Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference? 1659

Regardless of whether or not you’re trying to become pregnant or hoping you aren’t pregnant, the question implantation bleeding or period  is rather important. This raises another important question, just how do you tell: implantation bleeding or period?
implantation bleeding or period

What is implantation bleeding?

Implantation bleeding is bleeding that occurs as a result of a fertilized egg implanting in the uterine wall. This bleeding is the first recognizable sign of pregnancy and does not occur in all cases.

What is menstrual bleeding?

While most women already know what a period is, just for knowledge’s sake, a menstrual cycle is on average 28 days in length, but may vary from woman to woman. In this time, an egg should be released (about mid-way through your cycle), if the egg is fertilized it implants in the uterine wall and implantation bleeding may occur, if it’s not fertilized this egg travels on and is shed with the uterine lining. If you don’t release an egg, your period may be delayed, but you will likely still experience bleeding. Ovulation, or the release of this egg, can be confirmed by charting your basal body temperature.

Implantation bleeding or period? How can you tell?

Now that you understand what both are, let’s talk about how you can tell them apart. Implantation bleeding will generally occur 6 to 12 days after intercourse or ovulation so pay attention to when your period should be and when this mysterious bleeding occurs. If you experiencing bleeding sightly earlier than you should, this could be a sign of implantation bleeding.

The difference

Implantation blood is usually a different color than your average menstrual blood being either darker and more brown (old blood) or lighter and pinkish (very new, light bleeding). Given the implanting egg is the size of a pinhead, implantation bleeding is very light and shorter in duration than your regular cycle– unless of course you don’t normally have one. Implantation usually just appears as just the faintest pink showing up on toilet paper when you use the bathroom or even just one to two tiny spots of blood. Implantation will not cause heavy bleeding, however, there are other ways one can be pregnant and still experience period-like bleeding. Some women also get a slight hormone dip at implantation that can cause both a temperature dip on basal body charts and possibly some light spotting. This type of bleeding is not a heavy flow.

Keep in mind that only about one third of women experience implantation bleeding. If you suspect pregnancy or have had unprotected sex, don’t assume that you’re not pregnant simply because you didn’t experience this symptom. Some women become pregnant and exhibit no symptoms what so ever.

Beyond answering the question implantation bleeding or period, a pregnancy test will always be the best way to ease your mind. Be sure to take the test after your regular period should have been and not immediately after the bleeding. Even if it is implantation bleeding, the pregnancy test will probably still read negative as hCG levels will be insufficient. On average it takes about 48 hours to get even a faint positive test.

If you are trying to decide between implantation bleeding or period, you may also enjoy these other pages on Life with Gremlins:
How to Calculate Your Chances of Pregnancy (includes quiz link)
Period blood colors and Textures
Early Signs of Pregnancy Quiz
Period While Pregnant: Is It Possible?

Did you experience bleeding during your pregnancy or did you have bleeding and think you were pregnant, but weren’t? We want to hear your story. We have a page set up for them here.

A note on comments: I usually respond to comments within 24 hours. All comments are moderated before they appear on the site to eliminate spam. I reply to each and every one as I approve them, but please remember, I am not a doctor nor a replacement for medical care. I can’t possibly tell you if you are or are not pregnant over the Internet, and I cannot diagnose you just based on symptoms over the Internet either. I do have a medical background (medical assisting) and am a mother of four who struggled with infertility as well as multiple miscarriages, but I am not a doctor nor claim to be one.

In an effort to slay the spam monster and ensure no comment gets left unread, your comments are moderated and won't appear until approved. Sorry about that, and thanks for reading!

1,659 thoughts on “Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference?

  • Karisa

    Hi. I was wondering if anyone could help me, I had my last period on 8/14/15 and on 9/4/15 I had one drop of pink on toilet paper when I wiped and now have very light bleeding that stops and comes back for 3 days now and is dark then light blood started 9/10/15 could I be pregnant?..

    • unwirklich admin

      Possibly, when should have your period arrived, 9/13? You could be experiencing:
      (pregnant) break though bleeding
      (pregnant) ectopic pregnancy
      (were pregnant) miscarriage
      (not pregnant) hormonal imbalance
      (not pregnant) normal cycle flux (depends on what your normal is)

      A test may help guess which.

