Nine out of ten women who are trying to get pregnant spot a little bit of light bleeding and think that perhaps this is it – implantation has happened and they are pregnant. However, not all light bleeding is actually from implantation.

It’s important to consider all possibilities before jumping to the conclusion that you are actually pregnant. The main reason for light spotting at this time in your cycle is actually the beginning of menstruation. Your menstrual period can often spot for a few days before it is due to start.

The main difference between menstruation and implantation bleeding is the way the blood looks and its consistency. Menstruation is generally a flow of blood. This can be very light though and present as spotting, which is where women can get confused. Even if the flow is minimal, it’s better to jump to the conclusion of menstruation rather than thinking you’ve conceived. Wait a few days, and if the flow doesn’t get any heavier and actually stops after three days, this could be a sign that you are pregnant.

Implantation bleeding is the exception and not the rule

Not all women who conceive experience light bleeding due to implantation. In fact, only around 20% of women actually experience this. So little blood is produced by the process that it hardly ever shows as spotting.

Basically, implantation is the moment of implantation. The embryo fixes itself to the wall of the uterus, which is thick with blood and nutrients. Imagine that the endometrium is a soft, padded mattress. As the embryo fixes itself securely to the lining, the padding opens up slightly to make room for the embryo and allows it to nestle snuggly in that padding. This small hole can cause some of the padding to break apart and, therefore, bleeding occurs.

If enough blood comes away during the process, it can find its way out of the uterus and through the vagina. It will then present as a light spotting on your underwear or show up when you use toilet paper after urinating. This blood will have no flow to it and only occur for a short time.

How many days does implantation bleeding last?

Implantation bleeding should not exceed 3 days and should have no flow to it. If it appears more like your menstrual period in terms of consistency, then it’s possible that you have a slight hormonal imbalance. Low progesterone levels can make it very difficult for an embryo to successfully implant itself. It’s best to consult your gynecologist if you are concerned.

The characteristics of implantation bleeding

The only way to know for sure that the bleeding you experienced is from the implantation process is to take a pregnancy test. However, you have to wait until you
are about five days late on your menstruation to get the best chance of a definitive result on the test.

You can guess as to whether it was implantation bleeding or other intermenstrual bleeding according to the appearance of the blood. Implantation bleeding will be light pink or brown in color. It should also only be a little bit of blood that appears as spotting or in your discharge. There is no flow to the blood like there would be in other instances of bleeding.

Intermenstrual bleeding

It’s very important to remember that not all light spotting is from implantation. There are several other causes of intermenstrual bleeding that are more common and don’t indicate that you are pregnant.

Many women will experience this while on some form of hormonal contraception. This will be due to reasons such as the dosage being incorrect or your body getting used to the level of hormones you are taking. The morning-after pill can also cause intermenstrual bleeding for a couple of cycles.

How long after the implantation bleeding should I take a pregnancy test?

It is only after implantation occurs that the pregnancy hormone, hCG, is released by the body. Before that time, there may be indications that you’ve conceived but there is no definitive way to test for it. The hormone will need to build up over a few days before there will be enough in your system to actually register on a test. Some tests are fairly sensitive, but the longer you leave it, the better chance you have to see a definitive result.

A quantitative beta hCG test is the most sensitive option that you can buy at a pharmacy. It will detect reasonably low levels of the hormone and can be taken as early as five days after implantation.

It is best, however, to wait until 20 days after intercourse to be completely sure that you will get a definitive result from the test you take.

There are some pharmacy tests that can detect hCG from only two days after implantation. However, this will only show up as a very faint line that is almost imperceptible. It’s best to not pin your hopes on taking a test this early and rather wait. If you do decide to try with a highly sensitive test and aren’t sure about the result you see, wait another 48 hours and try again. By now the hCG will have doubled in your system and should give you a clearer result on a test.

What does implantation bleeding usually look like?

Readers’ questions:

How do I differentiate between implantation bleeding and menstruation?

The difference is always seen in the volume of blood. Implantation bleeding is only a small quantity that dries up after a maximum of three days. Menstruation, on the other hand, will only get heavier after the initial spotting.

What exactly is Implantation?

Implantation is the implantation of the zygote in the womb. After fertilization of the ovum occurs, the embryo must travel from the fallopian tubes to the uterus and then fix itself to the endometrium. Bleeding may occur from the moment of implantation.

Is it different if I have twins?

No, it’s impossible to determine the number of fertilized embryos in your womb based on the implantation symptoms.

I had intercourse during my fertile period and bled straight afterwards. Is this from implantation?

If the bleeding occurred straight after intercourse, it can’t have been as a result of implantation. This is because it takes 7 to 15 days for the embryo to move from the fallopian tubes to the womb.

It’s possible that this bleeding came from ovulation, which does occur occasionally for some women.