If you are hoping to get pregnant, then knowing what implantation bleeding looks like can help you determine if you are pregnant or not. Because implantation bleeding happens around a week to 12 days after ovulation, noticing spotting on your underwear could indicate the start of your period. However, implantation bleeding looks different to your regular menstrual flow. This article will help you to understand the differences between implantation bleeding and period.
Knowing the signs of implantation bleeding (also called implantation spotting) can help you be aware of the other early signs of pregnancy. Light colored spotting that implantation bleeding causes may be accompanied by changes in your breasts, light pelvic cramping, and fatigue. Of course, if you are pregnant, you will also miss your period and that will be a sign to take a pregnancy test.
Spotting before or after your period can happen for other reasons, so knowing the appearance of spotting that happens when implantation has occurred can help you look for irregularities in your menstrual cycle.
If you want to know if light bleeding on your underwear looks like the start of your period or a sign you are pregnant, then this article is for you. You will find out 4 ways to know how implantation bleeding looks like and how to spot the other signs of early pregnancy.
What is Implantation Bleeding and How Does it Look Like?
Implantation bleeding happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of your uterus. According to researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH), around one-quarter of all women experience some form of light spotting when they become pregnant.1
What does implantation bleeding look like?
Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Nivin Todd says that when the embryo implants itself into the uterine lining, some bleeding can occur. Implantation spotting looks like small pinkish or dark brown spots and it’s nothing to worry about. Light spotting that you see on your underwear could happen from 6 to 12 days after ovulation.2
The National Institute of Health says that some spotting related to pregnancy can occur in the first trimester. If you do not have heavy bleeding and no other symptoms like severe abdominal cramping or fever, then you shouldn’t worry.1
How Implantation Bleeding Looks Like and How it Differs from Normal Period
Bleeding associated with implantation looks different to regular menstrual blood. Of course, every woman’s menstrual blood flow could be different, but there are ways to distinguish implantation spotting from period. There are 4 ways to help you tell if the spotting before your period has been caused by implantation bleeding or period.
The basic way to know what implantation bleeding looks like and how to tell it apart from bleeding at the start of your period is to observe what the flow looks like.
Dr. Trina Pagano from WebMD says that implantation bleeding is usually very light and may even be hardly noticeable at all.3 According to the American Pregnancy Association, implantation bleeding looks more “spotty” rather than being a constant flow.4
Implantation bleeding has a different color to spotting that occurs before the start of your period and this helps you tell it apart from menstrual blood.
Doctors from the American Pregnancy Association say that implantation spotting resembles pinkish or brown discharge or spotting. The small spotting can be a dark rusty brown color because this is older blood that has changed color. Also, the consistency of the pink or brown-colored signs of bleeding will have a regular consistency without any clots.4
The timing of the spotting can help you know if the light pink or dark brown spots were the result of implantation. Implantation bleeding can happen just before your next period.
Dr. Trina Pagano says that usually the light pink or rust-colored spots are noticeable between 6 and 12 days after ovulation. Therefore, if you have regular periods and you see some light spotting around this time, this could be a sign that you are pregnant rather than just about to start your period.3
Implantation bleeding duration
Another way to tell if the brown spots look like implantation bleeding is the duration of spotting. In general, implantation bleeding doesn’t last long time, if at all.
According to an authority on obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Traci Johnson, implantation bleeding looks like very light spotting that lasts from a few hours to two days. This is unlike spotting at the start of your period that will become heavier and last for between 3 and 7 days.5
How implantation spotting looks like and how it differs from period – the conclusion
Taking into consideration what implantation bleeding looks like and its associated symptoms, the best way of telling implantation spotting from your period is its appearance.
Some of the main differences between implantation bleeding and your period are:
- Menstrual blood is a red to dark red color and is much heavier than implantation bleeding which looks like light pink or brown spots.
- Menstrual flow lasts anywhere from 3 days to 7 days whereas implantation bleeding may only last a few hours.
- Blood during your period has a thicker consistency than implantation spotting which is light.
- You can sometimes have a dark or black period, but this usually happens at the end of your period whereas implantation bleeding is always the same color.
Other Symptoms of Implantation Bleeding
Knowing that implantation bleeding looks different to menstrual blood flow will help you look for the other signs of early pregnancy. If you are pregnant, then along with noticing pinkish or brown spotting on your underwear, you may have other symptoms.
Here are other early signs of pregnancy:
Missed period. If you are pregnant, the light spotting that happens at implantation won’t result in a period. However, if you don’t have a regular menstrual cycle, your period may just be late and spotting is also associated with irregular periods.
Cramping. Implantation causes not only light brown-colored spotting, but you may have mild cramping. Dr. Trina Pagano says that unlike menstrual cramps, cramping connected with implantation will be only slight.3
Breast changes. One of the early signs of pregnancy that happens around the same time as implantation bleeding is that your breasts start getting bigger. Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD says that your breasts will feel larger and may be tender to touch. Another change to your breasts is that you may notice bumps or pimples in the dark area around your nipple.
