Implantation bleeding can be one of the early signs of pregnancy. How long it lasts can vary.
It may be helpful to think of it as implantation spotting or discharge instead of bleeding, because the flow is not as heavy as someone’s average period. It would not fill a tampon, which people should not use at this point, or a pad, and should not contain any clots.
The blood it produces differs from menstrual blood. It is usually a different color from a person’s typical menstrual blood.
Implantation bleeding occurs during the implantation process. The fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus, usually within two weeks after fertilization. This lining is full of veins and arteries, and when the embryo connects to it, it breaks capillary walls, which causes the bleeding.
The duration of implantation bleeding varies. Some may notice spotting for a few hours, while others might experience a light flow that lasts a few days. Some people may have implantation bleeding with one pregnancy and not with others.
Researchers found it was common for people to experience a few days of bleeding during early pregnancy. Studies also determined that bleeding begins five days after implantation.
Implantation bleeding does not usually last as long as a woman’s typical menstrual period. If a person notices a significant change in their usual period, such as spotting instead of regular flow, or a color change in their blood, it may indicate implantation bleeding.
A person who suspects they may be experiencing implantation bleeding instead of a period can take a pregnancy test or speak to their doctor to confirm the pregnancy.
Implantation bleeding may develop around the same time as when someone would usually have their period. Below is a general timeline of how implantation occurs:
- Ovulation: After the ovaries release an egg, there is a 12–24-hour window for fertilization.
- Day 0 (fertilization): A viable sperm reaches the egg.
- Days 1–2: The fertilized egg transits through the fallopian tube for about 30 hours.
- Days 2–6 (mitosis): The fertilized egg goes through cell divisions that transform it from a zygote, a single-celled embryo, to a blastocyst, an embryo with multiple cells.
- Days 6–9 (implantation): Starting 6–7 days after fertilization, implantation is itself a process, which consists of:
- Adplantation: The blastocyst first begins to stick to the uterus lining.
- Implantation: The migration of the blastocyst is typically completed nine days after fertilization.
- Coagulation plug: A blood clot seals the part of the uterine wall where the embryo first attached.
- Days 6–10: Implantation bleeding usually takes place 10–14 days after conception.
People who experience implantation bleeding may also encounter other symptoms associated with early pregnancy, including:
- cramping that is milder than those usually experienced during their periods
- rapid changes in mood
- sore lower back
- breasts start to feel larger and more tender
- morning sickness, or nausea
Implantation bleeding does not typically require treatment, and it usually goes away on its own.
The following self-care practices can help those who notice spotting early in their pregnancies feel more comfortable:
- getting enough rest
- elevating the feet
- refraining from sexual intercourse
- avoiding use of tampons
In general, it is a good idea for pregnant people to speak to a doctor if they notice any spotting or bleeding.
This will help give people peace of mind during these stages of their pregnancy. And in cases where someone needs medical intervention, it will allow for prompt treatment.
It can be difficult for someone to distinguish implantation bleeding from other causes of bleeding. Although bleeding during pregnancy is common, in some cases, it can be a symptom of a serious complication, such as an ectopic pregnancy or early pregnancy loss.
People should a doctor if any of the following symptoms occur alongside bleeding:
Implantation bleeding lasts anywhere from a few hours to several days. It usually presents as a lighter flow with a different color from typical menstrual blood.
Implantation bleeding is a relatively common occurrence in early pregnancy, and it typically resolves on its own without treatment.