Implantation Bleeding – What It Is, What It’s Not, And What To Look For

When couples start trying to conceive, we can be like hound dogs looking for an early clue that we’re pregnant. The “two week wait” can seem longer than the wait for the next Star Wars sequel! ? But for some lucky women, they get a sign before they even get that BFP on that home pregnancy test. It’s called implantation bleeding and the process can look different for each woman and each pregnancy.

For this reason, it can be tricky to identify a true implantation bleed versus some other kind of spotting. In this post, we’ll unpack implantation bleeding so that you’ll know if you may be pregnant, or may have something else going on.

What came first? The implantation or the egg?

To explain the biology of implantation, we need to rewind the tape.

When two people love each other…

Just kidding. We don’t need to rewind that far. At a conception, a male sperm swims to meet a female egg, or ovum, in the fallopian tube where one lucky swimmer enters the egg and fertilizes it. The parents’ genetic material fuses together to create an embryo with its own unique DNA, which is mindblowing, but let’s continue.

The embryo divides into two cells to become a zygote. The zygote continues to grow and subdivide to become what we’ve been waiting for: a blastocyst. At the blastocyst stage, baby is ready to implant. Throughout this time of subdivision and cell growth, baby has been multitasking. Not only is baby growing, but he or she is journeying down the fallopian tube toward the “mothership,” or uterus.

And the uterus can’t wait. After each and every monthly ovulation, the uterus has been hoping for this by preparing the uterine wall. To prepare, the uterine lining gets thick, spongy, and vascular to make it an ideal cushion for a potential, burrowing blastocyst.

Finally the long-awaited day arrives and the uterus receives chemical signals that its monthly project was not in vain again and it is time to fluff the pillows.

The blastocyst reaches the cushy uterine destination, is accepted by it, and attaches to it. Boom. Implantation.

The baby implants in the uterus by way of blood vessels and a stalk what will become, you guessed it, the umbilical cord.

The implantation process can be accompanied with vaginal bleeding or spotting, and maybe a little cramping. Implantation bleeding isn’t necessarily the exact day of implantation. Bleeding can occur anytime within a week after implantation. Think of it as the afterparty, or even the after-after party.

When does implantation occur?

Implantation typically occurs 6-12 days after ovulation/fertilization, although some sources give it a wider range of 5-14 days.

The average is 8 or 9 days after ovulation/fertilization. This puts implantation bleeding window just a day or so before a woman would otherwise expect her period.

For some women, it may overlap. For this reason, it is important to differentiate implantation bleeding from a typical first day menstrual cycle by color, consistency, and intensity.

The difference between implantation bleeding and menstrual bleeding

Since implantation bleeding can occur around the same time as menstruation, here are some key differences to look for:

  • Implantation bleeding is pinkish/brownish in color. Period blood is redder. Wearing a white pantyliner or white underwear can help accurately determine the shade.
  • Implantation bleeding has a thinner, “waterier” consistency and does not contain clots.
  • Implantation bleeding is more like spotting or discharge. It does not turn into a heavy, bloody flow like periods do.
  • Implantation bleeding can be accompanied by light cramping, which many women find less painful and/or different from their typical period cramps.
  • Implantation bleeding typically lasts only 1-2 days, versus 5-7 days of bleeding with a normal menstrual cycle

Stress or a change in medication can cause changes in menstrual patterns, it’s true, but those changes are generally foreseeable and recognizable. A woman with a fairly regular cycle will be quick to notice a seemingly unexplained pinker/lighter/milder period when a pregnancy is possible.

How long does implantation bleeding last?

It varies. Implantation bleeding can last anywhere from from a couple hours to a couple days. It could be something you see once while wiping with a square of toilet paper, a few times on a pantyliner, or it could be a light flow for one, two, and even three days. It is likely to be longer for first time mothers and shorter for mothers whose bodies have had children before and are “used to” implanting.

What if I don’t have implantation bleeding?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, only one third of women experience the “phenomenon” of implantation bleeding. I haven’t had it with any of my pregnancies. If you don’t notice any spotting, you’re in the majority. Be sure to look out for other early signs of pregnancy such as breast tenderness, nausea, bloating, and fatigue.

