Are you concerned about implantation cramping or wondering if that is what you are experiencing? Implantation cramping can be difficult to discern from normal period cramping, so read below to learn how you can tell the difference.
The reproductive system of a woman is both extremely amazing and ridiculously complex at the same time. The amazing part is that one tiny little egg, fertilized by sperm, is capable of producing a brand-new human being. Of course, there are many complicated steps involved in the entire process that must occur without any kinks.
What is Implantation?
By definition, the word implantation means "the act of setting in firmly." This is precisely what is meant when the word is applied to embryology (the study of reproduction and pregnancy). Just as a medical device or a fake breast can be implanted, so can an embryo.
In embryology, implantation very specifically refers to the actual moment in which an embryo (a fertilized egg) travels through one of a woman's fallopian tubes and attaches itself precisely to the uterine lining (interior wall of the uterus).
The success rate in which women experience complete implantation may vary widely depending on the age and health of the woman, but Dr. Lori Marshall, a fertility expert from Seattle, Washington, says that fertilized eggs probably only implant about 50 percent of the time.
In some cases, Dr. Marshall says that implantation may take place but be incomplete.
This means that while the woman may actually experience a biochemical pregnancy, she will have low levels of one of the pregnancy hormones, B-HCG. In other words, a heartbeat will never have a chance to be established in a partially complete implantation.
What Does hCG Have to do With Implantation Cramps?
If a full implantation has taken place, then the placenta will immediately begin to form and secrete one of the major pregnancy hormones, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
When hCG levels rise high enough, a signal will be sent to the corpus luteum to continue producing progesterone, which will trigger the uterus to maintain its lining and support the developing embryo versus shedding the uterine lining (as in a period).
After implantation occurs, a woman's levels of hCG double about every 2 - 3 days until it reaches around 25 IU/ml around 6 days or so. This is when hCG can be detected in a home pregnancy test.
What is Implantation Cramping
For many women, implantation cramps are one of the very early signs that conception has taken place. Implantation cramping is a common occurrence that happens when a newly fertilized egg burrows itself into the lining of your uterus.
When a blastocyst is read to implant itself into the uterine lining, the mucous membrane that protects the uterine lining must change to allow the blastocyst to attach. This change in the lining can lead to cramping and bleeding.
Why Does Implantation Cause Cramps?
After the newly fertilized egg has made its way through one of the fallopian tubes, it proceeds to burrow into the uterine lining, the mucus membrane of the uterine lining changes shape and muscles tighten to allow the egg to implant.
This change of the uterine lining and the tightening of the muscles both lead to mild contractions that feel like cramping or mild pain along with some implantation bleeding and other symptoms of implantation.
When Does Implantation Cramping Happen?
Cells start to divide and multiply rapidly within 24 hours of conception. The fertilized egg will spend about three or four days in the fallopian tube before it slowly makes its way down the tube into the uterus and develops into a blastocyst.
Implantation cramping does not necessarily occur at the same time as implantation first starts as it can last for a few days.
Implantation cramping can happen at different times for different women, but usually begins between 6 and 11 days after the date of conception.
Where Do Implantation Cramps Occur?
Implantation cramps can normally be felt within the lower part of your abdomen. However, pains can occur in other parts of your body as well. Many women report implantation pains in the lower back as well (similar to back pain during ovulation or your period).
Some women report the feeling on both sides of the abdomen, while other women claim that it only occurs on one side, or switches from side to side.
These cramps can often be confused with period cramps except that they are accompanied by more of a pulling or tugging feeling, as I will discuss in greater detail below.
What Do Implantation Cramps Feel Like?
Implantation cramps should feel like mild or slight moderate pains, but are so very different for every woman. I asked a few friends to describe what their implantation cramps felt like and this is what they said:
Abby said she felt about 10 seconds of a very sharp pain that was only in one specific spot in the left side of her lower abdomen. She also says that she felt some fluttering inside her abdomen as though her stomach muscles were quivering. She thought it was just her period, but when her period did not arrive, she took a pregnancy test and found out she was, indeed, pregnant.
Barb said that at first hers felt more like there were feather tickling her insides or twitching on the right side of her uterus. She says the sensation only happened for about 5 min. The next day, she felt an awful pinch on the same side and had to lie down for a while. After that pinch, Barb did not feel anything else painful during the implantation period.
Kristin told me that her experience was much more mild than the previous two women. At about 5 days past ovulation, Kristin said she felt what was like a dull ache in the lower region of her belly that was almost like a slight bruise on the inside. She says this ache continued for a few days and there was no spotting.
Lisa said she had a similar experience as Kristin, but that she also felt gas pains and bloating in her belly. Along with the gas pains, she said she could feel a shooting, but mild, pain in her lower back.
How Long Does Implantation Cramping Last?
Implantation usually begins around one or two weeks after ovulation and usually lasts for a few days. Implantation cramping can start the moment implantation first starts and is usually pretty brief (between 1 and 3 days).
The body of every woman is different and women can experience different things with each pregnancy. Some women report that implantation cramping only lasted a few minutes and occurred at different times, while others reported a relatively constant cramping that continued over a couple of days.