    • Soph

      Ok so I had my period on march 15 and on my cycle app shows I was fertile on march 24-30 my husband and I did the deed on Sunday 26 and the 29th which is my ovulation day well my period was suppose to start on 12th of April and I just had like a breakthru bleed. And still have not started I have taken 2 test and they are both negative what do u I do? Wait longer? My husband has been having morning sickness and that is what happen with our first child two weeks later I found out I was pregnant

      • unwirklich admin

        If you started any new supplements, changed your diet/activity level, that could be to blame. Since you are 14+ days from the act, your tests should have been accurate. Apps like you describe can be great to get a rough idea of ovulation, but other methods such as OPKs and BBT tracking can improve your chances. We have a full page on pinpointing ovulation here.

  • Era

    I have PCOS and Endometriosis; and in May I stopped my Nexplanon bc… I haven’t had a period until this past Saturday… I noticed dark brown blood when I wiped. And I am still seeing some now. It has been anything from a dot to light flow. I am lightly cramping and feeling quite a bit of pressure. Idk what is happening… advice please. ..

    • unwirklich admin

      Irregularities are really common when stopping or starting BC, it could just be that, hormonal shifts as your body adjusts to regulating things itself again. If you’ve had unprotected sex, yes, it could also be implantation bleeding or break through bleeding. I’d wait and see how it progresses, take a pregnancy test in about a week if the bleeding stops entirely and you have symptoms.

      Brown blood is usually light bleeding that took some time to exit the vaginal canal (and so is exposed to air) so the color isn’t anything to be concerned by. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    My period is early having pain in my lower back also I usually dont have any cramping in my lower back. Also the bleeding is a bright red and has been light. When I usually have an heavy menstrual and it gets darker. My partner and I have been trying took a test and it was negative. How do I know if it is implantation or my period.

    • unwirklich admin

      Early and light is a good sign, but really until you get a positive test or not its impossible to say which it is. Keep in mind that a test will not be positive the day of implantation bleeding. It will take a minimum of 48 hours even for a light positive, assuming it is not simply an early period or spotting.

  • Jona

    Hi, my last period was 1 st of July, I have very regular period of 30 days. I had unprotected sex on 23-25 of july. My perioda are 9 days late. I made home test resulted negative.
    Also on the 5 August I had only one light spooting which was pink.
    Is it pregnancy or something else?
    Thank you

    • unwirklich admin

      On a 30 day cycle with day 1 at July 1st your fertile period in most cases would have been sometime between the 12th and 18th, this decreases the chance of pregnancy, but doesn’t rule it out. You could have ovulated late, but Aug 5 would also be quite late for implantation bleeding from the 25th. I’d bet you either had an annovulary cycle or the spotting on the 5th was ovulation and you were simply very late.

      See Missed Period Negative Pregnancy Test for more detail.

  • andrea

    Hi, I’m kind of confused because I usually start my period on the 28th or the beginning of the month usually 2-4 anyways around the 28th of July I had pinkish spotting which I believed was spotting considering that’s what I did with my first…well about 2 to 3 days later I had brown discharge but wasn’t enough to use a tampon considering I hate pads so I used a panty liner and have been doing it on and off and sometimes I don’t even have to use a panty liner and I’ll just see it 8 in the toilet or on the toilet paper…I’m not sure if this would have anything to do with me maybe being pregnant because I did none of this with my first and I don’t want to get my hopes up because we would like another baby but whatever happens happens is how we are doing it……any advice on this??

    • unwirklich admin

      Pregnancy is one possibility yes, light spotting such as you describe in the case of pregnancy is often actually break through bleeding rather than implantation. This is where hormone levels are still low enough some bleeding occurs, but not a full flush so to speak. Break through bleeding is fairly common. However, there are other explanations for light bleeding, such as a high progesterone cycle or lack of ovulation.

      A few posts here with more detail:
      Early Pregnancy Bleeding
      Irregular Periods
      Negative Test/Missed Period (assuming you’ve tested)

  • Mehreen

    Yes. Sorry. I was so impatient after the periods. Have been crying since.
    Hope I will become a mother soon! It’s so shattering. I even started thinking of names and the due date.

