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What does implantation bleeding look like?

Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.

Written on 8/30/21

what does implantation bleeding look like

Keep reading to learn more about implantation bleeding, including when it occurs and what it should look like.

Everyone’s journey to pregnancy looks different and we may experience symptoms that our friends, sisters, and mothers do not. Our journeys are just as unique as we are!

We’ve had some Proovers experience implantation bleeding or spotting, which is light spotting that occurs when the embryo implants into the uterus. While it is fairly uncommon, it’s still important to be aware of implantation bleeding, although it’s usually nothing to be worried about.

Keep reading to learn more about implantation bleeding, including when it occurs and what it should look like.

What is implantation and when does it occur?

In order for pregnancy to happen, sperm needs to meet the egg. But while many people think this is the last important step in the process, there’s actually another window of time that needs to go just right in order to get pregnant.

If the first piece of the puzzle is fertilization (i.e. sperm meeting egg), the second, just as important, step is implantation. After the egg and sperm have met to create a new embryo, it begins the journey of traveling through the fallopian tube and into the uterus.

This journey takes about 5-6 days. In the uterus, the embryo will look for a cozy spot in the uterine lining to call home for the next 9 months.

The embryo attaching itself to the uterine lining is called implantation. The process of implantation occurs anytime during the “receptivity window,” a period starting 6 days after fertilization and lasting up to 4 days.

Studies show that the most common implantation days are days 8, 9, and 10 past ovulation. In order for successful implantation to occur, the embryo must be healthy (meaning it must be genetically normal) and the uterine lining must be ready to receive it.

Throughout your cycle, estrogen and progesterone work together to ensure the uterine lining is prepared for implantation. During the first half of your cycle, estrogen works to thicken the uterine lining. Then, during the second half of your cycle, progesterone stabilizes the already thick lining and makes sure it’s “sticky” enough for an embryo to implant.

If progesterone does not rise to an optimal level or drops too soon, it can be more difficult for implantation to be successful. Sometimes, this can result in chemical pregnancy or early miscarriage.

What causes implantation bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is caused by the embryo actually attaching itself to the uterine lining. Sometimes, as the embryo tries to burrow into the lining, small blood vessels may burst which can cause a little bit of bleeding or spotting.

While studies show it may occur in up to 25% of pregnancies, most women never get to experience implantation bleeding. Those who do may sometimes mistake it for a light period. If they have already gotten a positive pregnancy test, you also may be concerned something is wrong with your pregnancy.

Bleeding in early pregnancy should always be taken seriously. However, implantation bleeding is typically nothing to worry about, as it usually occurs before you even get the chance to find out you are pregnant. In fact, light spotting a few days before the arrival of your next expected period, may be a sign of early pregnancy that actually causes you to take a home pregnancy test.

what does implantation bleeding look like

Implantation bleeding is typically nothing to worry about, as it usually occurs before you even get the chance to find out you are pregnant.

What does implantation bleeding look like?

When it occurs, implantation bleeding may look different from one woman to another. It can manifest itself in several different ways:

  • As a slightly red or colored discharge (this you might only notice when you wipe)
  • As a small amount of pink, beige, or brown spotting
  • As light, red bleeding that might seem more like a light period

If you typically spot a little before your period or usually don’t have a regular cycle, it can be really easy to overlook implantation bleeding. However, women who have regular periods with no spotting may recognize implantation bleeding as something new.

If you experience bleeding after getting a positive pregnancy test, we recommend consulting your doctor.

How long should implantation bleeding last?

Implantation bleeding does not last more than 2 to 4 days, at the most. The bleeding will not become more abundant, nor should it become more red over time. It also should not be heavy or contain blood clots.

A period, on the other hand, may start light with a few days of spotting — especially if your progesterone levels are low during the luteal phase — but will usually pick up and turn into a full blown red flow that usually lasts for 4 to 7 days.

If you are experiencing heavy bleeding, chances are this is not caused by implantation. It could either be your period or bleeding caused by other factors in early pregnancy, such as:

  • Subchorionic hematomas
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Early miscarriage (often cause by low progesterone levels)

Of course, the only way to be completely sure that implantation bleeding means the beginning of a pregnancy and not the start of your period is to take a pregnancy test. Keep in mind though that from the moment of implantation, your body needs a bit of time to start producing the pregnancy hormone, hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).

While hCG can be detected in blood as early as 2-3 days after implantation, it may take up to 3-4 days for the hormone to be detectable in urine. This is why testing with a home pregnancy test too early may give you a false negative.

It’s important to note that implantation bleeding may be accompanied by light cramping, but it should not last more than a few hours and shouldn’t be super painful. If your cramping is severe or lasts longer than a few hours, we recommend consulting your doctor.

what does implantation bleeding look like

It’s important to note that implantation bleeding may be accompanied by light cramping, but it should not last more than a few hours and shouldn’t be super painful.

How can I support implantation?

You’ll remember that there are key conditions that need to be met in order for implantation to occur. The first is a genetically normal embryo and the second is a receptive uterine lining.

While it is difficult to influence the health of an embryo, it is much easier to improve the receptivity of the uterine lining. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Ensure your progesterone levels are optimal to support implantation and pregnancy. While a serum progesterone blood test only shows your levels at one point in time, Proov PdG tests can monitor PdG (a marker of progesterone) non-invasively over several days. Without enough PdG or progesterone, it can be more difficult for implantation to occur.
  • Improve blood flow to the uterus by exercising regularly, walking, or doing acupuncture with a certified acupuncturist, ideally one specialized in fertility. A healthy uterus needs good circulation in order to provide a healthy growing environment for a developing embryo.
  • Avoid nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and high-dose aspirin — as they are proven to increase the risk of miscarriage by 80%, as they can affect the receptivity of the uterine lining.

Implantation bleeding is typically not a cause for concern. It may or may not happen to you and it has no impact on the evolution of a healthy pregnancy. However, understanding what implantation bleeding looks like can help you recognize signs that you may need to consult your doctor.