Implantation Bleeding: What It Is, When Does It Happen & How Long Does It Last?

Published December 16th, 2021 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

Understanding cycles | Implantation bleeding | Symptoms | Treatments | Should I see a doctor

Implantation bleeding is a very common occurrence after the fertilization of an egg in the uterus. It happens when the egg attaches to the uterus lining and begins to implant itself in order to start growing into an embryo. Implantation bleeding can happen anytime but it usually happens around 10 days to 14 days post-ovulation and is different than menstrual bleeding. This article will cover everything you need to know about implantation bleeding, including what it looks like, how long it lasts, and what could cause implantation bleeding.

What is the cycle for ovulation, fertilization, and implantation?

Before we get into specifics of implantation bleeding, let's first go over the basics of the ovulation, fertilization, and implantation cycle. This cycle is a series of events that occur in the body, which lead to implantation and birthing. The first step of this process begins with menstruation, also known as having your menstrual period. Menstruation occurs when the uterine lining sheds during ovulation. About two weeks after this, although this may vary, ovulation will occur which means the ovaries release an egg into the fallopian tube. Fertilization usually occurs 4 to 6 days after ovulation. Implantation will occur 10 to 14 days after ovulation with implantation bleeding generally occurring about 7 to 14 days after fertilization, though it can happen at any time during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.

What is implantation bleeding?

Implantation bleeding happens when the egg implants into the uterine wall and starts to develop. It can happen at any time during a woman's menstrual cycle, but typically implantation occurs around 10-14 days after ovulation has occurred. Implantation is not always followed by implantation bleeding, as some women experience implantations without any symptoms whatsoever. If implantation bleeding does occur, it usually lasts only a few days.

What are the symptoms of implantation bleeding?

The most obvious sign of implantation bleeding is light spotting which can be brown or pink and starts out light and lasts for up to a few days. Besides the bleeding, other pregnancy symptoms can occur. These other signs include:

  • Cramps in the pelvic area
  • Nipple or breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Food cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination
  • Faintness during implantation bleeding due to hormonal changes that may cause low blood pressure
  • Upset stomach, also known as morning sickness, is also common

These are the most common symptoms although all of them may not occur and sometimes none occur. Please talk to your doctor or health care provider if you believe these symptoms may be due to implantation bleeding.

When does implantation bleeding happen?

As noted above, implantation bleeding generally happens 10 to 14 days after ovulation although this timeline is not exact as implantation bleeding can happen any time during the implantation phase of the menstrual cycle.

Why does implantation bleeding happen?

The reason implantation bleeding occurs is due to the egg attaching to and implanting itself in the uterus lining. The egg does this to implant in a safe and healthy place so that it can start to grow into an embryo.

How long does implantation bleeding last?

Typically implantation bleeding will typically last between 1 and 3 days, but it can vary from woman to woman. If implantation bleeding is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramps, fatigue, or nausea then it may be an indication that implantation has occurred although that is not always the case and you can take a pregnancy test or see your doctor to ensure you are pregnant.

What is the difference between a normal period and implantation bleeding?

The difference between implantation bleeding and a regular period is implantation bleeding is spotting that can occur at any time during a woman's menstrual cycle and is usually has light bleeding compared to normal periods. It is not always followed by cramping, fatigue, or nausea which are common with normal periods. A normal period can also last for around 8 days while implantation bleeding should only last for 1 to 3 days.

Are there any treatments for implantation bleeding?

There are no treatments specifically for implantation bleeding. However, there are some home remedies that may help if implantation bleeding occurs including:

  • Resting
  • Drinking more fluids
  • Taking ibuprofen to manage any pain and cramping

If implantation causes severe cramps, then a heating pad on the lower abdomen may help to ease the pain. If you have any concerns during implantation bleeding, please talk to your doctor.

Are there any risks to implantation bleeding?

There is no real risk of implantation bleeding as it is just a natural process that can occur during pregnancy. However, if vaginal bleeding is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, intense cramps, or vomiting, then you should seek medical attention as implantation bleeding can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.

When should I see a doctor if I have implantation bleeding?

If implantation bleeding is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramps or fever it might indicate that the implant has become attached to an area outside of the uterus, which is called ectopic implantation. Miscarriage is also a possibility, so if implantation bleeding is accompanied by heavy bleeding, please see a doctor as soon as possible. Otherwise, if implantation bleeding is the only symptom and it lasts less than three days, then there is no need to seek medical attention. However, you may want to keep track of your symptoms and bring this information with you to your next doctor's appointment.

You should call your doctor or health care provider if you have implantation bleeding and it is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Intense cramping that will not ease with ibuprofen, heating pad, etc.
  • Nausea and vomiting for more than a day
  • Vaginal discharge that is watery or foul-smelling
  • Severe abdominal pain

If implantation bleeding occurs without other symptoms, then you should call your doctor if the implantation bleeding lasts for more than a few days as it normally goes away on its own after a few days.

Is implantation bleeding a sign of pregnancy?

Yes, implantation bleeding is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy for pregnant women. Please see your doctor for confirmation if implantation bleeding occurs as implantation can also be an early indication that there is something wrong with the pregnancy such as ectopic implantation or miscarriage, also known as pregnancy loss, which require immediate medical attention. You can also take a pregnancy test to confirm the positive pregnancy.

Summary

Implantation bleeding is spotting that can occur at any time during a woman's menstrual cycle and is usually much lighter than normal periods. It is not always followed by cramping, fatigue, or nausea which are common with normal periods and a normal period can also last for around 8 days while implantation bleeding should only last for up to 3 days. Implantation bleeding is not linked to any other medical conditions but the same symptoms in a more severe form can also be an early sign that there is something wrong with the pregnancy like ectopic implantation or miscarriage which requires immediate medical attention. If implantation causes severe cramps, then a heating pad on the lower abdomen or resting and taking ibuprofen for cramps may help. If implantation bleeding is accompanied by other symptoms, please see a doctor. Otherwise, if implantation bleeding is the only symptom and it lasts less than three days, then there is no need to seek medical attention. However, you may want to keep track of your symptoms and bring this information with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Thank you for reading our article, should you have any further questions or if you are experiencing these symptoms and are unsure of the cause then we recommend you talk to your doctor. If you are having severe symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately as it could be a sign of problems other than implantation bleeding.

References and Sources:

mayoclinic.org

healthonnet.org

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

fairhavenhealth.com

community.whattoexpect.com

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