But implantation cramping is tricky—not everyone experiences it and it can be similar to PMS cramps. In this post you’ll find more on:
what exactly implantation cramping is
what implantation cramping feels like
how long implantation cramping lasts
if implantation cramping is a sign of early pregnancy
other things that could be mistaken for implantation cramping
What Is Implantation Cramping?
During the window of time that conception is possible, sperm swim into the fallopian tubes in hopes of fertilizing the woman’s egg (or ovum). If/when one lucky sperm enters the egg, conception occurs.
The embryo then divides into two cells to become a zygote. The zygote continues to grow and subdivide to become a blastocyst while it travels down the fallopian tube. Now, this budding life is in the uterus, where it will implant.
When implantation occurs, some of the mucous membrane of the uterine lining changes in order to allow the blastocyst to implant. This is what causes implantation cramping and/or implantation bleeding. (source)
Is Cramping Normal in Early Pregnancy?
Light cramping during early pregnancy is fairly common and generally nothing to worry about. In addition to cramping, you may also notice mood swings, headaches, and brown or pinkish spotting or discharge if implantation has occurred. (Keep in mind, some women in early pregnancy experience none of these symptoms and they are usually fine, too!)
When you’re trying to conceive, any unusual symptoms—particularly any type of cramping or bleeding—can be unsettling. If you’re worried about miscarriage, know that about 10-25% percent of known pregnancies end in early miscarriage (miscarriages that happen before 13 weeks gestation), so while it’s possible, the odds are with you for a full-term, healthy pregnancy.
When Does Implantation Cramping Occur?
Cramping during implantation occurs at different times for different women, but generally occurs 6-11 days after conception.
The blastocyst implants in the uterus within a few days of reaching it. And since implantation cramping (or bleeding) doesn’t necessarily happen on the day of implantation, you may feel symptoms of implantation over the course of a few days.
How Long Do You Have Implantation Cramps?
Every woman’s body is different—and women can (and often do) experience different things with each pregnancy. Sometimes cramping lasts just a few minutes other times it comes and goes, and sometimes it’s relatively constant for a few days.
What Does Implantation Pain Feel Like?
Some women mistake implantation for their premenstrual cramps, especially because implantation generally happens around the same time most women would expect their next menstrual cycle to begin.
To make matters more confusing. both menstrual cramps and implantation cramping are usually mild to moderate. Some say implantation cramps can be differentiated from menstrual cramps if you experience the following sensations:
If you experience any sharp, persistent pain, talk to your healthcare provider, as this could be a sign of something more serious.
Where Do You Feel Implantation Cramps?
Where you feel implantation cramps will vary from woman to woman. For some they are more centralized, similar to period cramps; others may feel implantation cramps in a different place, like on one side or very low in the abdomen.
Are Implantation Cramps Always Accompanied By Implantation Bleeding?
No. You can absolutely have one without the other. Let’s unpack this:
Implantation cramps and spotting occur because the blastocyst implants into the lining causing a bit of a disturbance.
Sometimes that means a bit of light cramping.
Other times that means a few blood cells are loosened, causing implantation bleeding.
And sometimes both; sometimes neither.
Remember: Our bodies are all different, and signs of implantation (if any are present at all) vary from woman to woman.
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What If I Don’t Experience Implantation Cramping?
Know that many pregnant women do not experience any implantation cramping at all. In one study, 25 percent of participants reported some bleeding during their first trimester. About 17 percent of those individuals reported spotting and 8 percent reported heavy bleeding. Both groups reported some pain, though pain was nearly two times more likely in the group that experienced heavy bleeding.
Whether you experience implantation cramping or not, look for other signs of early pregnancy and take a pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant. If an initial pregnancy test is negative, wait a few days and take another one. If you test too close to your missed period, your body may not be producing enough Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, to show a positive result.
When Implantation Cramping is Mistaken for Something Else
“Hormonal changes related to ovulation can affect some of the same pathways in your brain that might be affected by other medical conditions,” says Chailee Moss, M.D., an ob-gyn at Johns Hopkins Medicine
What may seem like implantation cramping may actually be something else entirely. If you are not pregnant, here are some things that could be causing uterine cramping:
Pre-period cramps: As discussed above, PMS cramping and implantation cramping are often very similar. They are both dull and consistent.
Digestive cramping: Gas, indigestion, food sensitivities, and illness can also cause cramping in your abdominal, though this pain is associated with your gastrointestinal tract.
Ovulation cramping: If cramping occurs around the time of ovulation time, it’s called mittelschmerz, a German word that means “middle” and “pain.” Ovulation cramping occurs when the follicle ruptures and releases the egg. You’ll likely feel mild discomfort (a pinch or twinge). “You’ll feel it only on one side of your lower abdomen, depending on which ovary is releasing an egg,” says Amy Autry, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco.
Ovarian/Pelvic cysts: If you experience intense pain, especially pain that’s accompanied by nausea or vomiting, it could be an ovarian cyst. Consult your doctor right away.
If the pain is significant and accompanied by heavy bleeding, talk to your doctor or midwife. And, of course, listen to your body. Regardless of symptoms, if you think something is amiss, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider.
When You’re Hoping for Pregnancy
If you’re trying to conceive, feeling implantation cramps can be both exciting and scary at the same time. You’ll probably wonder whether you’re pregnant, but you’ll probably also wonder whether everything is okay if you are pregnant. Remember that implantation cramping is not a sure sign one way or the other—some women experience implantation cramping and others don’t. Try to relax, be extra kind to yourself (get plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy diet), and take a pregnancy test. If you get a negative the first time, wait a few days and try again. We know how hard it is to wait, but most pregnancy tests are most accurate a week after your missed period.
How About You?
Did you experience implantation cramping? How was it different than period cramping?
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