How long does it last?

Implantation bleeding is one type of bleeding that may occur in early pregnancy. Some doctors believe that implantation bleeding occurs when an embryo attaches itself to the lining of your uterus. However, not everyone will experience implantation bleeding or spotting.

Implantation bleeding is generally light and short, just a few days’ worth. It usually occurs 10-14 days after conception, or around the time of your missed period. However, vaginal bleeding has been reported anytime in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

Spotting is also common before the start of a menstrual period. So — is your bleeding pregnancy-related? Here are some additional identifiers, other early pregnancy symptoms to watch for, and notes on when to see a doctor.

What does it look like?

Implantation bleeding may appear as light spotting — blood that appears when you wipe — or a light, consistent flow that requires a liner or light pad. The blood may or may not be mixed with cervical mucus.

You may see a range of colors depending on how long the blood has taken to exit the body:

  • A fresher bleed will appear as a shade of light or dark red.
  • Blood may look pink or orange if it’s mixed with other vaginal discharge.
  • Older blood may look brown due to oxidation.

Be sure to take note of the color and consistency — as well as the frequency — of your bleeding. These are details you’ll want to share with your doctor for diagnosis.

Implantation bleeding is diagnosed through a process of elimination. This means that your doctor will rule out other possible causes of bleeding, such as polyps, first.

If you experience heavy bleeding or clotting, see your doctor right away. This may be a sign of an early miscarriage.

Other symptoms of early pregnancy

The color and consistency of implantation bleeding may vary from person to person and pregnancy to pregnancy. But if you think you might be pregnant, there are other symptoms that you can watch for.

Frequent urination, fatigue, and nausea are some of the earliest pregnancy symptoms. Your breasts may also become tender or swollen due to the hormonal changes that occur shortly after conception.

Other pregnancy symptoms include:

  • cramping
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • moodiness
  • food aversions

Early symptoms aren’t always the best indicator of whether you’re pregnant. Some women will have all of these symptoms even when they aren’t pregnant, and others may have none of these symptoms even though they are pregnant.

One of the most reliable symptoms is a missed menstrual period. But if your cycles are irregular, it may be difficult to tell if you’ve truly missed your period.

If you do think you’ve missed a period — or are experiencing other unusual symptoms — it may be time to pick up a home pregnancy test. You can also get a pregnancy test done at your doctor’s office.

When to take a pregnancy test

Pregnancy test makers claim home pregnancy tests are up to 99 percent accurate. Tests may pick up the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) as soon as the first day of your missed period, sometimes earlier.

This hormone doubles in concentration every two or three days in early pregnancy. How soon you may test positive or negative depends on the sensitivity of your test and how long it’s been since the embryo has implanted inside the uterus.

The closer you are to the start of your normal menstrual period, the less chance you’ll have a false negative on a pregnancy test. You may consider testing if your period is late or you have many early pregnancy signs. For the most reliable reading, consider waiting a week past when your period should have started.

If you’re unsure of your results, you may also request a blood pregnancy test through your doctor. Concentrations of hCG reach the blood before the urine, so a blood test may give a positive result sooner than a urine test.

Talk to your doctor

It’s important to tell your doctor whenever you experience abnormal spotting or bleeding — regardless of whether you’re pregnant. Although light bleeding during early pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean anything negative, you should still see a doctor to be safe.

If you do get a positive home pregnancy test, make an appointment with your doctor. They can confirm your test result and discuss your options for family planning. This may mean navigating prenatal care or discussing choices.

No matter what you decide, your doctor can connect you with resources for support and answer any questions you may have.