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What Is Implantation Bleeding?

During pregnancy, your body goes through all kinds of changes. Some are obvious and expected, like a growing belly or the stoppage of your menstrual cycle. But did you know that very early on, you may experience some bleeding that could be mistaken for your period? This is called implantation bleeding, and we sat down with Heather Reed, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology physician and medical director of labor and delivery at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, to learn what it is and when you should be concerned.

Q: What is implantation bleeding? Is it normal?

A: Pregnancy starts when an egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube and then makes its way to the uterus. When the fertilized egg reaches the uterus, it attaches to the uterine wall. When this attachment happens, you may experience a small amount of bleeding. This is called implantation bleeding and it is completely normal.

Q: How much bleeding is normal?

A: The amount of bleeding at implantation can vary between women. Some women may not experience any bleeding with implantation, while other women may have bleeding that compares to a light period and lasts two or three days. Anything on that continuum – from no bleeding to bleeding resembling a light period – can be considered normal.

Q: I’m experiencing bleeding that is heavier than a light period. Should I be worried?

A: Because implantation can be the same time as you might be expecting your period, it can be hard to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and your regular menstrual bleeding. It’s tough to know when you should be worried because every woman’s circumstance is different. However, any time bleeding saturates a pad in less than two hours it should be considered too much vaginal bleeding, and you should consult a physician.

Q: Are there other symptoms associated with implantation bleeding?

A: Some women experience slight cramping or nausea during implantation, in addition to light bleeding. Because implantation occurs so early in pregnancy it can be difficult to tell if the symptoms are from implantation or your regular monthly menstrual cycle.

Q: How do I know the difference between implantation bleeding, my menstrual period, and a miscarriage?

A: Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and menstrual bleeding. Implantation occurs 6-12 days after conception, which is around the same time you may be expecting your monthly period, and both can produce the same amount of bleeding.

If you think you may be pregnant, your best bet is to take a home pregnancy test. The level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a pregnancy hormone, can vary between women but most home pregnancy tests can detect pregnancy. However, it’s important to know that a home pregnancy test can produce a false negative because everyone’s hormone level is slightly different. While it’s possible to become pregnant and lose the pregnancy this early on – resulting in light bleeding that could be confused with implantation bleeding – a pregnancy loss this early isn’t considered a miscarriage.

If you think you’re pregnant, it’s best to make an appointment with an OBGYN. An OBGYN can provide a pregnancy blood test and if you are pregnant, start important prenatal care right away.

For additional information, check out these related articles: Is My Period Normal? — 7 Signs You Might Be Pregnant — Things You Should Know About Well-Women Visits. And for other helpful advice regarding pregnancy, visit the Banner Health blog

Gynecology Women's Health Pregnancy

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