Implantation Cramping: Pregnant? Or Just Your Period?

Many TTC-ing moms want to know sooner rather than later if they’ll get that BFP test, and implantation cramping may be an early sign that they, indeed, will!

But implantation cramping is tricky—not everyone experiences it and it can be similar to PMS cramps. In this post we’ll answer:

  • What is implantation cramping?
  • What does implantation cramping feel like?
  • How long does implantation cramping last?
  • Is implantation cramping a sign of early pregnancy?
  • Is it possible that you’re feeling something besides implantation cramping?

What Is Implantation Cramping?

During the window of time that conception is possible, sperm swim into the fallopian tubes in hopes of fertilizing the woman’s egg (or ovum). If/when one lucky sperm enters the egg, conception occurs.

The embryo then divides into two cells to become a zygote. The zygote continues to grow and subdivide to become a blastocyst while it travels down the fallopian tube. Now, this budding life is in the uterus, where it will implant.

When implantation occurs, some of the mucous membrane of the uterine lining changes in order to allow the blastocyst to implant. This is what causes implantation cramping and/or implantation bleeding. (source)

Is Cramping Normal in Early Pregnancy?

Light cramping during early pregnancy is fairly common and generally nothing to worry about. In addition to cramping, you may also notice mood swings, headaches, and brown or pinkish spotting or discharge if implantation has occurred. (Keep in mind, some women in early pregnancy experience none of these symptoms and they are usually fine, too!)

When you’re trying to conceive, any unusual symptoms—particularly any type of cramping or bleeding—can be unsettling. If you’re worried about miscarriage, know that about 10-25% percent of known pregnancies end in early miscarriage (miscarriages that happen before 13 weeks gestation), so while it’s possible, the odds are with you for a full-term, healthy pregnancy.

When Does Implantation Cramping Occur?

Cramping during implantation occurs at different times for different women, but generally occurs 6-11 days after conception.

The blastocyst implants in the uterus within a few days of reaching it. And since implantation cramping (or bleeding) doesn’t necessarily happen on the day of implantation, you may feel symptoms of implantation over the course of a few days.

How Long Do You Have Implantation Cramps?

Every woman’s body is different—and women can (and often do) experience different things with each pregnancy. Sometimes cramping lasts just a few minutes other times it comes and goes, and sometimes it’s relatively constant for a few days.

What Does Implantation Pain Feel Like?

Some women mistake implantation for their premenstrual cramps, especially because implantation generally happens around the same time most women would expect their next menstrual cycle to begin.

To make matters more confusing. both menstrual cramps and implantation cramping are usually mild to moderate. Some say implantation cramps can be differentiated from menstrual cramps if you experience the following sensations:

  • pricking
  • pulling
  • tingling feeling

If you experience any sharp, persistent pain, talk to your healthcare provider, as this could be a sign of something more serious. 

Where Do You Feel Implantation Cramps?

Where you feel implantation cramps will vary from woman to woman. For some they are more centralized, similar to period cramps; others may feel implantation cramps in a different place, like on one side or very low in the abdomen.

Are Implantation Cramps Always Accompanied By Implantation Bleeding?

No. You can absolutely have one without the other. Let’s unpack this:

Implantation cramps and spotting occur because the blastocyst implants into the lining causing a bit of a disturbance.

Sometimes that means a bit of light cramping.

Other times that means a few blood cells are loosened, causing implantation bleeding.

And sometimes both; sometimes neither.

Remember: Our bodies are all different, and signs of implantation (if any are present at all) vary from woman to woman. 

What If I Don’t Experience Implantation Cramping?

Know that many pregnant women do not experience any implantation cramping at all. In one study, 25 percent of participants reported some bleeding during their first trimester. About 17 percent of those individuals reported spotting and 8 percent reported heavy bleeding. Both groups reported some pain, though pain was nearly two times more likely in the group that experienced heavy bleeding.

