23 December 2022

Implantation Cramping: Everything You Need to Know

implantation cramping
By the Editorial Comitee IVI Blog

 Implantation cramping is a good example of how your body could be signaling that you have conceived even before it is detectable on a home test. On the other hand, a slight twinge or cramp could be a signal that your next period is about to begin. How to tell the difference? When you’re trying to conceive, it can be tempting to reach for the pregnancy test kit on every occasion when you may possibly be pregnant. We understand the impulse, and don’t discourage it. However, there are other little signs and signals that you can be on the lookout for as well.

In this IVI blog, we tell you everything you need to know about implantation bleeding cramps. What happens during implantation? Can implantation bleeding cause cramps? Is cramping after ovulation a sure sign that implantation is happening? If you don’t experience implantation cramping, how can you know whether you have conceived?

What is implantation and why does it cause bleeding?

Most fertility experts consider that implantation is the event that makes you pregnant. What happens is that, when your ovary releases a mature egg, it starts its journey down a fallopian tube towards your uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, it continues its way and is eventually expelled through the vagina as part of your next period.

However, if the egg is met by a sperm and is fertilized, it continues its path towards the uterus but once there, rather than disintegrating, it implants itself into the uterus lining. When this has happened, you are pregnant. Your body starts to produce the chemical markers that will soon become detectable by a pregnancy test. When implantation occurs, it can disrupt some of the delicate blood vessels in the uterus lining and this can cause a slight bleed. This is usually light bleeding or spotting. As the whole process from ovulation to implantation takes 6 to 12 days, your next period would be due within the next week or so anyway. It is therefore easily mistaken for an early start to your next period. See our article for more about the differences between menstruation and implantation bleeding.

As the fertilized egg implants itself in your uterus, it can cause not only bleeding but also implantation cramping. These muscle cramps are also easy to confuse with a sign of the early onset of your next period.

How to tell the difference between implantation and period cramps

Just as not all women experience menstrual cramps, not all newly pregnant women have any sign of implantation bleeding or implantation cramping. But for those that do, it can be quite tricky to tell the difference. Period cramps can be quite severe and prolonged. Implantation cramping is almost always mild, so this is one way to tell the difference. Indeed, anyone who experiences severe cramping between periods should seek medical advice.

Implantation cramping can come and go over a period of a couple of days or may remain steady for one or two days. Women who have experienced implantation cramping describe it in various ways as:

  • Light cramps, usually dull or aching
  • A light tingling or prickling feeling, or a sensation of pulling
  • A slight ache or pain in the lower back, lower abdomen or the pelvic area.

How common is implantation cramping?

Around 30% of pregnant women report feeling implantation cramps. However, of course, these studies tend to be carried out in retrospect rather than in real time. In fact, it’s very difficult to know how common implantation cramping really is. It’s only natural that women who are actively trying to conceive may be hyper alert to small signs and signals from their bodies, whereas women who are not thinking about pregnancy may notice a slight twinge without making the association with possible pregnancy and forget all about it.

Are there any other early signs of implantation?

There are a few other symptoms that can occur round about the time of implantation, and like implantation cramps, not all women will experience them. They can include:

  • Breast tenderness, which can begin well before a test would detect a pregnancy
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Food cravings, which according to some studies affect 50% to 90% of pregnant women at one time or another, or sudden aversion to or dislike of certain smells
  • Headaches or moodiness
  • And the best-known early pregnancy symptom of all (or the second best after a missed period), nausea. This is a symptom of early pregnancy which affects as many as 70% of all pregnant women.

When should I take a pregnancy test?

If you are one of the people who notices what could be implantation cramping when you could have conceived, and it is not followed within a few days by your next period, then naturally your next step will be to take a pregnancy test. But if you can possibly bear the suspense, it’s best to wait for a few days. At the time of implantation, it is too early for enough human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to have accumulated in your urine to be detectable by the standard home pregnancy test. They are at their most accurate when taken after a missed period.

If I’m not pregnant, what then?

Naturally, if you are not pregnant and would like to conceive, you will want to keep trying and, in the meantime, take care of your general health and wellbeing in preparation for the much longed for pregnancy. At IVI, we normally advise people to continue to try for a year before seeking some help with fertility, or if you are a woman or a couple in which the woman is 38 or more, to seek help after six months. We hope that all will be well, and you will achieve your ambition. But if not, don’t lose heart. There are many assisted fertility treatments that can help.

All you need to do is contact us at IVI. It could be the natural next step on your road to fulfilling your family dreams.

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