Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference? 2211

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 is left unread, your comments are moderated and won't appear until approved. Sorry about that, and thanks for reading!

2,211 thoughts on “Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference?

  • Juan

    I had Sex with my girlfriend on the 20th of may twice at 1am and then at 9am her app saids her Ovulation ended on the 18th. We still used a condom just in case For both But they both slipped out unfortunately. But l pulled out (I always pull out no matter what). To calm my nerves I got her the plan b pill thirty mins later. So My question is can precum even get her pregnant ? How exactly does plan b prevent her from getting pregnant ? Is it true that it prevents the Sperm to reach the egg? Does it stop fertizlation from happening ? Thank you so much .

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      The chances of pregnancy with precum alone are less than 4 percent, and being 2 days after ovulation, you were probably safe unless she ovulated a bit late. Plan B doesn’t prevent fertilization, no. It contains a large dose of hormones that trick the body, so to speak, into believing it’s already pregnant. The primary effect is preventing ovulation, so since she had already ovulated or was very close to ovulatuion, it would be less effective. As a secondary effect, plan B will also thicken the uterine lining which makes it harder for an egg to implant.

  • Laura S

    Hi, I’m on the pill for the last 5 years and always get a heavy period bang on time (never ever late). It was due May 15th and I got nothing. On May 19th I spotted a tiny bit which disappeared within a day. I have been to the doctors yesterday (May 21st) and got a negative urine result but she didn’t have many answers for me and told me to try again next week. I did miss two pills this month. Could this spotting have been implantation bleeding?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      6 days late would be too late for implantation, but plenty for an accurate urine test. Missing pills can sometimes cause minor hormonal flux which may be why you’re period was late. Pregnancy isn’t impossible just unlikely.

  • Amanda

    Hi I had similar thing happen to me!! See I’m irregular I alway start my cycle always at different times! Well last week I notice a dark blood on my underwear so I assumed I was starting so I showered and put a pad on my period light yet a very very dark brown when usually my period are heavy but this time it was weirdly light and the color was the color of old blood it last as long as the average period. Me and my bf have been trying to conceive for two years after having a miscarriage. I didn’t get and period symptoms which is weird in my case cause my cramps get pretty bad and this time I had no cramps!! Then it stopped and the following day me and my bf had sex and as we were in the love making I started bleeding!! It stopped right after but what could this be?????? Is it implantion bleeding

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It’s a lot harder to guess between just spotting and implantation with an irregular cycle, unfortunately though, those with irregular cycles are also less likely to conceive at all 🙁 In your shoes, I would probably go ahead and test just to be sure, but it may also be time to speak with a fertility specialist. In most cases if a couple hasn’t conceived within a year, there’s an underlying issue, many of which can be treated (so at least some good news). Wishing baby dust your way.

  • Elaine

    I had unprotected sex 8 days ago. Yesterday I noticed a bit of brown on the toilet paper when i wiped. Also later that day unnoticed snot like discharge (sorry for the tmi) and today I noticed again that I had very faint brown marks on the paper when I wiped. Could i be pregnant? I’m also not on the pill.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      The timing seems plausible for implantation assuming the intercourse was also close to mid-cycle. If it wasn’t, this could be ovulation spotting, hormonal spotting, or even just a bit of vaginal or cervical bleeding from the intercourse (though 8 days would be a stretch on that last one).

  • Anonymous

    My period was 13th April , then on 29th April I experience brownish spotting on and off for 4 days, my cycle is 27, but up to now no period but urine test is negative . is their any problem?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Mid-cycle spotting is usually either from ovulation itself or hormonal (both of which aren’t cause for concern). Day 16 would be far too early for implantation. 🙂

  • Toni

    Hi, I don’t know if I am pregnant but it is a possibility. Me and my boyfriend had sex twice while I was ovulating, and I was supposed to start my period Friday the 18th but it was a very light pink color and then it turned light brown for two days and it wasn’t a lot. Every time I have a symptom I jump straight to being pregnant but it just didn’t seem normal. Does it sound like a possibility?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Anytime there’s intercourse there’s a chance of pregnancy, more so when it’s during ovulation, so yes, your very light bleeding in place of a period could be break through bleeding in pregnancy or it could just be a light period. A test would be your easiest answer.

