An implantation bleeding is a light show of blood — or “spotting” — that some newly pregnant women encounter when their fertilized egg nestles into the lining of the uterus. Not every woman who conceived has a noticeable implantation bleeding. Those who do get one may be a little worried, even if they know about the phenomenon. One of the most common questions when it comes to this subject is, “How on earth do I know whether I’m having an implantation bleeding, or my period?”

Credit: alexanderdrachmann via Flickr Creative Commons.

There are different ways to determine the reason you experience vaginal bleeding. Women with a regular menstrual cycle have the easiest time. Because their cycle lasts the same number of days from one menstruation to the next, and is thus predictable, they will know that spotting that occurs seven to 10 days after their ovulation is probably not a period. “Textbook cases” of implantation bleeding occur halfway through the luteal phase —  that is, a week after ovulation and a week before menstruation.

Not everyone is blessed with cycles that function like clockwork though. If you are not sure where you are in your cycle, and especially if you do not know whether you ovulated at all, knowing why you are bleeding is a bit harder. Women who have irregular periods, may have no idea whether their spotting is an implantation bleeding or simply the start of their period.

In these cases, observing the the quantity and appearance of the blood you are passing is the best way to learn more about its cause. As every woman knows, a menstrual period normally starts suddenly and normally involves lots of heavy bleeding at the start. Those women who don’t quickly start using tampons, menstrual pads, or a Diva Cup will soon have blood all over their clothes!

An implantation bleeding is not the same, and it’s important to stress that implantation spotting often literally does not consists of more than a few drops of blood. If you have go to the rest room and see something pink, brown or black in your underwear and think, “Huh? What’s that!?” – that is probably your implantation bleeding right there.

Of course, it is possible that a period starts off with light spotting that looks just like the implantation bleeding described above. But, the period would still get heavier after that and last for three to five days. If that just doesn’t happen, and you start noticing early pregnancy signs and symptoms, it is definitely time to take a pregnancy test!

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between an implantation bleeding and menstruation, we should also mention that unusual vaginal bleeding can have other possible causes as well. An ovulation bleeding occurs around the time of ovulation, and a minority of women experience this kind of light spotting during each cycle. A chemical pregnancy, which is a very early pregnancy, can also cause bleeding that is a little different to a period. And an ectopic pregnancy is accompanied by pain and bleeding very often. If you are not sure what is going on, don’t be embarrassed to see your doctor.