Implantation Basics

What is implantation bleeding or spotting?

Implantation bleeding is usually defined as a very small amount of bleeding or spotting that occurs when the embryo implants into the lining of the uterus. It occurs shortly before the time you would expect to have a menstrual period, and it can confuse you into believing that you have a period. However, it tends to be much lighter than menstrual bleeding. 

Implantation bleeding and spotting happen about a week after ovulation and fertilization. Implantation is the attachment of the fertilized egg, the blastocyst into the lining of the uterus. Implantation happens about a week after ovulation with a range of 6-12 days. Some women report some spotting or bleeding around the time of implantation.

The bleeding/spotting as a result of implantation usually occurs about a week before your period is due to begin (or 9 days after ovulation). Some women refer to this as spotting while others do not even notice the bleeding at all. The closer to the day when your cycle is supposed to begin that the bleeding is noticed, the less chance there is of it being implantation bleeding.

Keep in mind that the blood associated with implantation bleeding is usually not fresh blood so it may not look like regular menstrual bleeding. The time it takes for these drops to move out of the body ages the blood and it will usually appear dark brown, or even black by the time the spotting occurs. Occasionally the blood associated with implantation bleeding may be fresh blood and appear redder.

Is implantation bleeding a first pregnancy sign?

Implantation bleeding and spotting is among the very first of the typical pregnancy symptoms and pregnancy signs. It is thought to happen when the fertilized egg attached to the lining of the uterus. Some women experience bleeding upon implantation while others never do. Having bleeding can also be confused with having menstrual bleeding or your period. This form of bleeding when you are pregnant is normal and requires no specific treatment but you can have a normal pregnancy without it.

What is the appearance of implantation bleeding?

Most women report this bleeding to be brown in color though some mention it to be more reddish. Most women report at most a few drops of blood — it may be one to two small red or brown spots in the panties, though others report a more substantial amount but rarely if ever does it approach the appearance of menstrual bleeding.

If your bleeding is similar to a menstrual period, chances are that it's not implantation bleeding.

When does implantation and implantation bleeding occur?

Implantation, the attachment of the fertilized egg to the uterine lining, occurs on average about 9 days after ovulation (range between 6-12 days), which is about a week to a few days before your period would normally start. 

Implantation bleeding and spotting are among the very first of the typical pregnancy symptoms and pregnancy signs. Implantation bleeding and spotting happen when the fertilized egg attached to the lining of the uterus.

Spotting that occurs as early as around a week after ovulation can be implantation bleeding; whereas spotting that occurs much later and a couple of days before your period would normally start probably is not.

What you may consider implantation spotting can sometimes be the sign of an early period and that means you are not pregnant. If this is the case, the spotting will progress to heavier bleeding. If you have spotting right around the time your period would normally start, it can be even more confusing. You will need to take the wait and see approach or take a pregnancy test to determine pregnancy.

What is the difference between implantation bleeding and your period?

There are four characteristics of the bleeding or spotting that can differentiate between a period or implantation symptoms. You can identify whether the bleeding is associated with implantation or a menstrual period by the following characteristics:

  1. Timing: Implantation bleeding happens about 6-12 days after ovulation while a menstrual period happens 14 days after ovulation
  2. Character: Implantation bleeding is just a couple of drops while a menstrual period is much more
  3. Color: A menstrual period is usually bright red while implantation is more brownish
  4. Duration: Bleeding associated with implantation lasts up to one day while a menstrual period lasts 3-5 days 

Is implantation bleeding common?

It's likely that most women who do become pregnant do not experience implantation bleeding, and many women experience some spotting but they are not pregnant. Implantation bleeding is fairly common with pregnancy and approximately twenty to thirty percent of women will have spotting at implantation. 

If you experience bleeding regularly after ovulation and you are not pregnant then you may want to discuss with your doctor whether some tests can be done to make sure everything is OK.

If you have some light spotting before your period would normally start this is not something to worry about but it may be a sign of pregnancy.

Are there any other reasons for bleeding or spotting early in pregnancy?

Other than implantation, there are many other reasons for women to bleed or spot early in pregnancy. Implantation bleeding is not typical after you already have a positive pregnancy test. In early pregnancy (first 6-8 weeks of the pregnancy) other causes of spotting or bleeding include:

  • Threatened miscarriage: Up to 50% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage, the loss of the pregnancy. Bleeding could be among the first signs of a miscarriage, especially if it's associated with cramping.
  • Sexual intercourse: Bleeding or spotting can happen after sexual intercourse.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants outside the uterus, and it's usually accompanied by pain and cramps on one side but also on both sides. An ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening and requires you to see a doctor right away.

Read More:
Quiz: Implantation Bleeding Or Spotting?
Online Pregnancy Test