  • Amy

    Hi I’m wondering if you can help me? Me and my husband have been ttc for the last 2 years, went had intercourse during my fertile window, I am regular every 28 days with my period, I am now 4 days late, I have nausea, pulling type cramps in my lower abdominal and headaches, but this morning I started bleeding so light which is nothing like my regular periods and went from dark brown to red to pink and I took a test which was negative, I think I got baby brain aswell lol. Could I be pregnant? Hope you can help.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If you’re 4 days later already and your test was negative, I’m afraid chances are pretty good you got an accurate result 🙁 It is possible that you ovulated a bit late and so the test was still to early, but if you have a pretty regular cycle that’s less likely. With how long you’ve been TTC a fertility specialist may be worth a visit. Wishing baby dust your way

  • X

    If I haven’t had my ovulation this month yet, and I didn’t have sex during my fertile period, but am having brown discharge and sometimes red, is it implantation bleeding? Also, it is my 3rd day of spotting and I read that implantation bleeding only lasts up to 2 days? So is this not implantation bleeding?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Implantation bleeding doesn’t last a set number of days. For most it’s actually just one single incident of pink on the toilet paper, with a hormone dip though there can be just some spotting over a few days. A lack of ovulation can also often come with spotting too, if you don’t ovulation the hormone cycle that causes your period is upset and pregnancy-like symptoms/irregular bleeding can occur. If it was pregnancy related, after 48 hours a test would be accurate, that would be the easiest answer.

  • Sarah

    My periods are normally regular enough always arriving 2 days early or so and I track them with an app I have on my phone. It was suppose to arrive on the 7th of may I had the usual symptoms that I always feel leading up to my period sore breasts, breakouts, tiredness, headaches, cramps and paleness. All of those symptoms started to die down except for the cramps and headaches, my breasts weren’t sore so that’s when I know my period is due the soreness of my breasts go. It ended up being 4 days late and I started to get watery discharge that wasn’t thick or lumpy and didn’t go onto my underwear just inside and I kept running to the toilet because it felt like my period had arrived I started to stress about it and it ended up arriving on Thursday night. it was quite heavy on Thursday and on friday and I felt like everything was fine then on Saturday it started to ease down with barely anything on my pad and then there ended up being no sign of blood when I went to the toilet. I’ve had no brown discharge just Normal deep blood. Today I woke up and there was light blood when I went to the toilet and I have some tissue down there that has some blood in the middle but nowhere near as much as I usually would have. my periods are normally super heavy day 2 and 3 and then start to die down but this is not like a normal one. They last about 6 days but this one finished after the second and now is starting to bleed light abouts again. I’m starting to freak out I’m only 22 I can’t have a baby I’m nowhere near ready and I’m so terrified to take a test does it sound like it could be pregnancy or just a messed up period? I’m googling everything that comes into my mind and I’m going to send myself into an early grave with the panick with the things it’s telling me everything I read says I’m pregnant. Please help

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If you saw what you’d call a “heavy” bleed, even if a bit wonky for you, the chances this is pregnancy related are a lot lower. It’s not impossible, but some sort of hormonal flux is more likely. Honestly, it’s best to just go ahead and test so you can stop stressing. 🙂

  • chayy

    I and my gf had a foreplay last mnth 19th like rubbing but no intercourse though we had protection. She usually gets periods between 8- 10 of everymonth. And this month she haven’t got yet. And today she got some faded colour blood drops may b 4 drops. Is there anything to worry.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      There’s no chance of pregnancy with just rubbing, especially with protection. She likely just had a slightly late period. A one-off cycle now and then is entirely normal.

