Implantation Bleeding 2022: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sara Chatfield

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

Implantation Bleeding

If you think you might be pregnant, you may have questions about implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is a possible sign of early pregnancy. Implantation bleeding sometimes occurs after a fertilized egg implants into the wall of the uterus after conception

The light bleeding or spotting caused by implantation is harmless and doesn’t indicate a problem. However, other causes of vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy may require medical attention.

What Is Implantation Bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is light bleeding or spotting that can happen after conception. After the fertilized egg enters the uterus and makes contact with its innermost lining, a chemical reaction between the egg and the lining causes the tissue to break down so that the fertilized egg can embed into it. This can disrupt the blood vessels in the lining, resulting in implantation bleeding. 

The resulting light bleeding can be one of the early signs of pregnancy. According to estimates, about 25%[1] of pregnant people experience implantation bleeding.

Causes of Implantation Bleeding

After conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg in the fallopian tube, the fertilized egg divides to become a cluster of cells called a blastocyst[2]. The blastocyst then travels down to enter the uterus and attaches to the inner lining of the uterine wall. 

When the blastocyst implants, it can cause small blood vessels in the uterine lining to burst[3]; this is what causes implantation bleeding. Although it’s not uncommon to see this light bleeding, it’s also completely normal to have no noticeable bleeding[4] with implantation.

Although there may be some very light cramping with implantation, if your vaginal bleeding is heavier or accompanied by noticeable cramping or backache, this may point to a cause other than implantation. Some conditions that can cause vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy require medical attention. 

Potential causes of vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy include irritation to the cervix[5] from sex or a pelvic exam, bacterial or yeast infections, miscarriage, or an ectopic pregnancy. 

You may wonder about the differences between implantation bleeding vs. a miscarriage. While implantation bleeding is typically lighter than a normal period, vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy that is as heavy as or heavier than a typical period or occurs with cramping[6] and pain may indicate a miscarriage[7].  

An ectopic pregnancy[8] is a life-threatening condition in which pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. Any suspicion of ectopic pregnancy requires urgent medical attention. 

Symptoms include abdominal pain with or without vaginal bleeding. If you have any concerns about pain or vaginal bleeding, you should discuss them with your healthcare provider.

When Does Implantation Bleeding Occur?

Light bleeding or spotting in the middle of your menstrual cycle, around the time of ovulation, can be due to ovulation bleeding, which is different from implantation bleeding. 

Ovulation usually occurs around two weeks[9] into the typical 28-day menstrual cycle, though this timing can vary depending on the length of your cycle and other factors. If conception[10] occurs, it usually happens right after you ovulate.

The timing of implantation bleeding typically happens about 10-14 days after conception, which is generally a little before or around the time your period is due[11]. However, this can vary depending on your cycle.

Implantation bleeding can happen after the fertilized egg embeds itself into the uterus lining. How long the resulting light bleeding or spotting lasts can vary for each person, but it is typically shorter than a period, lasting just a few hours or up to a few days[3]

Symptoms of Implantation Bleeding

Implantation bleeding typically looks like light vaginal bleeding or spotting, usually a little before or around your expected period. The color of the blood can vary from pink to brown[12] but is typically lighter in color than menstrual blood. There may or may not be light cramping.

You may wonder how to tell the difference between implantation bleeding vs. a period. The bleeding caused by implantation is usually lighter and shorter[13] than a regular period, and if there’s any cramping, it’s lighter than the cramping that can happen during a menstrual period. Implantation bleeding isn’t normally heavy or bright red and doesn’t contain blood clots like a typical period can.

Because the timing of implantation can overlap with your expected period, it’s possible to mistake the light bleeding from implantation for a light period[4], especially if you’re unaware that you may be pregnant.

Implantation bleeding usually occurs around the fourth week of pregnancy, around the same time a pregnancy test[3] may show a positive result. If you are pregnant, you may notice other signs of pregnancy around this time.

Other common symptoms[11] of early pregnancy vary depending on the individual but may include a missed period, frequent urination, fatigue, tender and swollen breasts, nausea (also called “morning sickness,” although it can happen at any time of day), moodiness, food cravings or aversions, and headaches. However, many of these symptoms can also have other causes. 

The Bottom Line

Although implantation after conception often doesn’t cause any significant bleeding, a small amount of light bleeding or spotting near the time of your expected period could be implantation bleeding. The presence of other pregnancy symptoms or testing for pregnancy may provide answers. 

If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing implantation bleeding or if there’s another cause of your vaginal bleeding, you should reach out to your healthcare provider. Continued or heavy bleeding with cramping in early pregnancy may have another cause requiring medical attention, such as a threatened miscarriage. 

You should contact your healthcare provider about any concerning symptoms such as pain, cramping, or heavy vaginal bleeding during a suspected pregnancy. And any vaginal bleeding during a confirmed pregnancy should be assessed by your healthcare provider.


+ 13 sources

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  1. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. (n.d.). What are some common signs of pregnancy? [online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/signs#.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Blastocyst: Definition, Stage & Implantation. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22889-blastocyst
  3. inviTRA (2022). inviTRA. [online] inviTRA. Available at: https://www.invitra.com/en/embryo-implantation-symptoms/
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Implantation bleeding: Common in early pregnancy? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/implantation-bleeding/faq-20058257
  5. Acog.org. (2021). Bleeding During Pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/bleeding-during-pregnancy
  6. NHS Choices (2022). Symptoms – Miscarriage. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/symptoms/
  7. Hendriks, E., MacNaughton, H. and Maricela Castillo MacKenzie (2019). First Trimester Bleeding: Evaluation and Management. American Family Physician, [online] 99(3), pp.166–174. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2019/0201/p166.html
  8. Promes, S.B. and Nobay, F. (2010). Pitfalls in First-Trimester Bleeding. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, [online] 28(1), pp.219–234. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2009.10.005.
  9. Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Ovulation Pain: Symptoms, Causes & Pain Relief. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9134-ovulation-pain-mittelschmerz
  10. NHS Choices (2022). You and your baby at 4 weeks pregnant. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-to-12/4-weeks/
  11. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Am I Pregnant? Early Symptoms of Pregnancy & When To Test. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant
  12. inviTRA (2022). inviTRA. [online] inviTRA. Available at: https://www.invitra.com/en/bleeding-during-pregnancy/
  13. Memorialcare.org. (2022). MemorialCare. [online] Available at: https://www.memorialcare.org/blog/what-color-implantation-bleeding#:~:text=Their%20descriptions%20each%20differ%20slightly,Center%20in%20Laguna%20Hills%2C%20California.
Sara Chatfield

Written by:

Sara Chatfield, RDN

Medically reviewed by:

G. Michael DiLeo

I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master in Public Health in Human Nutrition from the University of Michigan. I've worked in both clinical and public health settings, providing nutrition care to patients and clients with various health concerns. As a freelance writer I've created a variety of online content on nutrition and health, including nutrition courses for health professionals. My hope is to educate and inspire others to improve health through nutrition.

Medically reviewed by:

G. Michael DiLeo

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