As someone who went through IVF to conceive, I think I speak for the vast majority of individuals struggling with infertility when I say that the wait for answers about a pregnancy test can be one of the most challenging experiences ever.
Whether you’ve undergone an IUI, donor egg transfer, or traditional IVF cycle, you’re bound to look for any unusual early pregnancy signs.
It can also feel like you’re waiting for the other foot to drop and for signs of failure to start presenting themselves.
This was the place I found myself during my two week wait, post-embryo transfer. I was wrought with anxiety over the success of my cycle and painstakingly wondering what I would do when I learned that IVF hadn’t worked.
Imagine my despair when I woke up one morning, used the bathroom, and noticed a pink tinge of blood on the toilet paper.
I was heartbroken.
This was obviously the sign I’d been waiting for to prove my cycle had failed.
Little did I know, this was actually quite the opposite. That small amount of blood was the first sign that my transfer worked – I was experiencing implantation bleeding.
The problem is, though: how is a woman supposed to know if she’s experiencing a miscarriage, period, or implantation bleeding? We’ve got all the answers you need to know!
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What is Implantation Bleeding?
6 – 12 days after fertilization occurs, eggs will begin to attach themselves to the interior lining of a woman’s uterus. The movement used by the egg to implant itself can break down blood vessels which can cause mild bleeding in approximately one-third of women.
It’s crucial to recognize that whether you experience implantation bleeding or not doesn’t affect whether you’ll have a viable pregnancy. Both implantation bleeding and NOT having implantation bleeding are completely normal.
Even if you don’t notice implantation bleeding, remember that you’re PUPO, meaning you’re pregnant until proven otherwise!
When Does this Usually Occur?
One of the reasons expectant mothers often get confused about whether they’re dealing with a period or implantation bleeding is because they usually occur around the same time.
Typically, you’ll experience implantation bleeding 6-12 days after conception. Based on this timeline, you can expect the bleeding to start during the week before you normally get your period.
Since these two processes closely align, it’s no wonder telling them apart can be challenging.
Can You Experience Implantation Bleeding After a Missed Period?
It’s not impossible for women to experience late implantation bleeding after a missed period. It is rare, though.
Suppose you’ve noticed sudden bleeding or continued bleeding after your missed period. In that case, these could be early signs of miscarriage or other pregnancy-related problems, such as molar pregnancies or ectopic pregnancies.
Always speak to your doctor if you’re concerned.
And remember that approximately 50% of women who experience spotting or bleeding, outside of implantation bleeding, will go on to have a healthy pregnancy.
What Does Implantation Bleeding Look Like?
Many hopeful parents (like me!) want to know specifics in trying to discuss the period or implantation bleeding dilemma.
While reviewing my infertility treatment options and figuring out the best way to treat my PCOS infertility, I wanted as much information as possible about what to expect and what to be on the lookout for.
Unfortunately, there’s no concrete way to describe implantation bleeding. It varies from person to person. Often, though, the blood women notice ranges from a brownish color (known to be older blood from the broken down blood vessels) to a pinkish/red color (fresh blood).
What most doctors and researchers can agree on is that implantation bleeding is usually very light and resembles the beginning stage of your period.
One thing you must remember is that no matter how much blood you notice, NEVER use tampons during pregnancy. They can introduce harmful bacteria into your system.
Should You Call Your Doctor for Implantation Bleeding?
Generally, implantation bleeding isn’t something to be concerned about.
However, if you notice any of the following signs during early pregnancy, you should set up an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible:
- Bleeding that lasts more than a few days
- Moderate to heavy bleeding
- Blood that contains tissue and clots
- Bleeding accompanied by cramping, fever, or chills
Period or Implantation Bleeding: What are the Biggest Differences?
Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty – how exactly can you determine if you’re dealing with a regular period or implantation bleeding?
Although these two things are often hard to tell apart, there are a few ways you can usually tell the difference.
- Length of Bleeding: While periods generally last 4 – 7 days, implantation bleeding usually is over within 1 – 3.
- Color: If you notice blood and ask yourself what does implantation bleeding look like, consider whether the blood is a brown or pinkish color. While normal menstrual blood might start as a brownish color, it quickly turns bright red as your full flow begins.
- Heaviness of Flow: If you’re filling up a pad with blood, you’ve likely gotten your period. Implantation bleeding isn’t usually more than light spotting. Implantation blood can also come and go, while periods remain more consistent.
- Clots & Tissue: While passing clots and tissue is normal during periods, it never occurs with implantation bleeding.
- Cramping: Implantation cramps are indeed a thing, but thankfully, they’re usually mild and pass quickly. PMS and period cramping are commonly more intense.
Are you still feeling confused about what’s going on with your body? Take this implantation bleeding vs. period quiz!
Implantation Bleeding vs. Miscarriage
Regretfully, periods and implantation bleeding aren’t the only reasons you might be dealing with vaginal blood.
Judging whether you’re dealing with miscarriage or a period is hard enough, but when you add the possibility of implantation bleeding into the scenario, your experience can feel overwhelming.
The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. If you’re experiencing bleeding, pain, or clotting outside your typical monthly periods, this could indicate a chemical pregnancy or miscarriage.
If you’re concerned about a possible miscarriage, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.
They will help you figure out what’s going on and explain how to deal with a miscarriage if that is what’s happening.
So, Are You Dealing with Your Period or Implantation Bleeding?
If you’re anything like me, any type of vaginal bleeding is a less than spectacular occurrence. I mean, come on, does anyone actually enjoy their period?
If you’re hoping to conceive or trying to decide if you’re already pregnant, though, searching for signs of possible implantation bleeding can make the experience annoying and stressful. Pay close attention to your body and be on the lookout for anything that’s out of the ordinary.
What you might be passing off as an unusually light and early period could just be the pregnancy you’ve been dreaming of.
Have you ever felt confused about whether you were getting your period or implantation bleeding?
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Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.