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What Is Implantation Bleeding and How Long Can Spotting Last?

Nathan enjoys researching and writing about issues that affect everyday people.

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In the very early stages of pregnancy, a woman might begin to notice some bleeding that she may mistake for her regular period. This is known as implantation bleeding or spotting. It differs from the bleeding that occurs during menstruation and is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy for some women.

What is it exactly, how long will it last, and what can you learn from it?

What Is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation bleeding occurs after a fertilized egg (blastocyst) travels through the fallopian tubes and implants into the walls of the womb, or uterus. As tissues form around the egg, it can irritate the walls of the uterus and cause some bleeding. Blood can leak from the cervix and cause pink or brown spotting.

How Long Does Implantation Bleeding Last?

Reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Mark Trolice explains that "light bleeding/spotting in the seven to 10 days following ovulation is considered a benign occurrence and attributed to embryo implantation." Spotting should only last a few hours or up to three days, and it is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy in 30% of women.

If bleeding continues for more than three days and/or gets heavier, then you are either experiencing a normal period, or it indicates potentially dangerous causes of bleeding in early pregnancy, including cervical polyps (common), or something more serious, such as an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.

What Are the Signs of Implantation?

  • Blood is light red or pink, or it is brown because the blood is not fresh.
  • You will feel lighter cramping than your period. It usually occurs in your back and lower abdomen and should only last a few days. The pain should not be unbearable. If it is, call a doctor immediately.
  • It is not as heavy as your period.
  • It occurs about a week before your normal period.
  • After bleeding, your breasts will be sore, tender, and/or swollen.
  • You'll have a higher basal body temperature (BBT) during implantation.
  • You might experience mood swings, headaches, and nausea (morning sickness).
  • A week after implantation, you might have the frequent urge to urinate. This is because your body increases blood supply to the pelvic area, which puts pressure on your bladder.
  • You'll notice your taste in food changes. You may find yourself craving foods you used to hate and disliking foods you used to love.

Are you experiencing these 14 early signs of pregnancy? If you experience several of these symptoms, then you are probably pregnant!

Implantation Bleeding or Normal Period?

If you usually have a light flow, you may confuse what is actually implantation bleeding for your regular period. Here's how to tell the difference between the two:

Regular Period:

  • Starts off light and gets heavier. May contain clots.
  • Fresh, bright red and watery blood for 2-4 days.
  • Menstrual bleeding flows continuously for 3-7 days.
  • Cramping is much more intense.

Implantation Bleeding:

  • Starts off light and remains light. Doesn't fill up an entire pad or tampon.
  • Light pink to brown or black blood, although red blood can occasionally occur. Most women report dark blood that is not as fresh as their period blood.
  • Implantation spotting can come and go. You may see some spotting for a few hours or on and off for 1-3 days.
  • You should only experience mild cramping.

Can Implantation Bleeding Be Heavy?

Dr. Michael Dimattina, MD states that "heavy bleeding is rare, and if there is bleeding, it should be just a few spots." He explains that most women don't even experience it at all, and any blood associated with implantation is just gentle sloughing of the uterine lining when the embryo implants itself, so the flow is very light and should not fill up a whole pad or tampon.

Can Implantation Spotting Be Bright Red?

According to Dr. Serena Chen, Director for the Division of Reproductive Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, "Implantation can range from nothing to pink to spotting to bright red." Most women report spotting that is light pink or brown blood, which means it's old blood. Red blood indicates that the blood was able to pass through the cervix before it could turn brown, and it should not be a concern unless it is heavy and lasts for more than three days.

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How Long Does Implantation Cramping Last?

Implantation cramping should not be painful and should last only 1-3 days. It happens when the fertilized egg burrows itself into the lining of the uterus wall, and it is a very healthy and natural part of early pregnancy. If cramping continues for more than 3 days, then you're most likely experiencing PMS, however there are other causes for abdominal pain during the first trimester that range from normal (round ligament pain) to concerning (ectopic pregnancy or infection).

