Getting pregnant seems to be an easy task — when you’re not trying.
For those of us who’ve known the agony of waiting to see the results and for that little stripe to turn blue after actively trying to get pregnant for months — the task seems much more daunting.
Each day that passes seems to last forever. What’s more, those two weeks between the ovulation and period (or no period, which is what we’re aiming for) can drag on at times.
Therefore, we look for any sign that we might be carrying a child. Every tug, every feeling we get deep inside of us steers us in the direction that we want to go — pregnancy.
We think every need is a potential craving, and every twinge is the newly formed life inside us. We monitor and catalog every feeling. Of course, some signs might be “more than a feeling.” Spotting is one of them.
In this article, we’ll go over what implantation bleeding is, how it compares to menstrual bleeding, and how you can tell the difference between the two.
Light Bleeding — a Tell-Tale Sign of Pregnancy?
Spotting or light bleeding isn’t a positive sign that you’re pregnant. On the other hand, it’s not a positive sign that you aren’t.
Before you get frustrated, given that we’ve basically said that spotting can mean anything, know that there’s a fool-proof way to tell implantation bleeding from your period.
Some women experience light bleeding at the very start of the pregnancy. Of course, light bleeding can also be a sign that your period might be just around the corner.
So, here’s how to tell those two instances apart.
First of All, What Is Implantation Bleeding?
Once the egg has been fertilized by sperm, it starts to grow and to divide.
This process tells the body to prepare for pregnancy. The embryo keeps growing, and the uterine walls start to change. Although they’re already thick, the walls need to grow and mature to be able to support a growing embryo for the next nine months.
Once implanted, the embryo becomes dependant on the mother’s body (and the uterine walls) to provide oxygen and nutrients.
The changes in the endometrium, as well as the embryo growth, are followed by embryo migration. It travels down through the fallopian tube. After it reaches the womb, it burrows or implants itself into the womb lining. Hence, the name — implantation.
This process usually happens between the sixth and twelfth day from conception. Once the embryo implants itself, it may cause some blood vessels to burst. This is known as implantation bleeding.
What Does Implantation Bleeding Look Like?
Implantation bleeding is very light. In fact, more often than not, you’ll only need a panty liner to contain it. It’s brown or pink in color. Furthermore, it’s notably different than period blood. Period blood is usually darker, more prominent, and redder than implantation bleeding.
However, many women start their periods with light pink or non-heavy brown spots. Thus, telling period and implantation bleeding apart isn’t easy. If you weren’t trying to get pregnant, you might mistake implantation bleeding for your period.
One of the tell-tale signs is the timing. If you’re trying to get pregnant and start to bleed before your period should arrive, you’re probably experiencing implantation bleeding.
Key Characteristics of Implantation Bleeding Includes:
- Very light flow
- Brown or pink colored
- Usually comes before your next scheduled period
- Lasts 2–4 days
When Does Implantation Bleeding Happen?
Implantation bleeding is a result of blood vessels bursting. However, it isn’t harmful and it won’t affect the embryo.
The light spotting will usually happen before the period is set to start. It also usually lasts a couple of days — between 2 and 4.
Of course, this differs from woman to woman. Some pregnant women may even experience more than four days of spotting. That’s another reason why it might get mistaken for a period. Women who aren’t aware they’re pregnant might think it’s just a very light and painless period.
Implantation Bleeding & Periods: The Main Differences
Bleeding should be the first on our list of possible pregnancy symptoms.
Implantation bleeding occurs before we test positive for pregnancy. Thus, until the blue stripe brightens your life, it’s all a big guessing game. So, here are some signs that might indicate whether you’re pregnant or just starting your period.
As mentioned, implantation bleeding will happen before your period is due.
Implantation bleeding has a lighter flow than period bleeding. You might not even need a tampon or a pad. Panty liners will usually catch all spotting.
Implantation bleeding is lighter and more pinkish or brown in color than the dark red period blood.
Periods usually last longer (unless you’re incredibly lucky) than the 2–4 days of implantation bleeding.
Menstruation is usually followed by clotting for many women. That, however, isn’t the case with implantation bleeding.
Summarizing the Differences Between Implantation Bleeding vs. Menstrual Bleeding
|Implantation Bleeding||Menstrual bleeding|
|Timing||usually occurs before menstruation||Occurs on your scheduled menstruation|
|Flow||Very light flow||Light to heavy flow|
|Color||Light colored — pinkish to brown||Dark red|
|Duration||2–4 days||4–6 days|
|Clotting||None||Usually found in the final 1–3 days|
How to Know for Sure If You’re Pregnant
Even though almost a third of women claim that they noticed a difference between implantation bleeding and period blood, you can’t know for sure.
Spotting and implantation bleeding can be symptoms, but they are far from foolproof. Thus, it would be best to be patient and wait until you can take a home pregnancy test to confirm.
You can try to calculate the odds of being pregnant as well using other metrics.
Think back to the last intercourse you had. If it was more than two weeks before the spotting, then it’s unlikely that you’re experiencing implantation bleeding.
When to Visit the Doctors Office
Implantation bleeding and other forms of light bleeding are normal during pregnancy.
More than 50% of women who experience light bleeding during pregnancy have no issues afterward. They often carry and deliver their babies without any problems.
However, light bleeding can have other causes as well:
- Irritation (from a pelvic exam or intercourse)
- Heavy exercise
- Ectopic pregnancies
If your bleeding continues even after the positive pregnancy test you should pay a visit to a doctor.
Bleeding can also be a sign of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy. Thus, it’s crucial that you consult a professional who can answer your questions, ease your concern, or take appropriate action, if necessary.
Summary: Implantation vs. Menstrual Bleeding
Bleeding is one of the first indications that you’re pregnant.
Of course, menstruation is also characterized by bleeding as well — which brings the opposite meaning — that you’re not pregnant. Therefore, telling the difference between the two is important.
Fortunately, there are some key differences between the two that make it easy to tell the difference. If you notice the bleeding is lighter than usual, earlier than expected, light colored, and lasts less than four days — you’re likely experiencing implantation bleeding.
Although this can’t be used as 100% confirmation that you’re pregnant, it’s a great indicator. You’ll need to wait until the 2-week mark before you can get a more reliable reading from a pregnancy test.