Cramps are basically a part of every woman’s life. It is experienced like clockwork every month, in different levels of intensity and duration. However, not all cramps are period-related. Did you know that experiencing a certain kind of cramps can be a sign that you might be expecting?
It’s not a good idea to jump to conclusions, however. There are many other reasons why you may be having cramps, and there are many other signs of pregnancy. That is why in this article, we will talk about implantation cramps. You will learn what it means, when it happens, how to differentiate it with menstrual cramps, and many more!
What Is Implantation
To put simply, implantation happens when a fertilized egg burrows itself into the wall of the uterus.
Before it leads to the implantation stage, we have to go back several steps in the fallopian tube, where the egg cell is fertilized by the sperm cell. The zygote travels to the uterus after fertilization. The cells then multiply until the mass becomes a morula, and then a blastocyst. The blastocyst is really small, just around 2 mm.
The uterine lining then will be preparing to receive the blastocyst. The estrogen levels will be lower, while the progesterone will help accommodate the uterus accommodate the blastocyst. After this, the woman’s body begins to form parts of the placenta.
Most women do not experience any pain or discomfort during implantation but it is still fairly common. In fact, only around 30% of pregnant women experience this on average. Implantation cramps may or may not come with a slight bleeding, too.
Hormonal Cycle and Implantation Explained
To make things look clearer, let us take a look at the bigger picture, that is, the hormonal cycle. It takes 28 days to complete a cycle on average, but it may be from 24 to 35 days. The first day of the menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your menstruation.
The first day of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase. During this time, there is an increase of in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). As your body is led to the production of an egg cell, so does your body produce more estrogen that increases the lining of your uterus. This thickening will enable your body to support life should you get pregnant when you ovulate.
Ovulation happens next, between days 12 to 14. Your estrogen and progesterone level is at its highest, preparing for pregnancy. Luteinizing hormone is also released to begin the release of the egg cell. The egg cell travels from the fallopian tube toward the uterus.
After this is the luteal phase. If the egg cell does not get fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels drop. There thick uterine lining is not needed anymore nor is it sustained, and so it starts shedding and thus, the cycle begins again on day 1.
If, on the other hand, the egg cell is fertilized by a sperm cell in the fallopian tube, fertilization occurs. The zygote then travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it is implanted into the thick uterine lining. A successful implantation means that a woman had a successful conception.
Recognizing Implantation Cramps
Not all women experience implantation cramps, and even if they do, it is not easy to differentiate it from other kinds of cramps. In all actuality, there is no definite way of knowing whether what you experience is implantation cramps or not. Nevertheless, the following are some of the determiners:
How Implantation Cramps Feel Like
Implantation cramps should not feel intense or severe. It is a dull ache that can be described as pricking, pulling, or tingling. This pain should not become more intense over time. Moreover, implantation cramps can be felt in the lower stomach, as well as in the lower back. There may also be some pressure felt on the sides if you experience this.
When Implantation Cramps Occur
You should begin tracking your hormonal calendar if you are planning to get pregnant. Implantation happens anytime from 6 to 12 days after ovulation, with most cases occurring 8 to 10 days. Implantation can happen 2 to 7 days before your period so it may be easily dismissed as period cramps if it occurs close to the day of your menstruation. Moreover, it can happen around a week after your period. So if you feel cramps too close after you have had your period, you may well dismiss that what you experienced was implantation cramps.
How Long Implantation Cramps Last
Implantation cramps may last from a few minutes to a couple of days. If it lasts longer than three days then your cramps are most likely caused by something else.
Recognizing Implantation Bleeding
Implantation cramps may come with some bleeding, but it is not necessary to confirm whether you have had implantation cramps or not. You may also bleed and not have cramps, or experience neither cramps nor bleeding.
How Implantation Bleeding Happens
The uterine lining is rich in blood. As the egg is burrowed into it, some of the linings is shed, hence the bleeding that comes with the implantation of the fertilized egg.
When Implantation Bleeding Happens
Implantation bleeding happens around the same time that a woman expects here regular menstruation. This is 10 to 14 days after conceiving.
What Implantation Bleeding Looks Like
Implantation bleeding should appear light pink to brown. The bleeding is very light so no clots should come with it and it should not appear bright red. The amount is also very small, and you may notice a little bit in your panty liner or as you wipe your genital area. The amount also does not increase in its progression. Rather, it goes away as soon as it happens.
How Long Implantation Bleeding Lasts
Implantation bleeding lasts from a few hours to around 2 days. Still, it differs among women. Some may experience spottings every now and then that may last a few days.
Implantation versus Period
There is no way to know for sure whether you are experiencing implantation cramps or menstrual cramps since they are both caused by an increase in prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause the uterine muscle to contract. Still, there are some factors that can help you determine the difference.
Difference in Pain Intensity
Cramps caused by implantation should be dull and light compared to menstrual cramps. Implantation cramps occur at irregular intervals, but it should not increase in intensity. On the other hand, period cramps may occur periodically and may feel more painful.
Difference in Timing
Menstrual cramps, also called primary dysmenorrhea, happen 24 to 48 hours before period comes. On the other hand, implantation cramps happen 2 to 7 days before the period.
Difference in Appearance
Period blood is usually bright red in appearance, whereas implantation bleeding is light pink or brown. The former also comes in more quantity compared to the latter, which can be just spottings. Moreover, clots may be found in period blood but this is unlikely to be experienced in implantation bleeding. The amount of period blood also increases then decreases while implantation bleeding reduces with the passage of time.