Whether you experience implantation cramping or not, look for other signs of early pregnancy and take a pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant. If an initial pregnancy test is negative, wait a few days and take another one. If you test too close to your missed period, your body may not be producing enough Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, to show a positive result. 

When Implantation Cramping is Mistaken for Something Else

“Hormonal changes related to ovulation can affect some of the same pathways in your brain that might be affected by other medical conditions,” says Chailee Moss, M.D., an ob-gyn at Johns Hopkins Medicine

What may seem like implantation cramping may actually be something else entirely. If you are not pregnant, here are some things that could be causing uterine cramping:

Pre-period cramps: As discussed above, PMS cramping and implantation cramping are often very similar. They are both dull and consistent. 

Digestive crampingGas, indigestion, food sensitivities, and illness can also cause cramping in your abdominal, though this pain is associated with your gastrointestinal tract. 

Ovulation cramping: If cramping occurs around the time of ovulation time, it’s called mittelschmerz, a German word that means “middle” and “pain.” Ovulation cramping occurs when the follicle ruptures and releases the egg. You’ll likely feel mild discomfort (a pinch or twinge). “You’ll feel it only on one side of your lower abdomen, depending on which ovary is releasing an egg,” says Amy Autry, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco.

Ovarian/Pelvic cysts: If you experience intense pain, especially pain that’s accompanied by nausea or vomiting, it could be an ovarian cyst. Consult your doctor right away.

If the pain is significant and accompanied by heavy bleeding, talk to your doctor or midwife. And, of course, listen to your body. Regardless of symptoms, if you think something is amiss, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider. 

When You’re Hoping for Pregnancy

If you’re trying to conceive, feeling implantation cramps can be both exciting and scary at the same time. You’ll probably wonder whether you’re pregnant, but you’ll probably also wonder whether everything is okay if you are pregnant. Remember that implantation cramping is not a sure sign one way or the other—some women experience implantation cramping and others don’t. Try to relax, be extra kind to yourself (get plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy diet), and take a pregnancy test. If you get a negative the first time, wait a few days and try again. We know how hard it is to wait, but most pregnancy tests are most accurate a week after your missed period.

How About You?

Did you experience implantation cramping? How was it different than period cramping?

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.

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

Introducing the world’s first
week-by-week pregnancy guide
from a natural perspective!

4 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. I got implantation cramping with all 3 of my children. It felt a bit like the slight weird feeling I normally get right before I start my period? Kind of like a weird pressure feeling like things moving through your large intestine, but more central and lower down? I have periods that are no problem, but I usually get a ‘letdown’ sort of feeling in my lower abdomen an hour or three before I actually get it, so I would say that some of the earliest implantation cramping was a lot like that except voila! No period! As is often the case, early pregnancy is a lot like when you’re about to get a period!

    I got implantation bleeding on my very first pregnancy only, but that one ended in miscarriage at about 7 weeks.

    Implantation cramping a bit later on (as opposed to 6-12 days after conception) with my 3 kids was more like a ‘burrowing’ feeling inside in my lower abdomen. Kind of like a needling-in sort of sensation? Not sharp, never sharp, but just a weird, pressure-like aggravating irritation, perhaps? They were really like mini-cramps, fleeting, not painful exactly, and more in the background. I only ever felt them in my lower abdomen, never in my back. I used to like feeling them, actually, because I knew the baby was growing and doing its ‘thing’!

  2. I have been having cramps for the last few days in and off. I’m praying every nights it’s implantation cramps- hubbie and I have been trying for a while to conceive. I will keep you all posted! Feels a bit different to period cramps.

  3. Great article. I am feeling a few twinges / pulls here and there on the right side of my abdomen – mainly when I am sitting. I will just keep monitoring! 🙂

    • Hi Nicole! Did you ever get your bfp?? I’m feeling some pulls and twitches here and there but don’t want to get my hopes up.. Good luck trying!!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*