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Implantation bleeding: Causes and symptoms

Implantation bleeding: Causes and symptoms

Pregnancy implantation bleeding refers to light spotting or bleeding that happens 10 to 14 days after fertilization. When this occurs, most women are not aware that they are pregnant and mistake implantation bleeding with their period.

Implantation bleeding is normal during early pregnancy. It is usually light and stops spontaneously, which means you don’t require treatment. However, if you have any concerns regarding vaginal bleeding early during pregnancy, you need to talk to your health care provider.

Implantation Bleeding vs. Period: How To Tell The Difference

What does implantation bleeding look like?

Implantation bleeding appears as light spotting when you wipe. It may also be a consistent and light blood flow, and you may need to wear a light panty liner or pad. The blood can either be brown, pink, or orange. Implantation bleeding during early pregnancy does not usually have clots. It may go on for a few hours or several days.

Implantation bleeding occurs together with other signs of early stages of pregnancy, including:

  • light or faint cramping (less severe compared to cramps experienced during normal periods)
  • fatigue
  • abdominal bloating
  • mood swings
  • breast tenderness

it is good to note signs and symptoms by observing the frequency of bleeding early in pregnancy, consistency, and colour. You need to give your health care provider these details for a proper diagnosis.

How heavy can implantation bleed be?

Implantation bleeding occurs in early pregnancy as light spotting of blood that you see when you wipe yourself. At times you may have to wear a light panty liner or period underwear. It may also be a light flow of blood but very different from the normal flow of your periods. In simple terms, implantation bleeding early months of pregnancy is brown-or pink coloured discharge. It is not heavy bleeding, and it does not have clots. If you notice that the bleeding is red or darker in colour, you should visit your doctor immediately.

When does implantation bleeding happen?

Implantation bleeding takes place 10 to 14 days after conception. It is a symptom of early pregnancy and occurs around the same time you are expecting your period. For this reason, most women confuse light bleeding in the early months of pregnancy with their regular period.

Causes of implantation bleeding

During conception, an embryo forms after a viable sperm fertilizes the egg. The embryo enters the uterine cavity through the uterine tubes. The embryo attaches itself to the uterine wall once it reaches the uterus. The implantation process may cause some blood vessels found in the uterine wall to break, causing light bleeding during early pregnancy. However, the bleeding does not affect the fetus in any way.

Can you have implantation bleeding that looks like a period?
Can you have implantation bleeding that looks like a period? – image courtesy of Clearblue

Other possible causes of bleeding in early pregnancy

Apart from implantation during early pregnancy, bleeding can occur due to different reasons. You need to talk to a health care provider if you experience heavy bleeding early months of pregnancy with or without pain or cramping.

Bleeding during early pregnancy can occur due to these reasons:

Sex: intercourse can cause bleeding early stages of pregnancy because, at this time, the cervix is sensitive and very tender.

Ectopic pregnancy: in the early pregnancy stages an ectopic pregnancy may cause bleeding . It is a condition where embryo implantation occurs outside the uterus and starts developing on the cervix, ovaries, abdominal cavity, or uterine tubes. An ectopic pregnancy could result in vaginal bleeding accompanied by cramps or pelvic pain (specifically one-sided cramps), vomiting, nausea, and dizziness. It is a condition that can be life-threatening and needs emergency medical aid.

Threatened abortion: is also another cause of bleeding early pregnancy. It is a condition where the embryo is in the uterus, but the pregnancy is still in danger. A threatened abortion happens due to physical trauma, certain medications, or an infection.

Complete miscarriage: can result in bleeding during the early stages of pregnancy. Estimates show that about 10% of miscarriages occur in all clinically recognized pregnancies but up to 1 in 5 pregnanicies end in a misscarrige. Other than vaginal bleeding, there are other symptoms of miscarriage which include passage of fluid or bloody tissue from the vagina and pain or cramping in the abdomen or lower back. If you notice any of these symptoms when pregnant, you need to visit your health care provider.

Molar pregnancy: is a complication when an abnormal mass of cells develops inside the uterine cavity instead of a fetus. It may cause red to dark brown bleeding in early pregnancy accompanied by other symptoms, including pelvic pressure or pain, the passage of grape-like cysts from the vagina, and severe nausea and vomiting.

Therefore, it would be best to see a health care provider as soon as you suspect that the symptoms you are experiencing when pregnant may be due to molar pregnancy.
Cervical problems, including cervical infection, abnormal growth, or inflammation of the cervix, can cause bleeding during early pregnancy.

Infections: of any kind that affect the vagina or cervix, such as sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes, can cause bleeding early stages of pregnancy.

Can you take a pregnancy test during implantation bleeding?

The right time to take a pregnancy test is the first day after a missed period to get more accurate results. If the home pregnancy test turns out positive, you need to visit your health care provider. They will perform a blood test to confirm the results.

Sexually active women should take a home pregnancy test after experiencing any irregular bleeding. Remember that implantation bleeding occurs before a missed period. Therefore, if you do a pregnancy test and it comes out positive, and at some point, you experience heavy bleeding, you need to talk to your health care provider to confirm whether it is a sign of pregnancy loss or not.

Some women may experience bleeding during the first trimester and do just fine. But your doctor needs to evaluate your condition to confirm that you’re safe.

Risk of bleeding in early pregnancy for mother and baby

The cause determines the risks and effects of bleeding during early pregnancy and if it is treatable.

Ectopic pregnancy- Bleeding early stages of pregnancy due to an ectopic pregnancy can make it hard for the fetus to survive. There is also a risk of another ectopic pregnancy in the future. Therefore, appropriate treatment is necessary for the mother after ectopic pregnancy for the prognosis to be good. Women who have an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy have a history of endometriosis, pelvic surgery, multiple abortions, abdominal surgery, sexually transmitted diseases, or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Threatened abortion- A threatened abortion may cause bleeding during early pregnancy. Miscarriage can also occur. However, there is a chance for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. It is vital to visit your doctor soonest possible if you are experiencing a threatened abortion.

Complete miscarriage- A complete miscarriage means that the pregnancy is terminated. It does not cause any risk to the mother because all the pregnancy tissues are expelled from the uterus. Common signs during a complete miscarriage are severe abdominal pain, the passage of pregnancy tissue, and heavy vaginal bleeding. The pain and bleeding typically subside quickly. A health care provider usually confirms a complete miscarriage through an ultrasound.

Molar pregnancy- no fetus forms in this kind of pregnancy; therefore, no harm caused is caused. However, it can pose serious complications to the mother, and potentially cancer. Complete molar pregnancy has no baby but only placental parts that form after an empty egg is fertilized by the sperm. The baby is not formed because the egg is empty. Instead, the placenta grows and produces a pregnancy hormone known as hCG. When your health care provider performs an ultrasound, it will show no fetus but a placenta.

When to see a health care provider

If you experience abnormal spotting or bleeding, you should see a health care provider whether you’re pregnant or not. Period like bleeding during early pregnancy in most cases is not a cause for concern, but you need to visit your doctor to be sure.

Also, if you took a home pregnancy test and it came out positive, ensure that the health care provider confirms the results by doing a blood test.

In addition, heavy bleeding early stages of pregnancy should be checked out by a doctor because it may indicate a serious problem other than implantation bleeding.

Implantation bleeding: bottom line

Implantation bleeding usually goes away on its own and does not require treatment. However, there are certain self-care practices that you can do for comfort if you notice spotting or bleeding during early pregnancy, like avoiding the use of tampons, elevating your feet, getting enough rest, and refraining from sexual intercourse.