The difference between implantation and menstruation

Spotting can be a sign of implantation bleeding.

Waiting until you’re officially “late” to take a pregnancy test can feel like agony, especially when you really want to have a baby.

The most frustrating part is thinking your period is late and then discovering a little blood in your undergarments.

Although you might feel tempted to throw in the fertility towel for the month, you could actually be experiencing implantation bleeding.

What is implantation bleeding?

If you see light bleeding, small pink or brown spots in your undergarments and you think you might be pregnant, it could be implantation bleeding.

This normally happens six to 12 days after conception, so you might mistake it for your regular period. It’s actually an early sign of pregnancy.

It’s not dangerous and you don’t need treatment. Heavy bleeding (more than the typical period) is cause for concern, though.

Contact your doctor if you have this especially if its combined with fever, chills and cramps that get progressively worse.

Causes of implantation bleeding

After a sperm fertilises an egg, it becomes an embryo, and travels to the uterus where it implants itself into the lining.

Sometimes as the embryo attaches, it causes a little bleeding. This doesn’t mean any problems for the baby that will develop.

Pregnant women can bleed for reasons other than implantation. If it is heavy do consult your doctor even if there is an absence of pain or cramping.

If you’re pregnant and see blood, it may be caused by:

  • Sex: Sometimes it happens early on, although it can happen at any time during pregnancy. Hormonal changes in your body may be to blame. It should normally stop on its own.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: This is when an embryo implants itself outside of your uterus. You may have bleeding with pain and cramps. This is a dangerous condition and you need to see a doctor immediately.
  • Miscarriage: About 15% of known pregnancies end during the first few months. Most women bleed and experience cramps afterward. See your doctor right away if you’re pregnant and you have these symptoms.

The difference between implantation bleeding and menstruation

Implantation bleeding can mimic menstruation, especially during the first few days of your period. You have a lighter flow or if you normally experience light periods, you may feel confused when you start spotting.

Observe the flow: Bleeding from implantation is light and remains light, but menstruation starts light and gets heavier. Implantation bleeding does not contain blood clots, which often appear during menstruation.

Check the colour: Red blood that looks bright or vibrant points to menstruation, and discharge that appears light pink or brown can be a sign of implantation. Bleeding from implantation can occasionally look red, but is more commonly brown or pink.

Regularity: Menstrual flow typically continues through the full duration of your period without stopping, but bleeding from implantation can come and go. Implantation bleeding often causes spotting or off-and-on bleeding for about one to two days. This differs from a menstrual cycle, which normally lasts between four to seven days.

Cramping severity: Both menstruation and implantation bleeding can cause cramping, but cramps from your period feel much more intense. Light cramping that does not increase in intensity can mean implantation, especially if it’s coupled with brown or pink discharge.

This article first appeared in Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.