Bleeding during pregnancy is common, with approximately 20 per cent of pregnant women experiencing vaginal bleeding at some point in their pregnancy. In some cases, light vaginal bleeding can be the first sign a woman is pregnant as the fertilised egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. Recognising the signs of implantation bleeding and understanding the difference between implantation bleeding and other vaginal bleeding is important for any woman who is trying to conceive.
Implantation bleeding is vaginal bleeding that is typically lighter than menstrual bleeding, and is usually a pink or brown colour. It can occur when the tissue that surrounds the egg attaches, or implants, to the lining of the uterus, also called the endometrial lining. When this happens, it moves through the mother's blood vessels and forms pools of blood. When these form near the surface of the endometrial lining, implantation bleeding can occur.
Implantation bleeding occurs after conception, once the egg has been fertilised with the sperm. It happens on average nine days after ovulation, but can happen anywhere between six and 12 days after ovulation, which typically aligns with the time most women begin menstruating. The length of time a woman experiences implantation bleeding can vary depending on the individual, but it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
A visual inspection can distinguish implantation bleeding from other types of vaginal bleeding. Implantation bleeding is vaginal discharge that is light pink or brown coloured spotting and is considerably lighter in volume than menstrual bleeding. The amount of bleeding remains steady during implantation, rather than increasing in amount as in normal menstrual cycles. In addition, implantation bleeding may be accompanied by light abdominal cramping as the fertilised egg makes its way into the endometrial lining.
Common Pregnancy Symptom
Implantation bleeding is not a sign of something wrong with the embryo or a signal of an impending miscarriage, but is a common experience that between 20 and 30 per cent of women have after conception. There is nothing that can be done to prevent it from happening or to predict that it will happen. Once implantation bleeding begins, a pregnant woman must wait for it to stop naturally. If a woman has implantation bleeding with her first pregnancy, it does not mean that she will have it with each of her subsequent pregnancies.
Women who experience what they believe to be implantation bleeding should take an early detection pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy and contact a health care provider to begin regularly scheduled prenatal checkups. If a woman experiences heavy bleeding early in pregnancy that is accompanied by highly painful abdominal cramps, or if a woman believes she has passed fetal tissue, she should contact a doctor immediately for emergency care. The first can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, in which the pregnancy occurs inside the Fallopian tube and may cause the tube to burst, and the latter may be a sign that a miscarriage has occurred.