How to Tell the Difference Between Implantation Cramps and Menstrual Cramps?

It's easy to confuse what is implantation cramping for period cramps. Here's how to tell the difference:

  • Implantation cramps happen 6-12 days after ovulation, so you will experience it in the middle of your cycle, which is 1-2 weeks earlier than the date of your period. If you feel cramping just a few days before your period, then it is probably just PMS.
  • Implantation cramps are intermittent and last only a few minutes at a time, whereas period cramps are ongoing.
  • Cramps from implantation feel like a pulling/tugging or prickling sensation in the lower abdomen. You may also experience lower back pain.
  • Implantation cramps only last for the duration of time that it takes for the fertilized egg to implant itself into the wall of the uterus (typically 1-3 days). If you experiencing cramping for longer than that, then you are most likely experiencing PMS-related cramps.

When Does Implantation Bleeding Occur?

Implantation bleeding usually takes place 6 to 12 days after conception, or 10 days after ovulation. So you will notice spotting 5-7 days before your period is expected to start. For example, if you conceive on day 10 of your cycle, then you will experience implantation bleeding around day 16-22, whereas your period would likely occur on day 28-30.

What If I Have an Irregular Menstrual Cycle?

Women with irregular menstrual cycles may see implantation spotting as early as 5 days after conception or as late as 17 days. This means that implantation bleeding can occur at around the same time as a period, leading many women to confuse implantation spotting for a light period. If you want to be know for sure whether or not you are pregnant, watch for other early pregnancy signs and take a pregnancy test.

How Common Is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation spotting is actually very common and is a normal symptom of pregnancy. Around 1/3 of pregnant women experience implantation bleeding. In many cases, it is one of the first signs of pregnancy.

What Does Cervical Mucus Look Like After Implantation?

According to reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Mark Trolice, "Progesterone changes the pre-ovulatory copious cervical mucus from egg white, watery, clear, and elastic (to facilitate sperm entry into the uterine cavity) into thick, viscous, and opaque, with a decrease in production by the cervical glands. The post-ovulation cervical mucus change occurs to protect the future pregnancy in the uterine cavity from infection." He explains that this change "creates a 'mucus plug,' which remains throughout pregnancy and is passed prior to the onset of labor as one of the signs signaling impending delivery of the baby."

Dr. Serena Chen, fertility specialist and clinical professor at Rutgers Medical School, says, "Unlike the pre-ovulatory, clear watery mucus, pregnancy mucus can be thicker, more whitish, and opaque, but this is extremely variable and has zero positive or negative predictive value for anything!"

Could It Be Ovulation Spotting?

Some women may confuse ovulation spotting for implantation bleeding. Here's how to tell the difference:

Ovulation Spotting

  • Occurs in the middle of your cycle—about two weeks before your period.
  • Very rare. Only occurs in 3% of women.
  • Cervical mucus is stretcher, clearer, and more slippery than normal—like egg white—with a tinge of blood.

Implantation Bleeding

  • Occurs a few days to a week before your period.
  • Happens to about 30% of pregnant women.
  • Pink or brown watery discharge.

When Should You Take a Pregnancy Test After Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation occurs about 6-12 days after conception. After the egg implants into the womb, it begins to develop what is known as the pregnancy hormone or hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin). You can take a pregnancy test as early as 3-4 days after implantation and get a positive result, however, many women report getting more accurate results if they wait a week after implantation or after their missed period. How early you can take your pregnancy test can be determined by tracking your ovulation cycle.

Woman during pregnancy.

Woman during pregnancy.

The Take Away

So, it should be remembered that implantation bleeding is darker than your usual period and only accompanies light cramping. The blood flow will be lighter, not as heavy as your period, hence the term, spotting.

If spotting accompanies other signs of pregnancy like nausea or extreme tiredness, you are showing signs that indeed you could be pregnant. You can take the pregnancy test about 3-4 days after signs of implantation or about a week afterward, after you've missed your period.