If it is too early for implantation bleeding, why am I bleeding?

When trying to piece together a pregnancy timeline, it is important to remember that a fertilized egg isn’t capable of implanting till at least Day 5 after fertilization. It simply isn’t developed enough before than. Early bleeding within 4-5 days after intercourse likely has a different origin. What could too-early bleeding indicate?

  • Women can experience a hormonal withdrawal bleed after a failed ovulation attempt due to a confirmed ovarian cyst rupture.
  • Breastfeeding and irregular postpartum cycles could also result in pinkish discharge.
  • Other times, mid-cycle spotting occurs prior to ovulation due to extra high estrogen levels.
  • Unexplained spotting could be leftover blood from your last period that was knocked out by sex.
  • Unexplained spotting could also be from cervical irritation from sex or a pelvic exam.

I am confused on whether this is implantation bleeding or the beginning of my period?

You wouldn’t be alone. In some cases, women have mistaken their implantation bleeding for a period, resulting in an inaccurate due date estimate.

In other cases, women have mistaken their spotting for implantation bleeding, only to get their period a day or so later. These mix-ups are common and since the evidence is not conclusive until you take an actual pregnancy test, there’s no practical way to guarantee it.

Over the counter pregnancy tests detect the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), which the placenta produces after the fertilized egg implants into the lining of the uterus. Implantation bleeding occurs before or at the time of the very first positive pregnancy hCG test reading, so if you aren’t sure yet, you will be soon. You’re just going to have a wait a couple extra days. (Darn it!)

When to call a healthcare provider:

Implantation bleeding poses no risk to the mother or baby. There is no need to call a healthcare provider for light spotting and mild cramping before or at the time of the woman’s normal period. Bleeding after a women’s missed period is concerning, however. You should call a healthcare provider if:

  • there is substantial bleeding after a positive pregnancy test or after a missed period. Such could be a sign of miscarriage, molar pregnancy, or ectopic pregnancy.
  • there is noticeable clotting.
  • in the case of a suspected ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus), bleeding is accompanied by pelvic, abdominal, and/or shoulder pain. An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency.
  • if your bleeding is heavier than a period and is accompanied by fever, chills, and cramps increasing in severity.

Keep in mind that many women experience light spotting throughout the first trimester to no negative effect. Your healthcare provider should be able to run the appropriate blood, urine, and ultrasound tests to safely monitor mother and child’s development.

Does your spotting or bleeding concern you?

If you ever you are ever concerned with any kind of vaginal bleeding before, during, or after pregnancy, never hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. They are very useful at sorting things out, dispelling fears, and reading the signs.

We want to hear your experience!

Even from the first day of pregnancy, motherhood is full of surprises. If you have experienced implantation bleeding, we want to hear from you. When did you notice it? How long did it last? What tipped you off? Do any other symptoms accompany it?

If you recently discovered you are pregnant, congratulations from all of us! Please continue to visit for your motherhood questions and concerns.

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

Midwife Maura Winkler CNM Mama Natural

Reviewed By
Maura Winkler, CNM, IBCLC

Maura Winkler, CNM, CD, IBCLC is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Registered Nurse, Certified Doula, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, wife and mother of two.

The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth book

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week-by-week pregnancy guide
from a natural perspective!


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  1. My cycle came 7 days early but its not normal, its lasted way longer than nornal menstraul periods going on day 7 with my symptoms im thinking implantation bleeding because its so light and the timing makes sense…help idk

