The Difference Between Implantation Cramps & Your Period

How do you tell the difference between implantation cramps and your period? If you’re cramping and it’s still a few days before your period is due, you might wonder whether the pain you’re experiencing could be an early sign of pregnancy. Is there any way to know for sure?

The short answer is no. At such an early stage in pregnancy, there is absolutely no way to tell whether any symptoms you’re experiencing mean you could be pregnant or that your period is just on its way.

But as long as we’re symptom spotting, let’s indulge ourselves. We’ll explain the identifying features of implantation cramps, bust some myths about implantation bleeding, and delve into what’s actually happening in your body during very early pregnancy.

What are implantation cramps?

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. The phrase “implantation cramps” is a misnomer. Implantation of the embryo in the uterine wall is painless and imperceptible, and it happens on such a small cellular level that it simply isn’t possible to “feel” it occurring.

When people talk about implantation cramps, it’s much more likely that they are referring to other processes going on inside the body that lead to mild cramping. Late in the luteal phase, in the days before your period is due, levels of the hormone progesterone are very high. Progesterone relaxes your digestive muscles and slows down the digestion of food, leading to cramping. Progesterone is high at this point in your cycle whether you are pregnant or not.

If you experience mild cramping in the days before your period is due, could it be a sign of implantation or pregnancy? No. It doesn’t mean you’re not pregnant, but the cramping itself should not be considered a sign of anything.

When does implantation occur?

While it is possible for implantation to occur anywhere from six – 12 days past ovulation (DPO), the vast majority of the time implantation occurs between eight – 10 DPO. Even if you are going to get pregnant this cycle, before implantation occurs, you are not pregnant yet and no symptoms that you experience have any significance for your chances of being pregnant.

This is why it’s very helpful to track your cycle. If you know when you ovulated and how many days past ovulation you are, you will know if it’s even possible for symptoms you are experiencing to be related to pregnancy. If you’re only five days past ovulation and you experience some cramping, it can help put things into perspective: it’s impossible for implantation to have occurred yet, so you can give yourself permission to stop thinking about it!

The bottom line.

The truth is, there’s just no conclusive way to know if bleeding or cramping before your period indicates pregnancy. The best course of action is to wait until your period was supposed to arrive, then take a pregnancy test.

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