Implantation is one of the first stages of pregnancy, and one of the first signs if you’re lucky enough to feel it happening. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or your suspected pregnancy is unplanned, you may be wondering what implantation feels like, and what you can do about the pain.
Table of Contents
- What Is Implantation?
- What Causes Implantation Pain?
- Natural Remedies for Implantation Cramps
- When to See a Doctor for Implantation
Implantation occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus. As one of the first stages of pregnancy, implantation typically occurs 6-12 days after the egg is fertilized.
When ovulation occurs, an egg is released from the ovary. Sperm have about 24 hours to fertilize the egg after it’s released.
A newly fertilized egg is called a “zygote.” The zygote travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. Along the way, the egg multiples into two, then four, and then eight more cells.
Once the egg reaches the uterus about five to six days later, it becomes a “blastocyst” and is about the size of a pin head. The blastocyst burrows itself into the lining of the uterus within one to two days.
Because the blastocyst is so tiny, women rarely experience any symptoms when implantation occurs. But some women do experience symptoms.
Symptoms of Implantation
- Spotting, typically light in color and flow
Cramping and pain are typically mild, but every pregnancy and woman is different. Some women experience more intense cramping or pain than others.
What Causes Implantation Pain?
Most women experience no symptoms when implantation occurs, but those that do typically experience pain and/or cramping.
The pain is typically mild, and the cramping is often described as being similar to what you’d experience during your period. Some women feel a slight twinge, and then nothing at all. Others will experience cramping for a few hours or a day, and may think they’re getting their period.
But why do some women experience pain or cramping, and others don’t? What causes the pain?
Implantation pain and cramping occurs because the egg is burrowing itself into the lining of the uterus. That burrowing action is what causes discomfort, and is also what makes many women believe they’re getting their period when implantation occurs. After all, the uterus sheds its lining during menstruation, which causes similar sensations.
You’re experiencing cramping and some light spotting. Is it implantation, or something else? It’s hard to know for sure because it’s still too early to take a pregnancy test. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, including:
Endometriosis occurs when uterine tissue migrates and grows outside of the womb, and then breaks down each month during your period.
About five million women have this condition, which can cause:
- Severe cramps that radiate throughout the lower body.
Cramping typically occurs at the same time as your period, which can cause very severe pain.
Doctors diagnose this condition using a laparoscopy to perform biopsies and examine the tissue.
Hormone therapy and birth control can be used to shrink endometrial tissues. In some cases, surgery may be performed to remove the growths. In severe cases of endometriosis, a hysterectomy is the only real treatment option.
Pelvic Floor Tension Myalgia
Pelvic floor tension myalgia occurs when tension builds up in the pelvic floor muscles, which support the pelvic organs. This condition can lead to:
- Itching, burning and pain in the vagina
- Achiness or heaviness in the pelvis
A physical exam is performed to diagnose the condition. The most effective treatment options include pelvic floor physical therapy to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
Pelvic congestion syndrome is caused by varicose veins in the pelvis. When these veins become weak and do not close properly, the blood pools and causes pressure or pain in the pelvis.
About seven million women have this
condition, which can cause:
- An aching, dull, or throbbing pain in the pelvis (many women describe it as a “heavy” feeling).
- Pain that starts out mild, but gets progressively worse throughout the day.
- Pain that improves when you apply heat or lay down.
Doctors use a transcervical venogram to measure the size of the vein and its blood flow rate. The condition can be treated using a progestin hormone, which has been shown to shrink the veins and decrease pain. If hormone therapy does not work, embolization can be performed, which closes off the veins. The most effective treatment is a hysterectomy, which is a good option for women who do not plan to get pregnant.
In some cases, pain and cramping can be caused by expanding ligaments during early pregnancy.
The ligaments around the uterus expand to house the developing fetus, which can cause discomfort.
If the pain and cramping is severe, a miscarriage may be the cause. Implantation can cause light spotting, but with a miscarriage, the bleeding will be heavier and more severe, depending on how far along you were in the pregnancy.
If your cramps and pain get increasingly worse throughout the course of the day, and the bleeding gets heavier, there’s a chance you may be experiencing a miscarriage. Or, you may just be getting your period.
Natural Remedies for Implantation Cramps
For most women, implantation cramps and pain last no more than a few minutes. But for some women, the discomfort can last for a few hours or a day. There are things you can do to alleviate the pain and cramping.
1. Relax – Let Go of Stress
Stress and fear are two normal reactions when experiencing unexplained pain or cramping in the pelvis. But stress can cause tension, which leads to even more discomfort.
Take a moment to sit down, relax, and be in the moment. Listen to a guided meditation to help quiet your mind. Take deep breaths, and allow your fear and tension to dissipate.
Stress will only make the cramping and pain worse, so make it a priority to relax and unwind.
2. Take a Warm Bath
If you’re having a hard time relaxing, consider taking a warm bath. The heat from the water can help alleviate tension, and melt stress away.
A warm bath will also help relieve cramping by relaxing the ligaments and muscles of your uterus.
Alternatively, you can place a hot compress on your back or pelvis to alleviate the cramping.
3. Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
A mild over-the-counter pain medicine, like ibuprofen or an NSAID, can help alleviate pain and cramping. While the pain is often mild, a pain reliever can help alleviate any discomfort you may be feeling.
Follow the dosage instructions listed on the bottle. In most cases, women need no more than just one or two doses before the pain disappears on its own.
Another great way to relax – and relieve pain/cramping – is aromatherapy. When certain essential oils are diffused into the air, it can have a calming effect on the body.
The best essential oils for relaxation and stress alleviation include:
- Ylang ylang
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable cramping and pain, sleeping can help alleviate discomfort. Taking a nap will give your body time to rest and recover, while giving you a break from the pain and cramps.
Many women find that the pain is gone when they wake up from a much-needed rest.
6. Exercise and Hydrate
Dehydration can make cramping and pain even worse. A little activity can also get the blood moving, and help alleviate the pain.
If your symptoms are causing discomfort, make sure that you stay hydrated to keep the pain and cramping from getting worse.
Going for a brisk walk or engaging in a light workout (or yoga) can also help relieve your symptoms. Try not to overdo it, though. The goal is to get the blood flowing to help alleviate tension.
When to See a Doctor for Implantation
If you’re experiencing pain and spotting, your first reaction may be to call the doctor, especially if you are not expecting your period.
Mild pain and spotting is normal when implantation occurs, and even during the early stages of pregnancy. But if your symptoms become concerning, then you should see a doctor.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, get medical attention right away:
- Heavy bleeding with severe cramps
- Bleeding for more than three or four days
- Gray or pink tissue in the discharge
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Severe pain
For most women, implantation occurs without them even realizing it. For those that do experience symptoms, light bleeding and cramping (like the cramps you get during your period) are the most common occurrences. While you may be tempted to run out and get a pregnancy test, you’ll need to wait until after your missed period to get accurate results.