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  2. Trying to conceive
  3. Signs of pregnancy

Implantation Cramps FAQs: Everything You Need to Know About Implantation Pain

You may be aware of some of the early signs of pregnancy, such as nausea, breast tenderness, and tiredness. Implantation cramps are also a sign of early pregnancy but can often be mistaken for menstrual cramps. Read on to learn how to recognize the difference, why implantation cramps happen, and how to treat them.  

Implantatiom cramps

What are implantation cramps?

Implantation cramps are cramps associated specifically with the process of a fertilized egg attaching itself to the uterine lining.

When an egg is first fertilized by sperm, which happens inside the fallopian tubes, the zygote moves into the uterus and changes into a morula. The morula then becomes a blastocyst. In blastocyst form, the fertilized egg embeds itself into the uterine lining. This is the process of implantation. 

As with all pregnancy symptoms, implantation cramping does not happen for all women. Some may experience cramping, and others may feel nothing at all during the implantation process. 

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Why does implantation cramping occur?

The blastocyst needs to attach to the uterus wall in order to begin receiving nutrients. One thing that may cause implantation cramping is the process of attachment, which can cause the activation of prostaglandins. These hormones are usually associated with pain and inflammation, and they trigger the muscles of the uterus to contract, causing cramping. 

Another common implantation symptom is spotting or bleeding. Typically, this will appear between 10 and 14 days after conception and is usually much lighter than your normal menstrual flow.   

Not every woman will get implantation cramps or bleeding. It’s also possible to experience only cramping without any bleeding or bleeding without cramps.

When does implantation pain usually start?

A woman having implantation cramps

Implantation bleeding and/or cramping will typically start between 10 and 14 days after conception. When the blastocyst implants, the placenta begins to form and the level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) will begin to rise. About two weeks later, a pregnancy test will be able to detect the hCG in your urine and return a positive result. If implantation does not occur and you’re not pregnant, the uterine wall will begin to shed, resulting in your menstrual cycle.

Because implantation can often coincide with the start of your menstrual cycle, many women often mistake implantation cramps for premenstrual cramps. Women who regularly get menstrual cramps may also confuse the two because they feel so similar.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of what happens:

There are two phases to your menstrual cycle, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase is essentially the egg preparing itself for pregnancy, and the luteal phase is the egg waiting to see if it will be fertilized. Every month your body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy, regardless of whether it happens or not.

After ovulation, a mature egg is released, the follicle seals itself off, and then it forms what is known as a corpus luteum. 

Implantation bleeding and/or cramping will typically start between 10 and 14 days after conception. When the blastocyst implants, the placenta begins to form and the level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) will begin to rise.

The corpus luteum releases estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is what tells the uterus to thicken so that if you do become pregnant, the egg has a soft cushion to attach itself to and grow. This all happens towards the end of the luteal phase, which is just a few days before your period is due. 

If you are not pregnant, towards the end of the luteal phase, progesterone and estrogen levels fall and you will shed your uterine lining, resulting in your period and the start of a new menstrual cycle.

How long does implantation cramping last?

Implantation cramps don’t last long. Some women feel a slight twinge for only a minute or so. Others feel cramping that comes and goes over the course of about two or three days. 

How to tell the difference between implantation and menstrual cramps

Because they can occur around the same time and have the same characteristics, implantation cramps are sometimes mistaken for menstrual cramps

There are some possible sensations that can help differentiate implantation cramps from menstrual cramps. Sometimes, women experience specific sensations such as a tingling, pulling, or pricking sensation. These typically don’t occur with menstruation.

Aside from differences in sensation, implantation and menstrual cramps can feel quite similar. The best way to tell the difference is to wait and see if you get your period. Getting your period is a clear sign that pregnancy has not occurred and that the discomfort you felt was probably from menstrual cramps. If, however, you’re experiencing other early signs of pregnancy along with cramping, there’s a greater chance you’re dealing with implantation cramps. At this point, given that you may not have missed your period yet, you may need to wait a little longer before taking a pregnancy test to confirm your suspicions. 

Does every woman experience implantation pain?

Not all women experience implantation pain. Just as with pregnancy, implantation pain differs from person to person. Some women may feel just a slight twinge, and others may have cramping for several days. Still others may feel nothing at all. Differences in physiology result in a range of experiences. 

What are other implantation signs?

Aside from twinges or cramping, there are no other signs of implantation. But although there are no other obvious symptoms of implantation, there are a number of signs of an early pregnancy. Knowing these signs can help you determine whether the cramping you feel is from implantation or your period.

In addition to missing your period, which is perhaps the most obvious sign of pregnancy, many women notice that their breasts are swollen or feel heavier or more tender. Morning sickness or nausea is another common early pregnancy sign. Some women get headaches or become constipated. Mood swings and feeling teary are some of the other symptoms, as are feelings of extreme tiredness. Feeling dizzy or faint as well as sudden food cravings or aversions can also be part of early pregnancy.   

Do you need to see a doctor about implantation pain?

In most cases, implantation cramping during pregnancy is normal. In some cases, however, it may signal something more serious.

If your cramps are severe, see your doctor. They can be a sign of an ovarian cyst, urinary tract infection, ectopic pregnancy, or miscarriage. If the cramps always seem to be on one side of your lower abdomen, you should also call your doctor. This is a common sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which, if left untreated, can result in a rupture inside the fallopian tube, causing potentially dangerous internal bleeding.

In most cases, implantation cramping during pregnancy is normal. In some cases, however, it may signal something more serious.

Even if cramps seem mild and you believe you may be pregnant, it’s a smart idea to get a home pregnancy test. If you’re pregnant, a pregnancy test can typically detect it as early as one day after you’ve missed a period. You can purchase a test at your local drug store or online. If your test is positive, schedule an appointment with your doctor, who can help with any questions or concerns you have while going over your available options. Ask your doctor about any cramping you’re experiencing.

Conclusion

Implantation cramps can be an early sign of pregnancy but can also be mistaken for menstrual cramps. Knowing the other early signs of pregnancy can help you determine which kind of cramps you’re experiencing, and an at-home pregnancy test can confirm whether you’re pregnant or not.

In most cases, implantation cramps are mild and resolve on their own within one to three days. If your cramping is severe or accompanied by other troublesome symptoms, make sure to speak with your doctor.  

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/symptoms-causes/syc-20374938

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2884141/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/multimedia/fertilization-and-implantation/img-20008656

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/symptoms-of-pregnancy/art-20043853?pg=2

https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/home-use-tests/pregnancy

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/implantation-bleeding/faq-20058257

https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/process-implantation-embryos-primates

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24782009

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