What to Know About Implantation Symptoms

Are you dealing with PMS or early signs of conception? Here’s what you need to know about common implantation symptoms, including bleeding and cramping.

People who are trying to conceive often pay extra attention to their bodies. And of that attention inevitably include looking for signs that implantation has occurred. "Implantation is when a fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterus and starts to construct the placenta and embryo," says Jingwen Hou, M.D., an OB-GYN specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii. It usually happens one to two weeks after ovulation, and it indicates the beginning of a pregnancy.

But can you tell when implantation occurs? The short answer is no—at least not from physical symptoms alone. "We don't usually talk about symptoms of implantation," Dr. Hou says, confirming this. "Rather, we talk about early pregnancy symptoms."

That said, there are still a few ways that your body can hint that implantation has occurred. For example, some people experience some spotting or cramps, and these symptoms can be related to implantation, says Dr. Hou. Here's what you need to know about the most common signs of implantation, and what they tell you about conception.

Implantation Bleeding

"Some people have a small amount of spotting or bleeding approximately 10 to 14 days after fertilization, and it's presumed to be related to implantation," says Dr. Hou. "We don't have a good study showing how common it is, but based on different reports, implantation bleeding occurs in 10% to 30% of pregnancies."

This type of bleeding happens when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus, irritating the uterine lining and causing it to shed. It usually lasts one to three days and occurs a week before your period (or around the usual time of your period).

Because of this, many people think they're experiencing early or light menstruation. So how can you tell the difference? Unlike early menstrual bleeding, which tends to be red, implantation bleeding is usually light pink or brown. The flow is also typically lighter, and it doesn't progressively get heavier like a normal period.

woman holding pregnancy test
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Implantation Cramps

Can you feel implantation? Although the answer is no, Dr. Hou says some people do experience minor cramps when the fertilized egg implants itself into the uterus. "We are not clear if that's related to implantation," she cautions. The cramps often happen around the same time as implantation bleeding and feel similar to menstrual cramps. They typically come and go in your lower abdomen or lower back.

Other Implantation Signs and Symptoms

According to Chloe Acevedo, M.D., an OB-GYN at Atlantic Medical Group Women's Health in New Jersey, other implantation symptoms include sore breasts, nausea, darkening of the areolas, fatigue, headaches, bloating, mood swings, a metallic taste in the mouth, and changes in appetite, all of which are more often associated with early pregnancy.

Dr. Acevedo adds that "implantation symptoms can sometimes be confused with PMS symptoms, which can be vague and nonspecific. The only way to confirm if symptoms are due to implantation or PMS is with a pregnancy test."

Here's a closer look at those symptoms.

Sore breasts

After implantation, your breasts may become very sensitive to the touch, thanks to an increase in estrogen, progesterone, and the pregnancy hormone hCG. This usually happens one to two weeks after conception, and it'll feel more pronounced than normal PMS-related soreness.

Nausea

Your digestive system slows down when you get pregnant, so some people will experience nausea, constipation, and indigestion (although full-fledged morning sickness is still a few weeks away). Progesterone and hCG hormones also contribute to these conception symptoms—and so does the heightened sense of smell that many pregnant people experience.

Darkening of the Areolas

Pregnancy hormones also affect nipple cells (called melanocytes) and cause them to darken, which can occur in very early pregnancy (though for others, the change occurs later).

Fatigue

As your body prepares to grow a baby, you may feel more tired than normal. You can partly blame fatigue on the rise of progesterone and increased blood production.

Headaches

Are you experiencing tension headaches even though you aren't prone to them? Increased blood volume and surging hormones may be the culprits.

Bloating

Unfortunately for your skin-tight jeans, rising progesterone levels can cause excess bloating—similar to what you might experience during PMS.

Mood Swings

Just like some people feel extra emotional before their period, they might feel extra moody after implantation due to the rise in pregnancy hormones.

Metallic taste

Thanks to rising levels of estrogen, people may notice a bitterly metallic taste in their mouths following conception, says Dr. Acevedo.

Changes in appetite

It's not uncommon to have a shift in your taste preferences after getting pregnant, whether you're suddenly averse to coffee, your favorite dessert, or something else.

I'm Having Implantation Symptoms—Now What?

What should you do if you experience bleeding, cramping, nausea, sore breasts, or other implantation symptoms? "You can take a home pregnancy test," says Dr. Hou. But since implantation happens one to two weeks after ovulation, it may be too early to get an accurate reading. It's better to wait about a week after implantation when levels of hCG will be high enough to detect.

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