Difference in Duration
Menstruation lasts 3 to 7 days, while implantation bleeding and cramps may last from a few hours to three days only. The bleeding that occurs during implantation also stops right away, whereas menstrual bleeding lasts longer.
Easing Implantation Cramps
Implantation cramps usually do not need medical attention. They may cause some discomfort but it would go away in time. However, if you are experiencing a little more than discomfort, the following are some of the things you can do to ease the pain:
- Relax – Stress plays a role in the pain you experience. Try taking some time off and rest. You may listen to music that relaxes you, rest in bed, or do something that gets your mind off matters that cause you to worry. There are also women who say meditation or yoga helps.
- Get a Massage – A massage can also do you wonders. You may go to a spa or simply have someone or your partner give you a massage with essential oils.
- Stay Hydrated – Do not forget to drink enough fluids to avoid or reduce the cramps.
- Lie Down and Lift Your Legs – Some women find that laying down and elevating their legs helps ease the cramping.
Other Early Signs of Pregnancy
Are cramps a sure way of finding out whether you are pregnant or not? The answer is no. While we have discussed implantation cramps, there is a myriad of possible causes for cramps. Moreover, the only true way of knowing whether you are pregnant or not is a pregnancy test.
However, there are other signs of pregnancy that you may experience other than implantation cramps. Of course, the clearest sign is a missed period. Other signs are also caused by hormonal changes, like morning sickness, food cravings or aversions, darkened areolas, and a more sensitive sense of smell. You might also experience the need to urinate frequently and a bloated feeling, and even constipation. If you are pregnant, you might also feel more tired than usual.
If you see signs of pregnancy, it is best to try a pregnancy test and take a trip to the doctor to help you in the next steps of this new chapter in your life.
Other Kinds of Cramps Experienced during Pregnancy
Women may experience cramps for many possible reasons other than their menstrual cycle or pregnancy. For this reason, one should not immediately jump to conclusions when experiencing cramps. For one, the underlying cause may require a different kind of care or even a visit to the doctor.
One of the possible reason is other issues with the reproductive system caused by abnormal imbalance, infections, or disease. Examples are endometriosis or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Another possible cause is Sexually Transmitted Infections or STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. This may also be Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
Cramps may also be a result of digestion or gastrointestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, appendicitis, lactose intolerance, or even something as simple as gas.
Cramps may be rooted from causes that may be easily cured with home remedies or over-the-counter medication. On the other hand, some require immediate medical attention. Usually, these do not just come with cramps alone but also with some abnormal discharge or other symptoms.
Taking a Pregnancy Test
The hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is produced when the placenta begins to form around the embryo embedded into a pregnant woman’s uterine lining. Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of hCG and therefore showing whether you are pregnant or not.
Not all pregnancy tests are made equal, however. Their sensitivity vary from 10mIU/mL to 40mIU/ML. It is therefore recommended that you take a home pregnancy test around two weeks after you feel what you suspect might be an implantation cramp or one week after you miss your period.
Otherwise, taking a home pregnancy test too soon might result in a false negative since the amount of hCG in your urine is not yet detectable. If your result comes out negative but you really suspect that you are pregnant, wait a couple of days and then try again.
On the other hand, a more sure way of confirming a pregnancy is by having your blood tested by your doctor. Blood tests are more sensitive compared to home pregnancy tests. These may be taken 7 to 12 days after conception but they are more expensive compared to home pregnancy tests.
When to See Your Doctor
Implantation cramps usually come and go on its own. It is rare that a doctor’s intervention is needed to ease the pain. However, you should still be discerning about what your body should normally experience. If you experience anything out of the ordinary, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Some of these signs are heavy bleeding outside of your cycle. Once again, implantation bleeding should be light. Furthermore, if the pain is severe and lasts more than three days, this is not normal. See your doctor if there are other possible causes for this pain.
Also, observe if you are having an abnormal discharge. This may be yellowish or grayish, with an unpleasant odor. Moreover, if you are experiencing a sharp persistent pain when urinating or around your pelvic area, consider a visit to the doctor.
Of course, if you have tested positive for a home pregnancy test, see your doctor right away for you to be guided for the next steps of your journey to motherhood! In the early stages of your pregnancy, it would be normal to experience cramps as your body adjusts to the growing size of the fetus.
Remember that a visit to the doctor is not a sign that you are paranoid. This is to make sure that if you are indeed carrying a child, you and your little one would be given the best care possible. Not only that, but this also rules out other possible causes of discomfort or pain like miscarriage, preterm labor, UTI, STIs, ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption, or preeclampsia.
In this article, we talked about one possible non-menstrual cause of cramps, which is implantation cramping. Implantation cramping was also defined and differentiated with menstrual cramps and bleeding.
While this information may be helpful in determining whether you are expecting or not, it is not good to jump to conclusions. We can look back on this article that there are other possible causes for cramps and that the only way of knowing for sure is to have a pregnancy test.
From this, it is emphasized that in making decisions about your health and possibly even the well-being of your little one, you should arm yourself with research and knowledge for you to base your decision on facts and not just on what you feel.
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- Taking a Pregnancy Test. (2018). http://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/taking-a-pregnancy-test/
- How Does My Hormone Cycle Work? (2018). (https://womeninbalance.org/about-hormone-imbalance/
- Marcin, A. (2017). Everything You Need to Know About Implantation cramping. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/implantation-cramping
- Your Menstrual Cycle. (2017).https://rubycup.com/all-about-your-period/menstrual-cycle/
- Part 2: From Ovulation to Conception and Fertilization of the Ovum. (2006)https://www.early-pregnancy-tests.com/conceive