Is this regular spotting or implantation bleeding? Find out!

It can be tricky to know the difference between implantation bleeding or the typical spotting often noticed between periods, or even a regular period itself. Implantation bleeding 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. To help alleviate the confusion, Dr. Amos Grunebaum, MD created this implantation bleeding quiz to help identify the difference from menstrual bleeding. It will also help you find out if it's time to take a pregnancy test.

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How do you know that implantation has occurred? 

Implantation is the attachment of the fertilized egg, the embryo when the fertilized egg (now called a blastocyst) has completed its travel through the fallopian tube and adheres to the lining of the uterus. Implantation happens about a week after ovulation with a range of 6-12 days after fertilization.

At the time of ovulation, the egg is released from the ovary. Fertilization of the egg by a sperm usually happens within 12-24 hours after ovulation in the distal part of the fallopian tube. The egg/sperm combination is now called a "zygote" and begins traveling down the Fallopian tube towards the uterus. During that time the fertilized egg multiplies into first 2, then 4 and then 8 and more cells. The fertilized eggs which by then is known as the blastocyst enter the uterine cavity about 5-6 days after fertilization and adheres to the lining of the uterus within 1-2 days (6-9 days average after ovulation/fertilization) after reaching the uterus. 

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 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.

Could it be your period?

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

However, 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 what happens next. 

Does every pregnant woman have implantation bleeding?

It's likely that most women who do become pregnant do not experience implantation bleeding. Since the amount of blood is small, it may go unnoticed.

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.

What are the typical signs and symptoms of implantation?

Typical signs and symptoms of implantation include the following, and they may be overlapping with typical pregnancy signs:

  • Light implantation cramps
  • Implantation spotting (drops of vaginal bleeding)
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breast swelling
  • Breast tenderness
  • Lower backaches

What is implantation?

Implantation is the attachment of the fertilized egg, the embryo, to the uterine lining. This happens when the fertilized egg or embryo (now called a blastocyst) has completed its travel through the fallopian tube and adheres to the lining of the uterus. Implantation happens on average 9 days after ovulation and fertilization with a range of between 6 and 12 days.

When do typical implantation signs and symptoms appear?

Initial implantation signs and symptoms appear as early as 12-48 hours after implantation. They never happen before implantation. Our implantation calculator will help you calculate when implantation happens.

What are the typical implantation signs and symptoms?

Most women do not have specific symptoms of implantation. The symptoms may include implantation bleeding/spotting or implantation cramping.

The blastocyst is a cluster of tiny cells, smaller than the head of a pin. Most women have no symptoms on that day. Some women report some spotting or bleeding around the time of implantation. 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 underwear, 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.

It's likely that most women who become pregnant do not experience implantation bleeding, and many women experience some spotting but they are not pregnant.

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.

Implantation bleeding is just one of several typical pregnancy symptoms and happens around the time of implantation. Implantation bleeding is often also called implantation spotting. Implantation bleeding or spotting does not usually look like a regular menstrual period but is scanty and usually a pinkish or brownish discharge. and it usually happens around 6-12 days after ovulation and fertilization, within 1-2 days after the arrival of the blastocyst in the uterus, usually around 9 days after ovulation (DPO), with a range of 6-12 days.

At the time of implantation bleeding, the blastocyst is barely visible to the naked eye, probably smaller than the dot above the letter "i." Once implantation happens the blastocyst becomes the embryo.

The blood pregnancy test usually becomes positive within 3-4 days after implantation, and the urine pregnancy test usually becomes positive 4-5 days after implantation.

Read More:
Why Does Implantation Bleeding Happen?
Is It Implantation Bleeding or Menstrual Period Bleeding?
Why Do I Feel My Period is About To Come?
What Are Early Pregnancy Symptoms?
Online Pregnancy Test 
Implantation/Spotting Quiz 
How Common Is Implantation Bleeding?
Online Pregnancy Test

Use our implantation calculator to find out when implantation bleeding may occur.