Implantation bleeding usually lasts about one or two days, and in rare cases it can last a month or two. If you are experiencing extreme pain during bleeding or the color of the blood has turned a deep red, then you need to consult a health care specialist, your mid-wife or family doctor.

Sources

  1. Kelly Sundstrom, "Is It Implantation Bleeding or Just a Visit from Aunt Flo?", Parenting. Accessed February 3, 2018.
  2. Margaret Scott, "All About Heavy Implantation Bleeding," Implantation Spotting. Accessed February 3, 2018.
  3. Rebecca Malachi, "8 Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy Implantation," Mom Junction. November 21, 2017. Accessed February 3, 2017.
  4. Jon Johnson, "Implantation Bleeding: Causes and Symptoms," Medical News Today. July 29, 2017. Accessed February 3, 2018.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Lyn on August 22, 2020:

I have spotting on 8 and stop 11

Yesterday start spotting again and stop today what mean?

Crystalsonuprasad on August 11, 2020:

Hy i just hav my period 13th July end 19th, and again on 26th same month, and then i start having brown dark sticky spotting beginning of August , what is that mean?

QUEEN on August 06, 2020:

I HAVE SPOTTING ON 10 ND STOP AT 13 ,NOW I STARTED SPOT AGAIN ON 20 ND IT STOP ON 28 ,MEAN WHAT

Amahle on July 23, 2020:

I m so confused ist possible to implant twice I have implantation cramping, sore boobs, nausea, headaches and it stopped on symptoms and on th

Cassandra morales on July 22, 2020:

I have been experiencing early sign of pregnancy and know im having coffee brown stretchy mucus plug

What is this meaning

Jace on July 18, 2020:

So I just had my period from June 29th to July 5th .... had sex on the 7th then noting Until the 14th .... then I started feeling cramping and my boobs hurt a bit and on the 14th I had very very light bleeding... but had sex that night and after sex my very very light bleed Gotten a little heavier then it was and not since the 14 I been lightly bleeding ..... ?????? What is going on ???

Dawnmarie052389 on July 09, 2020:

Ok so i have a normal period may 30th. I was due to get mine july 1st. I was 6 days late and started spotting. It been on and off. My periods are usually super heavy for the first day but this time its super light or nothing at all. Im so freaking confused. Is this my period or am i experiencing implantation bleeding? This is day 3.

Ada on June 29, 2020:

My period was supposed to come on the 17 of June 2020 it was late with severe pain at my lower abdomen. And on 28 of June i started bleeding. Have done series of home urine test it came negative, what could be the cause.

Lwazi on June 12, 2020:

I started my periods on 2 May had unprotected sex on the 5 May and after 20th days I spotted for 2 days which is the last week of May I feel dizzy like I will faint and nauseous mostly tired and swollen feet at the end of the day could I be pregnant

Blessing on June 10, 2020:

I saw my period on may 11th and it ended on may 15th. On june 6th I saw a light spotting with a small clot once. On june 10th I saw another light spotting with cloth once again. Pls can I be pregnant

Ann Chiemelie on June 03, 2020:

I have been having brown or dark blood spotting for 4 day now am i pregnant

Demii Elam on April 17, 2020:

My last period was 3/9/20 i believe I ovulated on April 4th on April 12th I had spotting when I wipe with my period Supposed to start April 13th i had a faint + on april 15. I plan to test again on the 20th so far on and off headaches and feeling nauseous but it was with clear blue and ive read the blue dye is know for false + so next test i will take april 20 with First Response with pink dye and see what happens

Nikita Mayekar on April 15, 2020:

I had my period on 20/02/20,we had sex regular from 10th day of cycle to 19th day of cycle,but suddenly on19th day I started spotting and spotting is still happening,so I wait still the date of period or should visit doctor,please suggest what to do.

