absent the next.

11. 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.

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