How Do I Know if It’s Implantation Bleeding?

Reviewed on 1/25/2021

What is implantation bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is bleeding that occurs about two to three weeks after fertilization. Blood from implantation bleeding tends to be pink or rusty brown in color, light flow with no clotting and it lasts for one to three days accompanied by other symptoms.
Implantation bleeding is bleeding that occurs about two to three weeks after fertilization. Blood from implantation bleeding tends to be pink or rusty brown in color, light flow with no clotting and it lasts for one to three days accompanied by other symptoms.

Some pregnant women bleed at the time of implantation, which occurs about one or two weeks after fertilization. During this process, a fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining and can cause mild cramping and/or light spotting

This early pregnancy symptom is most often nothing to worry about. As many as 15% to 25% of women experience some form of bleeding, including implantation bleeding, during the first trimester of pregnancy.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between menstruation and implantation bleeding, but there are some signs that may give you a better idea of which is which. More importantly, you should know how implantation bleeding looks and feels in order to distinguish it from early pregnancy bleeding that requires you to seek immediate medical care. Implantation bleeding does not need treatment, but you should still tell your doctor about any and all bleeding during regular appointments. 

Signs and symptoms of implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding may be mistaken for a light period. It occurs around the same time that a woman would expect to get her period and can lead to mistaken assumptions about the baby’s due date

The characteristics of implantation bleeding include the following:

Pink or brown in color

Menstrual blood typically has a reddish color. Implantation bleeding, on the other hand, will usually be a pale pink or rusty brown color. 

No clotting

Women having their periods sometimes expel small clots of coagulated blood and tissue. Women experiencing implantation bleeding do not.

Spotting or light flow

Implantation bleeding is light and often discovered only when a woman wipes after using the bathroom. A heavier flow is an indication that it is not implantation bleeding.

Lasting 1-3 days

Implantation bleeding should stop within three days. A period can last up to a week.

May be accompanied by other symptoms of implantation

In addition to implantation bleeding, early pregnancy is shown by these other symptoms:

Implantation pain resembles menstrual cramps, making it difficult to tell the two apart. The pain may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. If it lasts for several days, the pain should be intermittent and mild.

Cramps consist of an aching or pulling sensation in the lower abdomen, but implantation also may cause other types of soreness such as lower backaches and breast tenderness.

Causes of implantation bleeding

Around one or two weeks after conception, the embryo implants into the mother’s uterus. When it does so, small blood vessels in the wall of the uterus may break down or burst. While these ruptures may cause slight bleeding or cramping, they are not dangerous.

When to see the doctor for implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding is perfectly normal and will go away on its own. 

The following symptoms indicate that bleeding is not connected to implantation and that you should seek medical attention:

  • Severe pain or continual pain
  • Heavy bleeding or bleeding that continues for more than three days
  • Cramping accompanied by pain in the shoulder or neck
  • Fever or dizziness

You should also inform your doctor about any bleeding, including light implantation bleeding, during your regular appointments.

Signs of early pregnancy loss or ectopic pregnancy

If the bleeding is heavier and/or accompanied by severe cramping, you may be experiencing early pregnancy loss or an ectopic pregnancy, conditions that require immediate medical attention. 

In the event of a miscarriage, the bleeding may start out light and brownish, but it will usually turn into heavier bleeding as the pregnancy tissue passes from the body.

When the egg is implanted outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tubes, it is called an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous to the mother and usually result in the loss of the embryo. Their most common symptoms include cramping and heavy bleeding in the first trimester.

Experiencing one ectopic pregnancy does not predispose a woman to miscarriage during later pregnancies.

Diagnosing implantation bleeding

After implantation, you should wait a few days before taking a pregnancy test for the most accurate results. 

Pregnant women should see a doctor right away in order to evaluate the health of their pregnancy and begin prenatal care. Your doctor will likely issue an ultrasound and perform a pelvic exam. If the doctor is concerned about bleeding, they may also perform blood or tissue tests.

Treatments for implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding does not require treatment and will go away within a few days. A light panty liner should be enough to protect undergarments. 

If you are also experiencing pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever or try the following home treatments:

  • Relaxation exercises like yoga
  • A bath
  • A hot water bottle or heating pad 

Pain, too, should go away shortly.

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References
SOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Bleeding During Pregnancy."

American Family Physician: "Diagnosis and Management of Ectopic Pregnancy."

American Pregnancy Association: "Pregnancy Cramps."

American Pregnancy Association: "What is implantation bleeding?"

Epidemiology & Health: "Predictors of miscarriage: a matched case-control study."

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School: "Miscarriage."

Mayo Clinic: "Is implantation bleeding normal in early pregnancy?"

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