Deanna Gibbs on April 10, 2020:

I was informed by a doctor many years ago that it was normal during pregnancy. It may be a result of stress or could be blood that was in the prlvis prior. It shouldn't be a concern unless it gets heavier or doesn't as stop. I had this happen with both pregnancy but with my daughter it occured a few times until the fifth month. Keeping up with the occurrence and accountability is all i suggest for myself or anyone.

Missy on March 11, 2020:

I’ve missed my period this month, after my due date I started getting a lot of mucus and spotting discharge, I’m not sure if it’s implantation bleeding but it’s going on 7 days now that I’ve had this light brown bleeding, I had a pregnancy test today it come out negative, please could I have information on what it is?

Sekona on February 13, 2020:

Just had my period 3weeks ago and now I’m bleeding and cramped on the 1st day which is weird because I never cramp on my first day when I’m on my regular period. What can it possibly be?

Simphiwe on January 27, 2020:

Hi I'm spotting today is my fifth day and it's 2 weeks after my last period

Makeup Artist Van Miu from Ho Chi Minh on October 14, 2019:

I appreciate your blog. This is the first time I am visiting to your post. Really it’s so interesting to read. Please keep up writing. Thanks for sharing.

Yvon on October 08, 2019:

I missed my period for 4days but in the next day half of the day I got my period but my blood is so light red like blood and water mix it I dont know what to do and I dont know what is theit maening of this pls help thankyou

Sieni on October 06, 2019:

Hi.. i had my period on the 22nd of August to the 25th of august. Last month i had my period on the 16th - 20th of september then i had sex on the 22nd, 25th, 26th and 27th of september.. Last thurday i noticed my implantation bleeding when i wiped it last for 3 days.. it stopped yesterday and now when its back again when i wipe after pee but my period will be on the 10th of october which is this coming thursday.. Am i pregnant or not?

Bianca on July 16, 2019:

Hi im getting my period on the 22 of june and ends on the 26 of june and start bleeding on the 12 of july while im expected it on the 20 th of july my i had a little bit heavy flow for 3days and now i had a very slight flow am i pregnant

Crystle on July 15, 2019:

I i had my period 2 days early than i should so i was bleeding for 3 days and I'm not anymore. I usually last 5 days of my period..

Zanele on July 05, 2019:

Hi..im 9 weeks pregnant nou im experiencing impletation bleeding with clots what does that mean plzzz help

beatrice on June 03, 2019:

iam having bleeding but its on and off with flu headache high temperature backpain and abdominal pain iam i pregnant

Ven on June 03, 2019:

Hi i really cant tell if im on my period or not because i have always had irregular periods and recently I haven't been getting my period how i normally get it i dont know if its because i had my baby he's 7 months and im still breastfeeding so idk but my last period was in may i really dont remember the day because my period is really confusing i think its the 20 and i had sex the 22 however i took pregnon about five days after im not suppose to get my period as yet and on the second of june i am having slight cramping and spotting which is not like my normal period cramps because its much more bearable also before it started me and my boyfriend had sex and after sex i saw discharge with a pinkish brown streak before all of this happen I am feeling nauseous all the time moody and I was craving chocolate so idk please help me what do you think could it be that im pregnant or not

Tazh on May 25, 2019:

I started my period on May 21,it seemed like a normal period but then that evening it got light and eventually stopped by 11 that night then the next three days it was only spotting and the spotting was off and on! Could this be a normal period or implantion bleeding ?

basirat on May 23, 2019:

Hi pls help me out i saw my period on d 3oth of april and end 2nd of may and had sex on the 6th of may and took post pill on 9th of may after two week i started experience light blood for the past four days does it mean am pregnant pls help me

Summer on May 16, 2019:

I’ve been spotting for 6 days AF was due yesterday I only have light cramps on and off , spotting doesn’t fill a pad, should I wait to take a pregnancy test?

Remelyn on May 09, 2019:

Im late 7 days before but after the day i got my period its not heavy like usual its just medium then after one day my period stop but i have a little bleeding im a pregnant or no?