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What is the Difference Between Period Bleeding and Implantation Bleeding?

Published: August 09, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
What's the difference between period bleeding and implantation bleeding? How do I determine what I'm having?
Signed: What is the Difference Between Period Bleeding and Implantation Bleeding?

Dear What is the Difference Between Period Bleeding and Implantation Bleeding?,

Implantation bleeding is defined as a small amount of light spotting that occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. This typically occurs 10-14 days after conception, which for some women with shorter menstrual cycles, might be around the time they expect to get their normal period and can lead to some confusion. However, there are some differences between the two. For starters, implantation bleeding is lighter than a normal period. For many women, implantation bleeding may only present as light spotting for a few hours. Unlike a normal period, the quantity will remain consistent or decrease over a short period of time vs. the normal increase one might expect to see in their typical period. Another difference between the two is timing. While many women do not have regular cycles, especially early on after beginning to get their periods, implantation bleeding occurs within a specific time frame after unprotected sex and when fertilization may occur. If you have not had unprotected sex for weeks or months then it is unlikely that implantation bleeding is the source.

While it is a normal occurrence, implantation bleeding does not occur for all women or all pregnancies. In fact, some women don’t even notice it.

In a Planned Parenthood Blogpost entitled, “Is it Possible To Get Pregnant and Still Have Your Period?” they had this to say:

Pregnant people don’t get a period (meaning a monthly shedding of the uterine lining) during the time that they’re pregnant. But sometimes bleeding happens for other reasons. Some people experience light spotting in the beginning of their pregnancy, called implantation bleeding, but usually this bleeding is much lighter and does not last as long as a normal period.

It’s definitely possible for people who normally have very light periods to mistake that for their period, just as it’s possible for those who have irregular cycles to not notice if they miss a period, and not find out that they’re pregnant until several months down the line. But if you get your period at the time you expect it, and it’s not unlike the bleeding you usually have, then it’s very unlikely that you’re pregnant. If your bleeding is much lighter and/or shorter than usual, there’s no harm in taking a pregnancy test to be certain. And, of course, any questions or concerns should be taken to your primary care physician, gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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