  2. Hi, I’m bipolar & been ttc on & off for 3 years. Yesterday I started brown then light pink bleeding a day before my scheduled period. I’m a pretty light bleeder as it is, but I put on pantiliner yesterday & it seemed even lighter than usual. Today it’s still super light, hardly anything on the new pantiliner from last night … I just don’t want to get my hopes up. This whole process of ttc is hard on both my husband & me & my mood disorder to boot. I also found out recently the ovarian dermiod cyst I had surgically removed 4 years ago has grown back, currently 5 cm or 5mm, not sure of measurement. I was putting off another surgery because the recovery from the last was a painful nightmare. I’ve complications with my mood disorder & due to this was going though meds that were not very safe for pregnancy. I went to a specialist, found some meds that were “the safest” since I decompensate quickly aka need to be hospitalized. I know many woman don’t agree with psych meds during pregnancy, and I totally feel pressure from that, but this has been taking so long, I can’t just go off my meds for a month to ttc, let alone years. I’m just so frustrated & it’s just so annoying that this implantation bleeding could mimic a reg period so we’ll. Thank you, Mother Nature. So now I guess I’ll see how long this spotting/period/bleeding/whatever you want to call it, lasts. I’ll try to comment when I find out

    • Hey Logan,

      I just wanted to say that there are plenty of women that have successful pregnancies whilst taking medication. I myself have been taking anti-depressants to help with anxiety and being quite anti-medication I did a lot of research into potential effects on a baby before taking anything. What I found was that, firstly, there was very little research suggesting that my particular type of medication was harmful in the first and second trimesters, and secondly, that there was an awful lot of research done around the impact of the mother’s emotional health on her baby. If you are in a bad place emotionally and/or mentally then that is bound to have a Knick in effect on your baby so I would say if you’re working with your doctor, don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t be taking meds whilst ttc – only you know what your body needs and when.
      I believe everybody is in the right place at the right time. And good luck for this month ❤️

  3. I get my period every 5th of each month, my boyfriend and I haven’t used protection like ever ( he uses the pull out method). I recently realized I’ve been experiencing ovulation spotting but now it’s a week before my period is due and I’m experiencing light pinkish red bleeding. Just trying to cover my bases as far as what the cause of this could be. I know it’s too early to detect pregnancy test wise but my breasts and nipples have had these random pains and my back has been starting to bother me. I’m also experiencing some light cramping, loss of apetite, and I felt like someone punched me in the vagina earlier this morning. I know these could be pms symptoms but I usually don’t experience pms until a couple days before.

  4. Hello, been ttc for about 2 1/2 years now with pcos. My period has always been sporadic, sometimes it doesn’t come for months. But 2 things are for certain. 1. I never have PMS. Ever. No cramps, no nausea, no headaches. Nothing. No warning at all. 2. It always lasts at least a week, sometimes longer. My “period” started on Sept 3rd in the evening (about 5 days after having sex) and ended by late night on the 6/early morning of the 7th. Never had one that short. Taking a hpt next week. Wish me luck! And good luck to everyone else ttc

  5. Hi, my wife started bleeding two days after we had sex. Is this too early for implantation bleeding? Meanwhile her period is supposed to arrive 15 or so days after we had sex

  6. Were ttc for 10 yrs coz were working on diff country now were together for 4 months now i drink clomid on june july then stop then now sept we do the necessary bd before ovulation n on ovulation day 17 now my cd26 we have sex then after i hav spotting then after i wipes its nothing is it ib or just early af im 30 day cycle im 5 days before af comes

    • With some tests, you could get an answer now. Good luck!

  7. Hi, Is it ever common to have a heavier flow than spotting but not filling s tampon that is still red? I started what I thought could be my period today but it was very light yet red. Has gotten a little heavier but nothing like what I am used to, I am usually 4 Aleve in at this point and I am having none of the terrible cramps or hotness I usually feel on the first day. I have been sick for the first time in about 3 years (about two days after what would be fertilization) which is a symptom. I also read sometimes if you ovulate late, the blood could be red not brownish because it is newer blood?

    • I have the same problem…. In less than 24 hours i stopped bleeding what do i do.?

    • I started bleeding after 2days late and it only lasted 1day heavy 2nd day spotting pink now today back spotting red omg im so scared😞 my last full period was aug 8th it was 6 days straight this one was supposed to start on the 4th of sep it came on the 6th sep im so confused

  8. So I’m using the nuvaring and I have been for about 2 months now. I use it correctly and everything and I also haven’t had sex in about a little over a month. I took my nuvaring out Wedneday and today is Friday. And yesterday I started having some light cramping and I noticed I had some light brown and tanish spotting. Well then I woke up this morning and I had brown discharge again. This time it was a little darker though. I also just over a yeast infection as well. Am I experiencing implantation bleeding?

