Implantation can be one of the first signs you’re pregnant. This happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. Symptoms, such as bleeding and cramping, associated with implantation are some of the earliest signs a woman is pregnant, but not many women experience these. In fact, only about 3 percent of women identified implantation bleeding as the first sign of pregnancy in a 2014 study by the American Pregnancy Association. Looking for symptoms of implantation and tracking a few dates can help you identify whether the fertilized egg has implanted.
You may experience light cramping during implantation. The cramping happens when some of your uterine mucous membrane melts away where the fertilized egg implants. The cramps might feel like light pulling or pricking pains in the lower abdomen. They can last from one to three days and usually occur about a week before the expected start of your period, according to gynecologist Gillian Burton on her website implantationbleed.com.
Light bleeding can be another sign of implantation. When the embryo implants in the endometrial lining of your uterus, it disrupts blood vessels that can cause bleeding, according to the article, “Is it Implantation Bleeding or a Menstrual Period?” on the BabyMed website. The bleeding doesn’t normally look like your regular menstrual period, but has a more pinkish or brownish color. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish whether the light spotting is due to implantation or an early start to your menstrual cycle, but the closer it is to the expected start of your cycle, the less chance it is implantation bleeding.
If you experience cramping or bleeding, it’s important to take note of a few important dates — the date of your last menstrual cycle, ovulation and intercourse. If you regularly track your cycle, you can subtract 12 to 16 days from the length of your cycle and that indicates the window where ovulation probably occurred. You have a 12 to 24 hour window after ovulation to fertilize the egg. The highest percentage of implantations occurs on the 9th day after ovulation, according to Barton, although the window can range from 6 to 12 days.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting higher levels of human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG, also known as the pregnancy hormone. Once implantation occurs, the placenta begins to secrete hCG. Your hCG levels double every 48 to 72 hours after implantation, according to the website Early-Pregnancy-Tests.com. Due to these higher hCG levels, a very sensitive home pregnancy test might be able to register a positive. Pregnancy tests are calibrated to detect various levels of hCG. Choose the one that detects the lowest level to get the earliest reading. If the test shows a negative, test again in a few days.
If you experience persistent and unbearable cramping or more than light spotting before your menstrual cycle is expected, contact your doctor. This might be a sign that something is wrong with your reproductive health. Bleeding can also happen due to an abrasion during intercourse, a change in birth control, a change in your menstrual pattern or an infection.