  • Mehreen

    I had vaginismus. 5 years of marriage and no children. Last year I got my hymen removed and started using dilators.
    I had my last period on 04/07/2015
    I had artificial insemination on 20/07/2015
    And for the first time ever my husband was able to discharge in me on 26/07/2015
    My periods got delayed by two days, didn’t come on due date. They are always regular
    Today by afternoon I got a small tiny pink clot on my pad with little brown spot.
    Then after an hour bleeding got heavier. It has clots.
    I am not pregnant! Right!

    • unwirklich admin

      Yes, heavy clots are very rarely normal pregnancy bleeding. Try not to be discouraged, it takes most couples at least 6 months to get pregnant, it could take some time.

      On your where-did-my-comment-go note, comments are moderated to avoid spam. I have to manually approve them, but it also means I never fail to reply. 🙂 Admittedly my comments don’t go to moderation, so I was unaware there is no prompt letting folks know this. I’ll have to look into that. Anyway, good luck and baby dust.

  • Confused

    My husband and I have been trying to conceive. My LMP was June 21/15. I ovulated around the 5/6th of July and had Unprotected sex July 3rd and 5th. I had what I thought was implantation bleeding on July 16th. My period was expected July 20th which I still have not received. I have been having nausea, dizzy spells and hot spells. I seen my GP today as all home tests say I am not pregnant. I had a Beta HCG which was 0… does this mean I am most likely NOT pregnant??

    • unwirklich admin

      A blood test with 0 hCG would mean not pregnant yes. I have never heard of a false negative on a blood test (excluding lab error), if your home tests say negative too, I’d say it’s confirmed. How are you confirming ovulation? It’s entirely possible you simply ovulated late (many women experience implantation like bleeding at ovulation). If the 16th was actually ovulation bleeding, you’d expect bleeding likely around Aug 1st.

        • unwirklich admin

          Hmm, that is strange. It is possible you geared up to ovulate, then didn’t, and did later. Ovulation tests pick up LH a hormone that triggers ovulation, sometimes it can spike without ovulation, that’s why most fertility guides recommend basal body temping as well for confirmation of actual ovulation. Though its also possible you just had some mid-cycle spotting. Either way, fingers crossed you get your positive next round. 🙂

  • Sara

    I ovulated on July 14th and me and my husband had unprotected sex on July 20th. I just had some light brown spotting when I went to the bathroom. I am not supposed to start my period until July 31st. Could this be implantation bleeding?

    • unwirklich admin

      No, implantation bleeding occurs as the egg implants into the uterine lining, it takes a minimum of 6 days for the egg to travel through the fallopian tubes, so you could have implantation bleeding no sooner than the 26th. Brown spotting immediately following sex is more than likely cervical trauma (normal with vagina intercourse). If you are trying to conceive, you also need to aim for intercourse closer to ovulation. You are most fertile 48 hours after ovulation. Chances of pregnancy are low 6 days after, very low.

      • toni-ann

        my period is due around the the 25 Aug however I had sex on the 7/8. While I was at work on the 22/8 at one stage I felt very faintish and tired differently from befor. but on the 23/8 I went to use the loo I spotted a light pinkish blood but I normally have signs befor I start my period and it’s never light . It only lasted for couple hours. Nothing Monday 24 until now Tues evening 25/8 but once again it’s very light n pinkish. What could it be.

        • unwirklich admin

          The timeline is plausible for pregnancy yes, though occasional pre-period spotting is not horribly unusual. All you can really do is wait and see if the bleeding picks up and take a pregnancy test if it doesn’t.

          Also, a note, many women suspect pregnancy based on early symptoms, but realistically its unlikely symptoms before about 2 weeks after implantation are pregnancy related at all. Progesterone is present in every menstrual cycle, in pregnancy it simply continues to rise rather than fall, so many times people mistake regular PMS for pregnancy symptoms. If you don’t generally have those symptoms, a high progesterone cycle will also cause a delayed period. Pregnancy symptoms typically start just like PMS, but become worse as time passes (because progesterone continues to rise and then remains very high throughout the first trimester). Those ultrahigh levels also cue the nausea for some.

