When you are actively trying to get pregnant, it can be exciting but also stressful. Until you can confirm it with a home pregnancy test or pregnancy blood test, you are likely super focused on any early signs of pregnancy.
While there are several potential symptoms you may experience early on in pregnancy, such as nausea or tiredness, one of the telltale symptoms of pregnancy you may not be aware of is implantation bleeding.
Implantation bleeding occurs in one-third of pregnant people and is normal, but it can also be confused with normal spotting before your period.
If you want to know more about implantation bleeding, what it is and the symptoms associated with it, then read on below.
What is implantation bleeding?
Implantation bleeding is light bleeding or spotting that occurs about one to two weeks after conception when sperm and egg join together. It’s one of the first steps of pregnancy.
“When an egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube and then makes its way to the uterus, the fertilized egg implants or attaches itself to your uterine lining,” said Heather Reed, MD, an OBGYN with Banner - University Medicine in Tucson, AZ. “This attachment can break down small blood vessels and cause a bit of vaginal bleeding.”
How much bleeding is normal?
The amount of bleeding with implantation can be different from person to person. Some people may not experience any bleeding, while others may have bleeding that looks like a light period and lasts a couple of days (two to three).
“Anything in this range is considered normal,” Dr. Reed said.
Implantation bleeding vs. period: How to tell the difference
Because of the timing, it can be easy to confuse the two. However, there are a couple of differences you can look for, including:
Amount of blood: Menstrual bleeding (your period) will range from light to heavy bleeding over several days or weeks. Implantation bleeding often lasts only a few days and is usually light bleeding that won’t fill a pad or tampon. Often you may only notice a few spots on your underwear or pantyliner.
Color: Blood from your menstrual period is usually bright red, while bleeding from implantation usually ranges from light pink to dark brown.
What are other signs of implantation bleeding?
In addition to spotting, some other signs to look for are early pregnancy symptoms. Signs of pregnancy may include light cramping (less than a normal period), tender or sore breasts, nausea (morning sickness), darkening of the areolas (the dark skin around your nipples), mood swings and changes in appetite.
Dr. Reed added, “Implantation symptoms can resemble the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, so the only way to be sure is to wait a few days to see if you start your period or take a pregnancy test.”
How long after implantation bleeding can I take a pregnancy test?
The best time to take a home pregnancy test is a few days before your missed period when your pregnancy hormone (hCG) level will be high enough to detect. Some tests are sensitive enough to detect the hCG hormone 5 days before you expect your period.
“If you test too soon, however, you may get a false negative result even if you are pregnant because your hormone levels are too low to detect,” Dr. Reed said. “If you see a negative result but still think you’re pregnant, wait a few days before testing again.”
If you have a positive pregnancy test result, schedule an appointment with your provider. They can provide a pregnancy blood test to confirm your pregnancy and start you on prenatal care right away.
I’m pregnant but still bleeding. Is this normal?
Not all spotting and bleeding during pregnancy are a cause for worry or concern, but it’s best to see your health care provider.
“Your cervix is more sensitive during this time, so it’s not uncommon to notice spotting or light bleeding after sex, from a pelvic exam, pap test or cervical examination for dilation,” Dr. Reed said.
See your provider immediately if you’re continuing to spot and develop other symptoms, such as pelvic or stomach pain, dizziness, or have a history of infertility or tubal disease. These could indicate you have a tubal or ectopic pregnancy or an early sign of pregnancy loss or miscarriage.
“It’s natural to worry when you experience bleeding during pregnancy, but many people spot and go on to have successful pregnancies,” Dr. Reed said.
About one-third of people will experience implantation bleeding in early pregnancy. In most cases, spotting is a normal sign of implantation. If you’re unsure, it’s probably a good idea to visit your provider to confirm a pregnancy and/or rule out other causes.
Pregnant and need prenatal care?
Schedule an appointment with an OBGYN near you.