Are they one and the same?
If there’s one thing in common with implantation bleeding and a period, there’s some blood involved. But these two issues are not the same. Implantation bleeding sometimes happens when a fertilized egg, called an embryo, nestles in the uterine lining. As the embryo finds a comfortable place, tiny blood vessels may get damaged or dislodged. This can cause light bleeding. During the menstrual cycle, the body prepares for pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining. If pregnancy does not happen, the lining sheds, and the process starts again.
Timing is everything
There are a few signs to help tell the difference between implantation bleeding and a period. By gauging the timing of sex, some women can tell if the spotting is a sign of pregnancy. With implantation bleeding, the timing is usually 7-9 days after ovulation. Periods happen a bit later, about 14 days after ovulation. Implantation bleeding also lasts from a few hours to about 3 days. Periods, on the other hand, can last up to 7 days. Timing is often a good gauge, but there are more obvious signs.
Look at the color and flow
What is the color of the blood? Implantation often presents as a light pink to brown color, which is a sign of oxidation. Periods, however, will change to a bright red color. More importantly, check for the type of blood flow. Implantation bleeding is light spotting that happens intermittently. This can even go unnoticed, except when wiping. Some women may notice the spotting on panty liners. Periods will start lightly but can go into a full flow. If the blood clots and fills up a tampon or pad, chances are this is not implantation bleeding.
Comparing other symptoms
For women that are still unsure, look for other subtle symptoms. With implantation bleeding, for instance, some women feel light cramping. Cramps from periods, however, are notoriously intense and can last hours or days. Other symptoms that accompany implantation bleeding include tender breasts, nausea, headaches, and mood swings. These symptoms are similar to period signs as well, so be careful not to rule them out.
When all else fails
Unfortunately, these signs alone are not a foolproof way of determining pregnancy or a period. Each woman’s body is different and can present other symptoms. A pregnancy test is the most accurate way to tell if a baby is on the way. Take the test at least one day after a missed period. While these tests are correct, the only way to tell before is through a doctor’s visit. The doctor can administer a blood test as early as 7 days after ovulation.
Your next step
Implantation bleeding and menstrual bleeding have as many differences as similarities. The most significant differences include flow and duration of flow. One can agree that implantation bleeding is a sign of potential pregnancy but can go unnoticed. If bleeding continues after confirming the pregnancy, make sure to see a healthcare provider right away.