  • bre

    I came on my period around the same time I usually do but it was just very light sometimes no blood I had sex and after wards again I’m still spotting its been Two weeks. But I have the implanon In my arm it expired two Years ag . I don’t know what’s wrong I’m going crazy please hel .

    • unwirklich admin

      Implantation spotting is not typically long term, though situations such as ectopic pregnancy could cause that. Hormonal imbalance is more likely. I’d speak with a care provider, get that implant dealt with.

  • Stephanie

    Hey.. Quick question, my husband and I had unprotected sex on the tenth of July and I started noticing blood on toilet paper when I wipe on July 13th. I’ve never had a period start on the 13. Last month it came on the 20th. Also I have heavy periods, and since the 13th everytime I wipe I see a brownish streak that’s barely noticeable most times. Could I be pregnant and it be implantation bleeding this soon?

    • unwirklich admin

      3 days after is physically impossible for implantation bleeding. It could be cervical or vaginal canal bleeding. Either can sometimes be damaged during sex. It could also be normal mid-cycle spotting or ovulation spotting. You could also be having a low progesterone cycle (progesterone prevents bleeding after ovulation).

  • ayesha

    Hi I have been using the clear blue ovulation kit as I am trying to conceive. Me and my partner have had sex throughout the month. I normally have periods twice a month. My expected period again is in 2 days but I have a light spotting, when I go to the loo there is only a few drops of blood and when I wipe it is pink. It has been 2 days nearly, is that my period or implantation bleeding?

    • unwirklich admin

      It’s impossible for me to answer that. It could be either. Many periods begin with spotting, and implantation bleeding often looks like spotting. Are you temping? That could shed a little more light. A sustained high temp is a great sign or even an implantation dip, though both can occur even when you aren’t pregnant. Sadly, I can’t say much more for sure than you’ll have to wait and test/see if the bleeding becomes heavier.

      • ayesha

        Hi thank you for your reply. No it has not become heavier, just few drops of red blood now, becoming even lighter. I have tested and it says negative. I guess I have to wait a few more days to know what really is going on

  • julie spires

    Hi I’m ttc my period isn’t due till next week but on.Monday I started bleeding very lightly its very bright red with a tinge of yellow had a panty lingering but had to run to the shop to get pads as I’m one of those hygiene geek when it come to aunt flow. I normally get heavy periods cramps the lot,but not this time,plus my breast normally stop being sore when I start bleeding but you got it not time they are still sore. I missed carried last august. But when I was pregnant I had none of this…

    • unwirklich admin

      This is another one of those situations where all I can really say is could be pregnancy, could be normal hormonal flux or an imbalance. That you didn’t have the symptoms before doesn’t rule much out, as every pregnancy is different (I’ve had 6 and none have been the same), and while bleeding is generally only a few drops or so with implantation bleeding, I have known women who had a light flow. It seems only a heavy flow is exceptionally uncommon. Basically, I’m no help lol I’d wait and test.

  • nix

    hi..I have been following the glow app to track my ovulation and periods as I am trying to conceive. However one day before starting my period which was a day early (yesterday) , I felt nauseous all day with no appetite which has never been a symptom of my periods. I started my period today and it’s a light period with almost no cramping at all. I feel super sleepy even thought I had 8 hours of sleep last night. what could it be?

    • unwirklich admin

      It is possible to have light bleeding, much like a period, and still be pregnant (break through bleeding). The symptoms on the other hand are likely just typical PMS, pregnancy symptoms wouldn’t kick in so soon as the day before your period is just after implantation in most cases if you are pregnant. I’d give it a day or so, take a home pregnancy test and hope for the best. We tried for baby 4 for a long time, and sadly, I will say that trying messes with your head. I can’t count how many times I was sure I was pregnant. Good luck and baby dust. 🙂

  • shelly

    This is very helpful. Before reading glasses this I was so depressed that I may be having a miscarriage. I have some hope now that it may be implantation bleeding. I started off with the spots of light pink blood for two days but overnight I saw more than a spot on the third day. But still not enough resembling my period which is usually heavy red blood flowing for four days. I’m hoping it’s implantation bleeding