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. The main cause of implantation bleeding is the attachment of the embryo to the uterus wall. 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 menstrual period. However, implantation bleeding tends to be much lighter than menstrual bleeding. 

When does implantation bleeding happen?

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

It is important to note 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 it menstrual bleeding or implantation?

Implantation bleeding occurs about a few days or a week before the scheduled time of a woman’s menstrual period. Even if only spotting occurs, its occurrence after a week of ovulation may indicate it to be implantation bleeding. However, if spotting occurs just before the usual time when a period is supposed to occur, it will most likely be just a menstrual period.

The most normal pattern of menstrual bleeding is that it will start slowly and will gradually increase to heavier bleeding. Menstrual bleeding will last for several days while implantation bleeding lasts for less than a whole day and is usually much less bleeding.

Furthermore, spotting just prior to the expected menstrual period may not always indicate implantation bleeding, and may just mean the period is starting ahead of time. If it actually is menstrual bleeding, it will lead to a greater amount of bleeding, whereas implantation bleeding may only last as spotting and will end swiftly afterward. The most effective method to differentiate whether it is implantation bleeding or a menstrual period is to wait and see the outcome. Of course, if you don't want to wait, you can take a pregnancy test, although it may be too early and appear negative.

Does every pregnant woman have implantation bleeding?

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.

What does implantation bleeding look like?

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 — may be one to two small red or brown spots in the panties, though others report a more substantial amount yet 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. 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.

Is implantation bleeding normal?

Not all pregnant women will have typical implantation bleeding. In fact, most pregnant women will not have any bleeding at implantation, while others bleed for days. Implantation bleeding is different from one woman to the other and can be just some drops or more substantial bleeding.

Is implantation bleeding common?

Implantation bleeding is fairly common with pregnancy and maybe around twenty to thirty percent of women will have spotting at implantation. If you have some light spotting before your period would normally start this is not something to worry about and 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:
How Common Is Implantation Bleeding?
Is This Implantation Bleeding or Menstrual Period Bleeding?

Are you having implantation bleeding? Take this quiz!