Nausea and morning sickness. Usually, feelings of nausea start a couple of weeks after implantation bleeding. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that feeling like you want to throw up is common among pregnant women and can start around one month after conception. Nausea associated with pregnancy doesn’t just happen in the morning and your nausea may not always result in vomiting.6
Tiredness. Included in the early signs of pregnancy is tiredness. The fluctuations in your hormones from when the fertilized egg implants itself in the wall of your uterus cause fatigue and tiredness. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that you may feel sleepy and not have much energy.6
Of course, many of these signs can also occur before your period and may be mistaken for symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Your Questions about Implantation Bleeding Answered
Every pregnancy is different and the signs of early pregnancy differ from woman to woman. Also, you may not always have the same length of monthly cycle or menstrual flow as other women.
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, what is termed “normal menstrual cycle” has a broad meaning.7 Therefore, it’s important to carefully observe your menstrual cycle and take note of any irregular spotting.
Here are answers to many questions that you may have on the appearance of implantation bleeding.
When does implantation bleeding happen?
Implantation bleeding can occur just before you are expecting your period. The American Pregnancy Association says that you may notice signs of spotting (implantation spotting) around 10 days after you ovulate. However, if you have an irregular menstrual cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when light spotting is connected with implantation.4
Does implantation bleeding always occur?
No. Implantation bleeding with light spotting doesn’t always occur with every pregnancy. Dr. Yvonne Tobah from the Mayo Clinic says that some spotting can be so light that many women don’t notice it at all and some women don’t have spotting when they become pregnant.8
Does implantation bleeding last longer than 3 days?
Not usually. Most medical sources on the signs of implantation bleeding say that the spotting should only last up to 2 days. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that in the first trimester many women experience light spotting and this is completely normal.9
Can implantation bleeding look like menstrual flow?
The color of the spotting and length of flow means that implantation bleeding doesn’t look like menstrual flow. However, because some women experience light spotting at the start of their period, they could mistake implantation bleeding with the first day of their period.
Does spotting continue into pregnancy?
Yes, it can, but not always. Many women have some kind of spotting in the first few weeks of pregnancy. According to doctors from WebMD, minimal vaginal bleeding is common at the start of pregnancy, especially if you are expecting your first baby. However, because mild to heavy vaginal bleeding could be a sign of miscarriage, you should always speak to your doctor about bleeding during pregnancy.10
What about implantation bleeding and discharge
Along with light spotting you notice on your underwear when implantation happens, you may notice more vaginal discharge. The discharge resembles egg whites in color and consistency and, according to Dr. Trina Pagano, is normal and will last for your pregnancy term. If you notice unusual discharge that has a different color and smells bad, you should speak to your doctor about it.3
Other Reasons for Vaginal Spotting
Sometimes, spotting when you expect your period has nothing to do with implantation and can be caused by other problems. Some of them are:
Stress can affect your hormones which can negatively impact your menstrual cycle. Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that stress can cause light spotting, make your periods heavier, cause irregular discharge between your periods, or even be a reason for missing periods.11
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that occur in a woman’s reproductive system. Some doctors think that they are caused by hormones or a person’s genes.
According to Dr. Daniel Sacks on MedlinePlus, signs that you have uterine fibroids include vaginal bleeding between periods and be a reason for having heavier periods that last longer than usual. You may also experience severe pelvic cramping.12
Ovarian cysts could be a reason for spotting when you are not pregnant. Cysts develop in your fallopian tube as part of your regular monthly cycle and usually disappear on their own. In some cases, they can continue to fill with fluid and become painful and cause bleeding.
Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that ovarian cysts can cause bleeding between your periods. You may also feel cramping in your lower abdomen and start experiencing irregular periods.13
When to See a Doctor
If you notice some light spotting when you expect your period but you have no period and you have some other symptoms of early pregnancy, you should see your doctor for a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, then getting the appropriate antenatal care will help to keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy.
However, you are always advised to report any bleeding during pregnancy to your doctor. Dr. William Blahd on WebMD says that during the first trimester, mild, moderate, or heavy bleeding could be a sign of miscarriage. Vaginal bleeding during the second and third trimester could also be a symptom of a problem with the placenta or cervix.10
Read these related articles:
- NIH. Common signs of pregnancy.
- WebMD. What is implantation bleeding?
- WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
- AmericanPregnancy. What is implantation bleeding?
- WebMD. Bleeding during pregnancy.
- MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
- MayoClinic. Menstrual cycle. What’s normal, what’s not.
- MayoClinic. Pregnancy week by week.
- ACOG. FAQ pregnancy.
- WebMD. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
- MedicineNet. Vaginal bleeding.
- MedlinePlus. Uterine fibroids.
- WebMD. Functional ovarian cysts.