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Is It Implantation Bleeding or Just a Visit from Aunt Flo?

Waiting until you're officially "late" to take a pregnancy test can feel like agony, especially when you really want to have a baby. The most frustrating part is thinking your period is late and then discovering a little blood in your underwear. Although you might feel tempted to throw in the fertility towel for the month, you could actually be experiencing implantation bleeding.

Implantation bleeding happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to your uterine lining. The attachment can cause a tiny bit of your uterine lining to shed off, which shows up as brown or pink discharge. Although you might initially feel disheartened, this type of light spotting could mean you have a bun in the oven!

When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant with our second child, we felt like we were constantly watching the calendar, especially when my period was due. One day I noticed a little brown discharge when I went to the bathroom. Assuming it was just a visit from Aunt Flo, I went about my business and thought nothing of it. But after a couple of days, the spotting stopped, and I ended up having a positive pregnancy test a few weeks later.

Implantation Bleeding or Period

Implantation bleeding can mimic menstruation, especially during those first few days of your period when you have a lighter flow or if you normally experience light periods, so you might feel confused when you start spotting. Here's how to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and menstruation:

  • Watch the flow: Bleeding from implantation is light and remains light, but menstruation starts light and gets heavier. Implantation bleeding does not contain blood clots, which often appear during menstruation.
  • Check the color: Red blood that looks bright or vibrant points to menstruation, and discharge that appears light pink or brown can be a sign of implantation. Bleeding from implantation can occasionally look red, but it more commonly looks brown or pink.
  • Regularity: Menstrual flow typically continues through the full duration of your period without stopping, but bleeding from implantation can come and go. Implantation bleeding often causes spotting or off-and-on bleeding for about one or two days. This differs from a menstrual cycle, which normally lasts between four to seven days.
  • Cramping severity: Both menstruation and implantation bleeding can cause cramping, but cramps from your period feel much more intense. Light or faint cramping that never increases in intensity could mean implantation, especially if it's coupled with brown or pink discharge.

Additional Early Signs of Pregnancy

If you still can't tell whether your spotting looks like implantation or menstruation, you can always take an at-home pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN. She can tell you whether you should start looking for baby names or stocking up on sanitary napkins. In the meantime, watch for other early pregnancy symptoms, such as sore breasts, headaches, mood swings, sensitivity to smell and elevated basal body temperature.