Common Symptoms That Accompany Implantation Cramps
One way to tell that cramping is due to implantation is to look for the other signs that normally accompany implantation cramping during the early stages of a pregnancy. These signs include:
- Light or faint cramping
- Mood swings
- Breast Tenderness
- Lower Backaches
- Bleeding or Spotting
As you can see, the signs of implantation are very common with the signs of a normal menstrual cycle, so it is important to tell the difference.
Implantation Cramps vs. Period Cramps
Due to the fact that both implantation and periods occur around the same time and with similar signs, the two occurrences are often confused with one another.
While not every woman will have the exact same experiences with implantation cramps or period cramps, there are still some minor differences between the two.
1. Differences in Timing
Implantation cramping generally happens around the same time that most women would expect their next menstrual cycle to begin and this timing causes lots of women to mistake implantation cramps for premenstrual cramps.
If an egg is not fertilized within 24 hours of release, your hormone levels will drop and your uterine lining will begin to shed (you will menstruate) about 12-16 days from ovulation.
Menstrual cramps occur during a period which happens once every 28 days if there is no pregnancy. You get menstrual cramps when your uterus contracts to expel its lining due to a trigger by substances called prostaglandins.
If the egg is fertilized, then implantation (attachment to interior lining of the uterus) will occur some time between 6 and 12 days after ovulation, initiating a pregnancy. Implantation cramping and spotting will often be noticeable at the time that implantation takes place.
It is safe to say that if you are having cramps and it is around a week or more before your period is due, it is likely to be implantation cramping. If you are having cramps and it is only a few days before your period is due, you are probably having menstruation cramps.
2. Differences in Spotting and Bleeding
While not all women have the same blood flow during their menstrual period or the same kind of spotting during implantation, there are some normal standards of each. The key differences lie in color, clotting, amount, duration, and odor.
Color: Regardless of whether or not a woman has a heavier period or a lighter period, the color is usually pretty consistent. In a period, the blood is a bright or dark (but usually deep) red, while implantation bleeding is typically light pink or dark brown light rust.
Clotting: Many women experience clotting during their menstrual cycle. While some experience lighter clotting than others, there should not be any clotting during implantation.
Amount: Most women will only spot or discharge a few drops of light pink or brown liquid during implantation bleeding that is only visible when the woman wipes herself or inspects her panty liner closely. During a period, however, many woman can bleed enough to completely fill up a maxi pad or tampon.
Duration: Implantation bleeding normally only lasts from a few hours to about 3 days. Periods, however, can range from between 3 and 7 days with women on birth control having shorter duration of bleeding (if any) than women who are not on birth control.
Odor: Period blood can have a strong odor that smells a lot like blood should (rusty) with a hint of a musky or fishy odor. On the other hand, implantation bleeding presents little or no odor at all. If it does have a strong odor, it may be indicative of an infection and should be checked out by a doctor.
3. How Do Implantation Cramps Feel Different From Period Cramps
Implantation cramps are not the same as period (menstrual) cramps but can feel similar. Both types of cramps can differ from woman to woman, but have some general consistencies.
Implantation cramps can usually be described as pricking, dull, uncomfortable, twitching, fluttering, pulling, and mild.
On the other hand, menstrual cramps feel more like a stabbing or squeezing feeling and are often accompanied by feeling bloated and gassy. Menstrual cramps are usually a lot more painful than implantation cramps and can cause a woman to have to take regular breaks.
How Soon After Implantation Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?
To determine the best time for a woman take a pregnancy test, she should consider what date conception took place. Implantation usually occurs between 6 and 11 days after conception took place.
Under normal circumstances, a woman should wait until about 3 or 4 days after implantation, which is roughly 10 days after ovulation (fertilization) and about 4 or 5 days before the first day of the next period is due.
Ways to Alleviate Implantation Cramps
Implantation cramps may be normal just after conception, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer needlessly. There are several home remedies that you can try to help alleviate your pain after you have been examined by a doctor to rule out serious threats to your pregnancy.
1. Alleviating Implantation Cramps with Warmth
A warm compress or warm water on your back or pelvis can alleviate cramping by relaxing the ligaments and muscles in your uterus. Lay very still as you let the warmth ease your pains away.
2. Using Pilates to Alleviate Implantation Cramps
Pilates is great for easing more than just your abdominal muscles. It can also help improve your flexibility, increase your muscle strength and tone, and relieve lower back pain, hips, and buttocks.
Follow along with this video for five simple pelvic floor pilates exercises:
3. How to Use Yoga to Alleviate Implantation Cramps
Yoga is also excellent for overall health during pregnancy. These exercises can help you maintain a healthy mind and body and relieve both mental and physical tension through the development of proper breathing and relaxation techniques.
Follow along with this great tutorial video:
What to Avoid When You Have Implantation Cramps
When you have period cramps, your first instinct may be to reach for your favorite pain pills. However, if you think that you have just experienced implantation, you may want to wait until you know for sure. There are many things that you should avoid if you think you are having implantation cramps.
