You may have heard of implantation cramps from mothers around you. These are rare, but can be an early sign of pregnancy.
At this stage, it’s too early to take a pregnancy test but you’re probably impatient for answers. It’s important to know what symptoms to look out for, like implantation cramps and spotting.
If you are cramping, you may wonder if you’re pregnant. Some women even worry that something is wrong. But while rare, some pain from implantation is normal and should not be a cause for concern.
In this article we’ll dive deep into implantation cramps: why they happen, how common they are, what they feel like, and what to do if you are having them.
What are implantation cramps?
Implantation cramps can be a rare early symptom of pregnancy. They happen after the fertilized egg has traveled down the fallopian tube and has attached into the uterine wall.
After implantation, the placenta begins to form and fetal growth takes place.
While they are a normal symptom of early pregnancy, implantation cramps can be confusing. They may feel similar to menstrual cramping, but they’re not the same.
They’re also not a universal symptom of implantation. Most women actually don’t experience them.
Still, others may have painful cramps during this time. Implantation cramping is a normal, although painful part of early pregnancy. Let’s talk about how to know if you’re having them.
How can I tell if I’m having implantation cramps?
Implantation cramping and menstrual cramping can feel similar.
However, implantation cramping and pain are typically not as severe. These cramps are mild, go away quickly, and do not increase in severity.
They also occur earlier in your cycle. If you usually have cramping for a few days before your period starts, it may be hard to distinguish between implantation cramps and menses.
Similarly, any spotting from implantation is much lighter than a typical period. Bleeding from implantation does not contain clots. It may resemble pinkish discharge, or small brown flecks.
Women may only notice a few drops of blood, or none at all. This spotting may only last two days, or even a few hours. If you experience cramping followed by a medium or heavier flow that lasts several days, this is most likely your period.
If you are having severe pain and vaginal bleeding, accompanied by changes in heart rate or new lightheadedness, see your gynecologist immediately. While rare, ruptured ectopic pregnancies and infections can lead to these symptoms.
Now that you know what they feel like, let’s talk about where women typically feel cramping during implantation.
Where do implantation cramps hurt?
Implantation cramping feels very similar to cramping associated with menses. It may feel like a pulling, twisting, or pricking pain in your lower abdomen.
Some women may feel pain in their lower back as well. Some women only have cramping on one side of their body. These sensations may feel similar to ones you associate with your period, but the timing is usually earlier.
Let’s talk about when you can expect pain from implantation.
When does implantation cramping usually start?
Cramping that happens before this window is likely not from pregnancy. High levels of progesterone during ovulation can cause cramping and other symptoms.
Once implanted, the placenta now begins to release human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG levels are on the rise during this time.
But, they are still not high enough to cause a positive pregnancy test until at least three days after implantation.
This rise in hCG causes progesterone to increase as well. This progesterone release causes the other symptoms of early pregnancy.
Many women notice progesterone-related symptoms after ovulation. This is known as your premenstrual syndrome. But after implantation the spike in progesterone can cause them to be more intense than usual. We’ll talk more about these signs and symptoms later.
How long does implantation cramping last?
Implantation cramping may occur over a few days, a few hours, or even minutes. It may happen as late as 12 days after ovulation, but should not last more than that. Cramping that continues after 12 days past ovulation is likely associated with menses.
If you usually have cramping before your period, this pain may be related to your cycle and not implantation. Now let’s talk about why implantation cramps happen.
Why do implantation cramps happen?
Implantation is a vital step in the pregnancy process. Even if you have a fertilized egg, you won’t get pregnant until it attaches to the lining of your uterus.
Because of this, the period of implantation can be a nerve-wracking time for women who hope to be pregnant.
Let’s first talk about what happens before implantation: fertilization. This is the very beginning of pregnancy, when the egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tube. After this critical step, the fertilized ovum moves into the uterus where implantation can begin.
Implantation includes three distinct phases.
The first phase is when the newly fertilized egg (blastocyst) comes in contact with the uterine wall. Next, specific cells from the blastocyst help it attach to the lining of the uterus.
Lastly, the blastocyst cells embed deep into the uterus, creating an exchange of blood flow between the new-forming placenta and the mother.
During this phase, small arteries in the uterus are reconstructed into larger vessels. This reconstruction creates a new, low-pressure blood flow to the growing blastocyst.
To help the blastocyst embed, prostaglandins soften the uterine lining. They also can cause the uterus to contract.
This last step is what causes cramping and spotting. Establishing a circulatory exchange is essential for fetal growth, but forming this important connection can be painful.
Some blood vessels get broken so they can be threaded together. When these small arteries break, some women notice light spotting. To learn more about implantation and what you can do to promote it, check out our blog.
It’s important to note that most women do not experience cramping or bleeding during this time. These changes happen at a minute, cellular level. It’s easy for them to go unnoticed. Just because you do not have pain or spotting, does not mean that implantation has not occurred.
With that being said, let’s talk about when you could expect to have cramping from implantation
Does every woman experience implantation pain?
Not every woman experiences implantation pain. In fact, they’re fairly rare. So if you are in your implantation window and not having cramps, you could still be pregnant. There are other signs of pregnancy that you can look out for after your implantation window.
What are other implantation signs to look out for?
Rising hCG after implantation causes progesterone to increase as well. This spike can lead to symptoms like:
- Changes in taste and smell
- Gastrointestinal changes
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Mood Swings
- A small dip in temperature
All of these can mean implantation has happened, however they are not specific to pregnancy. You may also experience these symptoms just before your period as part of your premenstrual syndrome.
This is because your progesterone levels increase after ovulation and cause these symptoms.
So if you notice any of these while ovulating or just before your menses, there is a possibility that they are not due to a possible pregnancy.
To learn more about progesterone levels after ovulation, take a look at our blog.
Still, some women may not have any of these symptoms. Tracking your progesterone levels can help determine implantation, even if you aren’t feeling any of these signs.
What should you do if you think you are having implantation cramps?
If you think you are having implantation cramps, try these home remedies:
- Try applying a warm (not hot) compress, or bundling up in a blanket. By keeping warm, you can promote blood circulation and ease implantation cramps.
- Light exercise is also great for circulation and stress, so a walk can help physically and mentally.
- Gentle stretching or yoga can also feel good if you are having implantation cramps.
However, if you are having severe or persistent pain, you should see a healthcare provider. There are several things that can cause this, including ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, urinary tract infection, or miscarriage. Some of these are rare, but still a cause for concern if you are in extreme pain.
- Implantation cramping is a normal, although rare, part of early pregnancy.
- Some women look for implantation and cramping as good signs. If you are hoping for implantation but not feeling pain, don’t lose hope. Very few women can actually feel implantation.
- More reliable signs are from progesterone rise after implantation has already occurred. These symptoms include breast tenderness, appetite changes, and constipation.
- Still, even these signs are not definitive. Tracking your progesterone is a great way to gain valuable information about your body during this critical time.
- A pregnancy test can also yield an accurate result as early as one day after your missed period.