Implantation cramping may be an early sign of pregnancy. Understanding the differences between early pregnancy cramps and period cramps will help people to recognize them.

Implantation cramping is a type of pain sometimes experienced when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. This process is called implantation. Cramping sometimes occurs when this happens, but it does not always cause pain.

Anyone experiencing implantation cramps should avoid taking some anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin. This is because taking anti-inflammatory medicines around the time of conception might increase the risk of miscarriage, according to a 2003 study.

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Implantation cramps are not the same as period or menstrual cramps.

Menstrual cramps happen during a period, which occurs approximately once every 28 days, so long as there is no pregnancy.

Menstrual cramps happen when the uterus contracts to expel its lining.

Substances called prostaglandins trigger the uterine muscles to contract.

Prostaglandins are associated with pain and inflammation. This process may cause cramping.

Not everyone gets implantation cramps and bleeding when they first become pregnant.

One-quarter of participants in a 2010 study reported bleeding in their first trimester. Only 8 percent of those had heavy bleeding.

28 percent of those who had spotting and light bleeding also reported pain. 54 percent of those with heavy bleeding also experienced pain.

Not everyone has cramps during implantation. And for those that do, the cramps may be mild or moderate.

Some people describe the sensation as:

  • pricking
  • pulling
  • tingling feeling

This can help differentiate it from a menstrual cramp.

It is unusual to have intense cramping pain during implantation, so anyone who experiences painful cramping between periods should be assessed by a doctor.

Implantation tends to happen 6 to 10 days after ovulation when pregnancy occurs. This is about the same time that a person would usually expect a period to start.

If an egg has been fertilized, the body prepares the uterus lining to receive and protect the egg.

Some light bleeding or spotting may accompany implantation cramping. This is called implantation bleeding and is lighter than a regular period.

Implantation cramping or bleeding may be an early sign of pregnancy.

It is easy to mistake period cramping or a light period for symptoms of implantation.

Because of the similarity of symptoms between menstruation and implantation, it helps to know the other early signs of pregnancy.

Other early signs of pregnancy include:

If someone thinks they are pregnant, it is a good idea to take a home pregnancy test. A good time to do this is 1 to 2 weeks after noticing the early signs of pregnancy.

If a fertilized egg has implanted into the uterus wall, the body will already have started to form the placenta. In this situation, the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), begins to rise.

Around 2 weeks after implantation, hCG levels will be high enough for a pregnancy test to be positive.

If the pregnancy test is positive, the next step is to make an appointment with a doctor. The doctor can confirm whether the home test is correct.

Anyone who already knows they are pregnant and is experiencing heavy bleeding or cramping should speak to a doctor. These symptoms may indicate a problem with the pregnancy.

Sometimes, individuals who are not pregnant may experience painful cramping or bleeding in between periods. If this occurs, it is a good idea to discuss the issue with a doctor.

Below are some commonly asked questions about implantation cramps.

How does someone know if they have period pain or implantation pain?

Dull or sharp cramps may indicate menstrual pain. Not everybody experiences implantation cramping during pregnancy, but some people describe it as a pulling, pricking, or tingling feeling.

Can implantation feel like period cramps?

Implantation may feel like a tingling, pulling, or pricking sensation. Period cramps may feel like a dull or sudden, sharp ache that can start in the abdomen and spread to the back and thighs.

How to tell the difference between period cramps and pregnancy cramps?

Period cramps typically feel like a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen. Some people experience pain in the back and thighs during menstruation.

Cramps due to pregnancy implantation may be more like a tingling sensation and may occur alongside other symptoms, including a missed period, food aversions, and swollen breasts.

How long do implantation cramps last?

Implantation occurs about 6–10 days after ovulation, when a ball of cells called a blastocyst implants in the wall of the uterus. A person may experience implantation cramps during this time.

Implantation cramping and light bleeding may be an early sign of pregnancy. It is easy to mistake these symptoms as menstrual cramping or light bleeding.

For this reason, it is important to recognize the other early signs of pregnancy. However, these symptoms alone do not prove a pregnancy. Taking a home pregnancy test and having the results verified by a doctor is the best way to confirm pregnancy.

Once a pregnancy is confirmed, individuals can consider the option of continuing with the pregnancy. A person can discuss all options with a doctor.