  • Zainab

    My last menstruation ended on the 18th of April and I had sex on the 22 Nd of April , my circle is 25 days and today my period came which is 8 of may. It’s like my normal period but it’s quite early, and I also have nausea , swollen tender breast, fatigue. Could this be implantation bleeding btw it’s not light . Could I be pregnant I just got married last month Nd I want to get pregnant as soon a possible. Maybe I’m just over worrying

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      You won’t have pregnancy symptoms before implantation, because implantation is what signals the release of pregnancy hormones. 16 days after the act is also likely too late for implantation (many studies put 14 at the maximum). I’m leaning towards this was probably just an early period as a result of some form of minor hormonal flux (hence the pregnancy-like symptoms). If it was implantation though, a pregnancy test would be accurate after a minimum of 48 hours. Hope that helps. 🙂

  • Jo

    I got my period April 15. I had intercourse April 22 and may 2. I am supposed to get my period again may 14. I started spotting brown yesterday….. could I be pregnant?? And if so from which of the 2 occasions? I think I ovulated the week of April 22.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Based on the dates you gave I assume you run a 30-day cycle, in which case around day 14-15 would be likely for ovulation (April 29-30). If so, the 22nd would be a long shot for pregnancy being 7 days prior (sperm can only survive around 5 days) and the 2nd would also be a low chance as the average egg has a half-life of 12 hours (meaning 50% of all eggs are no longer viable at that time). I would say if you ovulated a bit late, the 2nd would be possible, if you ovulated early, the 22nd. I know that’s not very helpful, but without ovulation tracking it’s really hard to say. As far as spotting May 5th, that would line up with implantation from intercourse likely around April 25-27th (8 to 10 days is the average), but possible from 21-29. It is also possible it’s the start of an early period or hormonal spotting.

  • Lily

    I’m currently 10 months postpartum and did not get my first postpartum period. I’ve weaned my morning and afternoon feedings and only nurse at night (cosleeping). My husband and I had unprotected sex on 4/25, last Wednesday. On 5/3, the following Thursday, I wiped after using the restroom and saw very light pink spotting on the tissue. I thought my period was returning so I put a panty liner on only to find it not stained at all. I used the restroom again and saw same spotting only when I wiped. I never saw any more spotting since then. I took a pregnancy test today only to find out to be a negative. Ive been more fatigue and slight cramps/lower back pain. Is it possible to be pregnant before my period? Or does it sound like my period is returning?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It is possible to become pregnant without seeing a period postpartum, yes. It’s also possible your hormones just still haven’t settled enough for you to have a normal cycle too though. If the intercourse was 4/25, you’d want to wait until after 5/9 to test at the least for accurate results (14+ days after the act).

  • Aaliyah

    Hello, I have a period tracker app and it has never done me wrong on when I should get my period. I mark down symptoms and everything to make my prediction. But 5 days before my period I had unprotected sex and I’m on the pill but I messed up on it. And the last couple days I’ve been extremely tired and hungry. Even after I eat I still have this hunger. I also get these weird cramps and a little bit of nausea. But I got my period a day early but it’s light. It’s this brownish red but it’s kind of watery but doesn’t look really light it’s just lighter. I took a pregnancy test 3 days before today and had the negative line but the positive line was faint but you could see it!!! My mom knows and I’m 16 and she’s supportive but I’m kind of stuck on what to do?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Unfortunately, any second line on a pregnancy test is considered positive. It is, however, possible to get what’s call an evap or ghost line that can be mistaken for a positive result. I would go ahead and retest. The hormone that home pregnancy tests detect should roughly double every 48 hours, so at 3+ more days, your line should be darker if you are pregnant. My guess here based on timing (as the chance of fertility 5 days before a period is very, very low) is the “messed up” pill caused the cycle change (which actually +/-3 days is considered normal) and the test was a false positive, unless there was sexual activity at other times during your cycle.