There is strong evidence that links taking aspirin during pregnancy to a possible increase in the risk of a miscarriage. However, some doctors may prescribe low dose aspirin to women with antiphospholipid syndrome to prevent miscarriage.
Antiphospholipid syndrome is a clotting disorder and some studies have shown that very low doses of aspirin may thin the blood, which may lessen a woman's risk for miscarriage. However, for women who have had a history of past miscarriages, aspirin may actually increase a woman's risk of additional miscarriages.
In contrast to aspirin, there seems to be definitive proof that any dose of non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NA-NSAIDS), such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) clearly increase a woman's risk of having a miscarriage during early pregnancy.
It is very unlikely that any doctor would recommend you take these drugs for pain due to their high link to complications.
Anick Berard, PhD, FISPE, who is an epidemiologist and professor of pharmacy at the University of Montreal and a director of the research unit on pregnancy and medications at the Quebec Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Ste. Justine said that women who took NA-NSAIDS during early pregnancy had a significant increase in risk of spontaneous abortion.
Opioids such as codeine, morphine, or oxycodone should all be avoided during any stage in your pregnancy, but especially during the early months.
A study that is supported by the March of Dimes and the Mayo Clinic states that infants who are born to mothers who used opioids are at risk for miscarriage during early pregnancy and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
NAS is the term given to a group of conditions that are caused when a baby has become addicted to opiods while in the mother's womb and then is suddenly born without access to the opiods and goes into withdrawal.
Even if the baby survives and does not have NAS, there can still be a risk of preterm labor, premature birth, low birthweight, birth defects, and fetal growth restriction.
However dangerous opioids are to a developing baby, the mother should never try to stop use on her own just because she has found out that she is pregnant. Rapidly stopping opioids can lead to very dangerous physical and mental withdrawals and so should only been done under a doctor’s supervision.
When to Call Your Doctor About Implantation Cramps
While mild and brief cramping is common during implantation, it should never last more than a couple of days or be extremely painful.
If it does happen to be really severe pain or lasts more than just a couple of days at any point during your pregnancy, you should notify your doctor to rule out the following possible problems:
The only way to make sure you have not or are not having a miscarriage is to have a full examination by your doctor. However, there six major symptoms to be aware of along with your cramping:
- Heavy Bleeding or Clotting: While a little bit of spotting is normal during implantation, heavy bleeding or clotting is not normal.
- Loss of Other Early Pregnancy Symptoms: If you are cramping, but are not feeling any additional signs of pregnancy (such as morning sickness or sore breasts), you may want to have your doctor check you out.
- Unusual Discharge: Discharge that is whitish/pink or full of mucus should not be considered a normal sign of pregnancy.
- Extreme Abdominal Pain: Of course a little pain during implantation is normal, but if it persists for several days or grows stronger over time, you should notify your doctor.
- Rapid Weight Loss: Weight gain is common during a normal pregnancy, but weight loss should be presented to your doctor.
- Painful Contractions: Some pulling or quivering during implantation is normal, but you should not be experiencing any painful contractions. If you are having painful contractions that are between 5 and 20 minutes apart, you should notify your doctor.
If you have any combination of these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately for an examination.
Preeclampsia (also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension) is a condition that develops when you have a combination of new protein in your urine and high blood pressure. Though most commonly diagnosed after you are 20 weeks pregnant, it can occur earlier.Preeclampsia can have a dangerous effect on your placenta, kidneys, liver and brain and is usually accompanied by symptoms of swelling in your hands, face, or feet, rapid weight gain, intense pain in your upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and severe headaches or migraines.
3. Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI), also known as a bladder infection, occurs when bacteria causes your urinary tract to become inflamed. UTIs are very uncomfortable and are much more common during pregnancy.
Left untreated a UTI can cause a kidney infection which could trigger a preterm labor and/or cause low birth weight.If you get a UTI during early pregnancy, you will most likely feel pain or discomfort when you urinate and will have to urinate more often than normal. Common signs of a UTI include cloudy or bloody urine, strong-smelling urine, pain during sex, severe cramps, back pain, fever, and nausea.
If you think you have a UTI, you will probably need an antibiotic so the first thing you should do is call your doctor. Drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated are good ways to help prevent or combat UTIs.
To Wrap Up…
I hope you found all the answers you were seeking about implantation cramping. I tried to include all of the necessary information that I could find. If you think I left anything out or you would like to add your own story or questions, please leave a comment below.
Enderle, L. (September 12, 2011). NSAID Use Tied to Miscarriage Risk. [Web].
Implantation stages from embryology.ch at by the universities of Fribourg, Lausanne and Bern (Switzerland). Retrieved August 14, 2018.
Margarit, L.; Taylor, A.; Roberts, M. H.; Hopkins, L.; Davies, C.; Brenton, A. G.; Conlan, R. S.; Bunkheila, A.; Joels, L.; White, J. O.; Gonzalez, D. (2010). "MUC1 as a Discriminator between Endometrium from Fertile and Infertile Patients with PCOS and Endometriosis". The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 95 (12): 5320–5329. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-0603. ISSN 0021-972X