Can Implantation Bleeding Look Like a Period? Basic Differences

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Implantation Bleeding (IB) – it is a symptom of the ovum’s attachment to the uterine lining. Implantation bleeding is very much like a usual period and the reason for its occurrence is that a firm fixation of the embryo requires its germination into the mucous membrane of the uterus (endometrium).

The differences between IB and a period are following: an earlier occurrence of IB, little amount of discharge, absence of usual symptoms and appearance of new ones. In case of any doubt, it is better if accurate diagnostics of these two conditions is conducted in a well equipped clinic.

Implantation mechanism

The fertilized egg starts producing bioactive dissolving substances. They studiously affect the endometrial lining and the ovum “implements” into the originated erosion.

As a result, the “attached” ovum gets implemented deeper and deeper into the endometrial thickness, thus causing its affection – so, implantation bleeding, which looks very much like a period, might occur at the peak of this process. It is quite regular, considering the fact that the inner layer of the uterus, which is preparing for the pregnancy, receives a good blood supply.

How to recognize the period?

During each menstrual cycle a woman’s organism is preparing itself for pregnancy – progesterone level rises, endometrial thickness increases, nutrient substances accumulate in its cells, however, in case implantation does not occur, endometrium sloughing takes place.

The menstrual cycle is about maturation of ovum, its emergence (ovulation), the mentioned preparation of the endometrium for pregnancy and its death, in case conception does not take place. The cycle can last from 21 to 35 days. Ovulation takes place somewhere in the middle of the cycle, on the 10-17 day, counting from the first day of the period. Thus, the next period should occur after about the same period of time.

Four differences between the period and implantation bleeding

The first difference between IB and a period is that IB occurs earlier in time. It takes place on about the sixth day following ovulation. It is quite obvious in a regular cycle.

The second important difference is little discharge and its unusual color. Period blood might be red and contain some clots, whereas IB appears in the form of spotting, brownish and light pink discharge.

The third dissimilarity of IB and a period is in different associated symptoms. Usually, monthly bleeding is more painful, accompanied by cramps and dragging pain. While embryo implantation most often does not imply any symptoms, any sensations are of a psychosomatic nature.

The fourth distinctive factor is quite real early pregnancy signs, following the implantation:

  • Morning sickness;
  • General fatigue;
  • Swollen breasts;
  • Taste disturbance,

Other reasons of bleeding.

It’s important to keep in mind that spotting during the cycle can testify not only to pregnancy but also to inflammatory and oncological diseases. Increasing and intensely painful bleeding, accompanied by disturbance of general well-being and/or vomiting can be indicative of:

  • Ectopic pregnancy;
  • Hydatidiform mole (abnormal form of pregnancy when the fertilized egg develops without an embryo);
  • Interruption of a normal pregnancy (miscarriage)

Seek medical help

At the same time, in case IB is accompanied by dragging pain, similar to the sensations, which are typical to a period, than it is quite possible that the reason is abdominal distention. That is to say, it has nothing to do with gynecology. For appropriate differentiation of IB and a period, it is best advisable to seek medical help and have diagnostic sonography done. Only this way you will be able resolve your doubts.


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My name is Margaret Scott, I am a certified specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology. I graduated from the Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Oregon. I did my internship at the University of Southern California. I worked at the Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena and Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California. Now I am a member of several medical associations, the author of scientific articles and a well-known lecturer in CHRs.

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