There’s nothing quite like the emotional rollercoaster of waiting to see if your period will start when you’re TTC (trying to conceive); counting the days over and over to see if you’ve made a mistake in tracking your cycle, agonizing over every sensation as a possible pregnancy symptom, inspecting your panties for even the tiniest speck of brown or red. All this angst can get fueled by the overabundance of data on the internet, where you often find an example of every type of information—and misinformation—regarding what it looks and feels like to be pregnant in that first week. One super confusing symptom you might come across is implantation bleeding. I get questions from my clients about this one all the time, so I thought I’d go over what it actually is, why it’s so confusing, and why it’s actually not a good gauge of whether or not you’re pregnant.
Simply put, implantation bleeding is light bleeding that may occur during the luteal phase that some doctors think is caused by the embryo attaching itself to the lining of the uterus. Here’s the tricky part—light bleeding can definitely happen BOTH during the luteal phase AND in early pregnancy.
Let’s break it down:
The luteal phase begins after ovulation and continues until the first day of menstrual bleeding. This is when the egg released during ovulation hangs out in the fallopian tube, the corpus luteum begins to secrete increasing quantities of progesterone and fairly constant levels of estrogen—all of which causes the uterine lining (endometrium) to thicken … and basically everyone is waiting to see if the egg will get fertilized by a sperm. If fertilization doesn’t occur, the decline in progesterone causes the endometrium to shed, and this begins a new menstrual cycle.
Spotting during the luteal phase doesn’t happen to everyone, but when it does, is likely caused by a mid-luteal phase estrogen surge that causes a dip in progesterone (remember that a decline in progesterone is the signal for your endometrium to shed).
The thing is, spotting during luteal phase doesn’t indicate pregnancy one way or another—it can happen whether you’re pregnant or not. In fact, it happens more often when a woman isn’t pregnant.
To confuse things further, it is still possible to have some light spotting if you ARE pregnant.
Early pregnancy spotting, before the missed period, occurs in about 10%-15% of women, and is also totally normal. It’s usually a very light flow, pink to light brown in color, and doesn’t last more than a day or two.
Light spotting in early pregnancy can be caused by mild irritation to the cervix, or it might be something called a subchorionic hematoma, which is an accumulation of blood between the uterus and the placenta. Most of the time, subchorionic hematoma resolves on its own, and does not impact the health of the pregnancy.
When to be concerned? Heavy, dark bleeding, clotting, or severe cramping may be a sign of an early miscarriage. Vaginal bleeding with a period-like flow, pain and weakness or dizziness can be signs of an ectopic pregnancy and is a serious medical condition that requires treatment. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
The bottom line? Spotting can happen during the luteal phase OR during early pregnancy, so it’s simply not a good method for determining whether or not you’re pregnant. In fact, one study found “no support for the hypothesis that implantation can produce vaginal bleeding.”
So as hard as it may be, the best way to determine whether or not you’re pregnant is just to wait.
Trying to conceive can be SO HARD on your emotions and your stress level. Your best course of action is to not go it alone. For the first time ever, I’ll be doing a LIVE version of The Fertility Code, my online 12-week fertility program, with a start date of April 29th!! This exclusive program is now open for registration! I will personally guide you and a group of other women on a hormone-healing journey over 12-weeks, with step-by-step guidelines to supercharge your fertility. You can find more details HERE, including how to register and any other questions you might have.
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about implantation bleeding and what it means for you? Schedule a consultation with me!