Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference? 1931

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.

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1,931 thoughts on “Implantation Bleeding or Period: How Can You Tell the Difference?

  • Mark

    Hi my girlfriend and I had unprotected sex about 12 days ago, and her period starts next week. She complained two days ago of what felt like to her as period cramps. And then she said she was spotting a dark brown bad smell liquid. She’s on birth control, but it’s mostly for just hormonal. It’s the lightest form of birth control. Is she pregnant???

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If there was an odor to the discharge, infection is actually more likely. If it continues she may want to visit her care provider.

  • monika

    ok so im on birth control (depo vera) ive had sex thanksgiving weekend & had brown period blood like the next monday. ive been having this brown discharge for 2 & a half weeks. this week its a bright red blood & its not really heavy but i i looked today & i seen a blood clot that was bright pink , red white & yellow. it looked kind of weird, but whats this supposed to mean??

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Is the birth control new? If so it’s common to have some adjustment period. If it isn’t new, how long ago did you get your shot? If it’s near time to have another, you may also be seeing some hormonal flux from that as the hormone levels drop off. The chances of pregnancy are pretty low with depo, but if neither of the prior suggestions work for you, a pregnancy test might be a next step, followed by a care provider visit.

  • Joy

    Hi I have been having issues with my period for about 1yr now my flow is usually slimy and sometimes just flows for 2days or just a day but recently I noticed a very dark blood on my flow and it lasted just a day with no cramps ,please I really want to know if it normally ,or I have an infection or something great is wrong please and thankz

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If this type of light flow with heavy cervical mucus is normal for you, a very light bleed could easily come out brown. If there’s no pain, odor, or itching, infection is unlikely, and if the bleeds are timely each month, pregnancy is also a slim chance. An underlying hormonal issue is more likely, though if light periods are your only symptoms, I wouldn’t worry about it at all.