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. Implantation spotting 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. Implantation bleeding is less and earlier than a regular 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.

Implantation 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 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.

Spotting that occurs around a week after ovulation can be implantation bleeding; whereas spotting that occurs much later and a couple days before your period would normally start may not be. A normal menstrual cycle generally starts off light and then gets heavier. 

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.
Some women report having implantation symptoms around that time like implantation cramps, implantation bleeding or implantation cramping. 

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.

Menstrual bleeding will last for several days while implantation bleeding lasts for less than a whole day and is usually much less bleeding.

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 — maybe 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 mentrual 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 withyour 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.

Implantation bleeding normally occurs about 3 weeks after the previous menstrual period, which is about a week after ovulation. It differs from the menstrual period because it does not come with any other form of pain, such as a backache or cramping. In addition, implantation bleeding is not as heavy as menstrual bleeding, usually appearing as a few spots of brown blood. Implantation bleeding is considered to be normal for pregnant women and usually poses no threat to the pregnancy.

What happens during implantation?

The main cause of implantation bleeding is the attachment of the embryo to the uterus wall. It takes place near the concluding stages of the implantation process, where a special tissue with a specific job called trophoblast which develops from the embryo and encloses it. This tissue then attaches itself with the uterus wall called endometrium and starts to burrow itself into it. The trophoblast also enters many of the blood vessels and causes them to crack. This, in turn, causes them to leak and collect into the cavities found in the trophoblast, which are connected to the other cavities forming channels of blood in the tissue. As these cavities slowly approach the voids and craters in the uterus, they are expelled from the embryo, causing the bleeding.

How does the implantation bleeding test work?

There are many different signs and symptoms of implantation including bleeding that may predict whether implantation has taken place. Take this quiz to find out whether your bleeding or spotting could be due to implantation.

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.

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.