What is implantation bleeding? How do you distinguish between implantation bleeding and your menstrual cycle? What causes it and what are the signs?
What is Implantation Bleeding?
Implantation bleeding normally occurs when a 6-12 day old fertilized egg travels into the uterus and embeds itself in the uterine lining. The bleeding is caused by the egg moving down into the uterus and attaching the interior lining. However, only roughly a third of women actually experience implantation bleeding. This bleeding occurs right around the time of your first missed menstrual period, but should not be confused with it. There are differences between implantation bleeding and menstruation.
What Causes Implantation Bleeding?
Implantation bleeding is caused by the egg embedding in the uterine lining. This happens because, as the egg attaches to the uterus, your bodies naturally trying to flush itself out. The purpose of your menstrual period is to keep your uterus healthy and clean. When you have your period, you are shedding uterine lining because you have not gotten pregnant. When you conceive, your bodies natural process is to end the menstrual cycle, but since implantation happens so early on in your pregnancy, your body is still in its natural process.
If you haven’t experienced implantation bleeding, this is not a cause for alarm. Onlyone-thirdd of women experience implantation bleeding. One theory on why this happens is that it’s so close to your cycle that your body is naturally wanting to start the menstruation process.
What is the Difference Between Implantation Bleeding and Menstruation?
Menstrual bleeding is a part of your menstrual cycle where your body expels the uterine lining. It normally lasts 3-6 days and can vary between extremely heavy and light, depending on the person and your diet.
Implantation bleeding is more like spotting. It isn’t a light, continuous flow. It’s more just a few spots during the day and only lasts a couple hours to 2 days. There are a few, common differences between the two that you can look for.
Most women know the color of their menstrual period. Normally, periods are a bright red color and fade to brown, only at the end of the cycle. Implantation bleeding, however, will be a light pink to a brown color (like dried blood) and doesn’t last nearly as long.
Some women experience clotting (presented as small clumps) during their menstruation. Implantation bleeding should not have any clumps. If you have already confirmed pregnancy, are experiencing implantation bleeding and are seeing blood clots, go to the nearest emergency room right away as this could be a sign of miscarriage.
Again, menstrual periods typically last 3-6 days. During implantation bleeding, you may only experience a couple hours of bleeding, up to three days.
Every woman experiences her period differently. Some bleed heavily for only three days, others bleed light for 6-7 days, and some even bleed heavily for 5 days! Implantation bleeding, though it does vary in duration for every person, experiences the 0, very light amount.
Most women only experience spotting during implantation bleeding, however, it should be noted that implantation bleeding can be an extremely light flow instead of spotting.
What Are The Signs?
Some signs of implantation bleeding are as follows:
- Light cramping – much easier to bear than premenstrual cramps.
- Mood swings – this is not always a telltale sign considering some women experience mood swings during pre menstruation as well.
- Headaches – these are common in first trimester pregnancies around the time of implantation.
- Nausea – this can indicate ‘morning sickness’, which can happen at any time of the day.
- Breast tenderness – this is from the rush of hormones. This can also be fuzzy since some women experience breast tenderness before their period.
- Lower Backache – Some women experience lower back pain during implantation.
Other Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Other early pregnancy symptoms include:
- Food cravings
- Sensitivity to smells and/or light
- Frequent urination
Other Causes for Bleeding During Pregnancy
There are other causes of bleeding during pregnancy besides implantation bleeding. Some of these include:
- Sex – When a pregnant woman experiences intercourse, especially early on in her pregnancy, she may bleed slightly. This is not a heavy flow and should stop on its own. Though this is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy, it may happen at any time. This is thought to be due to hormone changes in your body.
- Ectopic pregnancy – An ectopic pregnancy, or ‘tubal pregnancy’, is where the egg does not finish its journey to the uterus and embeds itself in the fallopian tubes instead. You may experience bleeding, heavier than implantation bleeding, and severe cramps. This can potentially be life-threatening and you will need to see a doctor as soon as possible. Another common symptom of ectopic pregnancy is a feeling that you’re ‘not pregnant’.
- Miscarriage – This is what most women, first time moms especially, fear when implantation bleeding occurs. Miscarriages consist of heavier bleeding, accompanied by what look like blood clots, and severe cramps. Roughly 15% of pregnancies end within the first few months. If you have heavy bleeding, clotting, and severe cramps and know that you are pregnant, go to your nearest emergency room or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
How to Tell When It’s All Over
Most women want to be able to tell if their implantation was a success. The fertilization process lasts about 7-10 days. If the process of fertilization is unsuccessful, the egg will be released through light-bleeding accompanied by small blood clots. If the process is successful, you will experience implantation bleeding and slight cramping for up to a week afterwards. Don’t worry, this is due to successful fertilization and the cramping is perfectly normal, as long as it doesn’t rise above a slight ache.
Your uterus will also change in size and shape, which should be able to be felt through your stomach, right above your pubic bone. It will feel like a small balloon inserted into your pelvic cavity.
When to See a Doctor
As with everything, there are times where it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your bleeding is heavy, lasts longer than three days, or is accompanied by clots or severe cramping, it’s time to see your doctor. These may be signs of a serious complication or miscarriage, which are dangerous for you and your baby.
Need More Confirmation?
If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing your menstrual period or implantation bleeding, or know you are pregnant and are worried about the implantation bleeding, schedule an appointment with your doctor to calm your nerves and ensure that everything with you and baby is okay.
If you aren’t sure if you’re pregnant or not, take an at-home pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy and schedule an appointment with your doctor.