    • If you’re getting ready to start your period, it’s not likely to be implantation bleeding. You can always take a pregnancy test if your period is late.

  9. Hello!

    With our first child we tried to conceive for 8 months. On the 8th month my “period” came. Exactly on time. I’ve always been 28 day cycle. So I thought it was just another failed attempt.
    On day 4 of my “period” it suddenly occurred to me that this was the lightest, brownest, shortest period I had ever had in my life. I took a HPT and had the faintest positive result. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. My hcg levels were so low I had to go in for multiple bloodworks, but 8 months later I had a healthy boy. Now we have been ttc #2 for 4 months. My period came 2 days ago. Right on time, but it’s only been brown and light when I wipe. No normal red period blood at all. The only other time this has happened to me I was pregnant. I tested today and it was negative so will test again in 2 more days and hope history will repeat itself.

  10. Hey guys i’v been Trying to conceive for about 2& a half years now with irregular periods …so far haven’t had any luck, however this month i missed my period nearly by 2 weeks had mild cramping, moodswings, food adversions. I was using the bathroom today & realized a little pink when i wiped nothing like my usual period, could It be implantation even though I’m 2 weeks late? I’m very confused. Someone pls help

    • Have you taken a pregnancy test?

  11. I have been trying to conceive for about 6 months now and I’m not sure if the things I’m experiencing are just in my head Or something else entirely I had my. 2 weeks ago yet I’ve been lightly bleeding my boyfriend and I think it’s implantation bleeding but we don’t know I took a pregnancy test and it says negative any suggestions

    • Time, unfortunately or a blood test from your provider.

  12. Today make 3 days since my missed period, I woke up with mild cramps and lower back pain accompanied by this pinkish bleeding which is very different than my regular period I haven’t taken a test but I have several pregnant symptoms ,I will be taking a PT tomorrow

  13. Honestly this is the first time I have missed my period since getting off my birth control last October. Now my period has always been around the 26th and always have come with clotting like normal. Well I was about 7 days late and some how on the seventh day I start lightly like really lightly bleeding but it was very light pink not red and had little bit of brown mixed in. I took a home pregnancy test and it said negative but the bleeding is very off for me and very late this really isn’t normal and I have no idea what to do. None of this ever happened with my last pregnancy which was almost 3 years ago

  14. So I’ve been trying to get pregnant and I know sometimes you can make your body believe it’s pregnant without actually being pregnant. But I’ve still been trying to get pregnant. My partner and self have been very intimate and I think/ hope I’m pregnant. My mood swings have been up and down and everywhere else. And today I had light pink bleeding only once when I used the restroom. I also had a couple of days last week when I couldn’t seem to hold anything down. I’m just patiently waiting to see if I have a period which is supposed to start on the 5th and I never spot before my periods or have any signs of blood until the day I’m supposed to come on. And I haven’t taken a pregnancy test just yet in fear of not being pregnant…. Thinking if i wait until the day of my period and it doesn’t come that it’ll be alright to take a pregnancy test 🤔🤔🤔🤔 shoIII

  15. Hi, had been TTC for about 4 months and my period is always on time. AF was supposed to come on 27th Apr but it didn’t. Tested on the day itself but got a BFN. I’ve been experiencing symptoms which made me so overwhelmed and prayed anxiously while waiting for good news.

    However on 2nd May, I had an intense cramps on my lower abdomen and sharp pain in the left pelvic. Went to doc and tested BFN again. Later in the noon, period came with heavy bleeding and severe cramps. Weird enough, the bleeding lasted only for 3 days and ended with brownish spots (I normally have 5 days long period).

    I did a test again on 9th May which was still BFN. Any idea what’s going wrong with me? Is there any chances of pregnancy as I have no guts to test again. 🙁

    • Do you mind me asking if you were pregnant please? Experiencing something similar over here!

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