Implantation bleeding is one of the first signs of pregnancy, but not all women experience it. Learn what it means if you spot light, pinkish-colored blood.
Four years after the birth of my first child, my husband and I tried for a second. During that time, I paid close attention to my body. Every time I felt a strange twinge in my stomach or a bout of fatigue, I thought I was pregnant.
Fast forward four months and I woke up to mild cramping. I rolled out of bed and trudged to the bathroom. Still half asleep, I looked down to find an odd discharge in my panties. Brownish with streaks of pink – “Oh, no, had I started my period?”
While my “bleeding” was indeed an early sign of pregnancy, not all bleeding indicates that you’re with child. The absence of implantation bleeding also doesn’t mean you’re not pregnant.
Implantation bleeding occurs in approximately 30 percent of pregnancies, according to Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. This bleeding does not usually resemble a normal menstrual period and may or may not be accompanied by mild cramping caused by egg implantation and changes in the uterus.
What the Experts Say
If you see light bleeding (usually small pink or brown spots) in your underwear and believe you may be pregnant, it could be implantation bleeding. Approximately 10 to 14 days following conception, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of uterus, according to Mayo Clinic. As the embryo implants in the uterus, it may disrupt small blood vessels resulting in light bleeding or brown, red, or pinkish discharge.
Here’s what some experts have to say about implantation bleeding and why it occurs:
“Implantation bleeding usually comes about two weeks after conception, so the woman may think it is her period.”
– Inside Information for Women, Yvonne S. Thorton, Jo Coudert
“Implantation bleeding is not associated with any risk to the fetus, but it can be scary if you’ve already had a positive pregnancy test.”
– Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide, Laura Riley
“Implantation bleeding will likely arrive earlier than your expected monthly flow – usually around 5 to 10 days after conception. Much lighter than your period (it’ll be spotty, not continuous bleeding) and last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.”
– What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff
“Implantation bleeding is a common cause of first trimester vaginal bleeding and is usually a diagnosis made by exclusion. Bleeding is usually slight and sometimes believed to be menses by the woman. Implantation bleeding is a benign process.”
– Bleeding During Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide, Eyal K. Sheiner
“A careful menstrual history is essential to detect probable implantation bleeding, thereby avoiding miscalculation of dates.”
– Mayes’ Midwifery: A Textbook for Midwives, Sue Macdonald
Is It Really Implantation Bleeding?
If you’ve experienced unusual bleeding and are sexually active, you may be wondering if you’re pregnant or if your period is just a little wonky. For many women, implantation bleeding can look similar to the start of a period and will often occur around the same time that you would expect your period.
To distinguish Aunt Flo from implantation bleeding, look for the following:
Flow: Bleeding caused by implantation bleeding is usually light, inconsistent, and disappears within a few hours to a few days. There should not be any blood clots present.
Color: Menstrual period blood is typically dark red or brown, while implantation blood is usually light pink or brown. Bright red blood or brown discharge that looks similar to coffee grounds could indicate an early miscarriage, according to UC Davis Health.
Length: Menstrual flow is consistent, typically lasting 3 to 7 days without stopping. Implantation bleeding may come and go over the course of several days.
Cramping: Both periods and implantation bleeding can cause cramping. However, the cramping associated with periods are often more intense. With implantation bleeding, any cramping should be faint.
If you’re still not sure if your spotting is actually implantation bleeding, look for other signs of early pregnancy. Sore breasts, mood swings, headaches, elevated basal body temperature, and sensitivity to smell are all common pregnancy signs. If you miss your period, take a test to find out for sure.