What is implantation bleeding?
Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the wall of the womb.
During implantation the tissue surrounding the fertilised egg burrows into the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), forming links with the mother's blood supply and body tissue that will gradually develop into the baby's lifeline for the next 9 months, the placenta. It is during the attachment process that a small amount of blood may be released.
What does implantation bleeding look like?
Most women report experiencing implantation bleeding as light spotting that's either light pink or brown in colour. Unlike menstruation it tends only to appear over a period of one - three days and is usually intermittent rather than a regular flow that becomes heavier over time.
When does it occur?
Implantation bleeding tends to occur before menstruation is expected, this is usually between six and twelve days after ovulation. Most women experience menstruation approximately 14 days after ovulation however this will depend on your individual cycle.
How common is implantation bleeding?
Contrary to popular belief, not all women experience implantation bleeding. In fact, it's thought that only a third of women experience this phenomenon. However, because of the similarity of implantation bleeding to the early stages of menstruation it is possible that some women simply miss its occurrence. That said, if you're trying for a baby it is also very easy to misread menstrual spotting as implantation bleeding. For this reason, while early spotting can be an indicator of pregnancy it's always best to wait to test until after the date your period was due.
How to spot implantation bleeding
While there is no way of being 100% sure whether spotting is an implantation bleed until you have missed a period there are a couple of useful indicators that can help you check.
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- Appearance - Implantation bleeding tends to be a lighter pink/brown colour rather than the dark red that's usual for menstrual blood.
- Timing - If you conceive you will experience implantation bleeding before your period is due, usually around 9 days after you ovulate.
- Duration - Implantation bleeding tends only to last for a day or two and occurs intermittently.
- Heaviness - Unlike the progressively heavy flow of a menstrual period, implantation bleeding tends only to occur as light spotting or coloured discharge.