If you have been trying to get pregnant and are experiencing the normal signs of your regular period, such as cramping, bloating, and nausea, do not get discouraged. You may still be pregnant! Implantation cramps and implantation spotting occur in 15 to 25 percent of women and might be early signs of pregnancy.
How can you tell the difference between implantation cramps and period cramps, and if you are pregnant, when should you seek out medical attention? We’re here to help guide you, but make sure to contact your doctor for medical advice.
What Are Implantation Cramps?
First, let’s explain what implantation cramps are. The term “implantation cramps” is a misnomer. The implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus cannot be physically felt. Implantation cramps refer to the cramping sensation a woman can feel during the early stages of pregnancy. These cramps typically occur ten to fourteen days after conception. Putting their occurrence right around the time a woman would be due for her normal monthly period.
Implantation cramps can also be accompanied by light spotting. Known as implantation bleeding, the fertilized egg begins the process of embedding itself into the uterine lining. This can make it even more difficult for a woman to tell if her symptoms are due to her period or pregnancy. During the beginning of pregnancy, and even during the beginning of your period, you may also experience nausea, breast tenderness, and food cravings or aversions.
If I Can’t Really Feel Implantation, Why Am I Cramping?
The cramping you can feel during the beginning of pregnancy is due to a rise in progesterone levels during the last phase of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is the hormone that is also responsible for the moodiness, bloating, nausea, and other symptoms we commonly associate both with our monthly cycle and pregnancy.
The average menstrual cycle can be broke down into three phases; the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase. The follicular phase begins when the body begins releasing two hormones known as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
These two hormones stimulate the growth of eggs within the ovary. They increase the production of estrogen in the body. Once estrogen levels reach their peak, the production of FSH is stopped. One follicle continues developing until an egg is formed.
The ovulation phase will then begin. Luteinizing hormones will surge during this time and allow the egg to release. By this point, estrogen levels have peaked, and the hormone progesterone begins to increase. LH and FSH have now begun to decrease in production as the egg is released, allowing progesterone and estrogen to thicken the uterine lining in preparation for implantation.
This increase in progesterone is what will cause the cramping you begin to feel towards the end of this 14-day phase and will lead into either confirming your pregnancy or beginning your period.
When to Call the Doctor
If you have confirmed that the cramps you are feeling are due to pregnancy and not the start of your period, congratulations! Understand that mild cramping and light spotting are all normal during the first few months of pregnancy. If, however, you begin experiencing heavy bleeding, bright red bleeding, or severe cramping or abdominal pain, it may be time to seek the advice of your healthcare professional.
Heavy bleeding is not normal during your pregnancy. It may be a sign of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Pay close attention to the color of the blood: the brighter red the blood is, the more serious the problem may be. Severe cramping combined with heavy bleeding can also be signs of a miscarriage.
If you experience heavy bleeding with sharp, shooting pains in the lower abdomen it may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the egg implants outside of the uterus. Normally, it will implant within the fallopian tube. An ectopic pregnancy is not viable and if left to develop can be life-threatening to the mother.
Call your doctor if you are experiencing these signs and symptoms. They may want to bring you in for a visit to perform an ultrasound, some blood work, and an exam.
Implantation cramps and light bleeding may be a sign of pregnancy. They are not, however, a definitive sign. Even when accompanied by other symptoms commonly associated with pregnancy. The only way to determine if you are pregnant or not is by taking an at-home pregnancy test. Having the test results confirmed by a qualified healthcare professional is also important so that you can begin discussing how to make this a happy, and healthy, pregnancy.
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