Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference? 1757

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, a 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!

1,757 thoughts on “Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference?

  • Celine

    On August 3rd (which was my ovulation day) I had unprotected sex. I also had unprotected sex on a few days of my fertile days. I now started my p on the 17th but it’s light pink and brown and not like my normal p. Idk if it’s implantation or my actual p. Please help

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Implantation is not what’s described as a flow at all, but just a few drops, though on occasion a hormone dip at implantation can cause a very light bleed. If this light bleed has lasted 2-3 days, it’s unlikely it’s implantation and is probably either a light or slow-starting period.

  • Himani

    For the past couple of cycles my periods have been topsy turvy – I get dark red/brown blood with clots starting of my period and bright red watery blood at the end of my period – been to the doctor and she says it is just hormonal. Is this normal?

    I was on Pill for 15 years before coming off it an year ago. Usually my periods were quite heavy lasting about 7-10 and now they are very light lasting barely 3-4 days.

    My main concern is that start of my period I am getting clotted dark blood and end of my period I am getting watery bright red blood.


    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It’s normal to have less regular periods while not on the pill, yes. the pill will regulate hormone levels while the body naturally can fluctuate a bit. It’s also normal to have a heavier flow (with or without clots) at the beginning of your cycle and a lighter flow which may appear watery due to an early estrogen rise. If there’s no severe pain, off odors, or multiple clots larger than a quarter, this isn’t cause for concern.

  • kitty

    8/1 messed around with someone. no penetration but pokes against my vagina a bit. ejaculated outside of me, on my vulva. (claimed to have a vasectomy but who knows)
    8/4 period arrives
    8/15 hospital visit, no sign of pregnancy
    8/23 next hospital visit, no sign of pregnancy
    9/17-9/18(7:30pm-present) red-orange, deep pink discharge when I use the restroom and wipe
    9/18 (9:30am) one at home pregnancy test comes back negative
    *im an idiot and forgot to mark down my latest period. i THINK i had mine this month already because i remember being annoyed about not doing it.*

    With 3-4 negative pregnancy tests, a period on time after possible conception, could I still be pregnant? I’m just worried that this random bleeding is implantation bleeding. It is different than my regular flow.

  • Kanoi Pichon

    I am now almost 2 weeks late on my period. I keep thinking I’m I’m about to start because of cramping and headaches, but I’ve only spotted a couple of times. Is this a sign pregnancy? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It could be, but then the symptoms of pregnancy are just severe hormonal imbalance, which is also the underlying cause of a late period. You could either wait and see what happens or just go ahead and test.

  • Sarah

    I am 11.5 weeks post D&C and awaiting my second cycle. My first cycle came 5 weeks after the surgery and now I am over 6 weeks since the last cycle. I took a digital hpt at 6 weeka and it was negative. I am trying to keep track of ovulation and think I ovulated 11 days ago. I experienced a small amount of bright red bleeding after intercourse. Is this implantation bleeding or the start of my cycle? Any other women experience delayed cycles after a D&C? I am just ready to have a normal cycle or become pregnant!

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      I’m sorry for your loss. Later first trimester losses like this can really do a number on your hormones, weird cycles are to be expected. If the light bleeding was earlier than 6 days after intercourse, it was likely just a cervical bleeding from the intercourse itself or possibly a hormonal dip. If it was longer than 6 days, then yes, it could be implantation. Fingers crossed you get your rainbow baby soon.