Implantation Cramping vs. Period Cramps

One of the lesser joys of womanhood, uterine cramping, is a nuisance you’re likely all too familiar with. As if shedding uterine lining during your menstrual cycle for a whole week, more or less, every single month isn’t enough for you already, cramps seem to make their unwelcome appearance at what feels like the worst times.

But have you heard of implantation cramps, a common sign of early pregnancy? If you haven’t—or you have, but you have a lot of questions—you’ve come to the right place!

At RMC, we cater to each milestone of women’s health and pregnancy, from conception to postnatal care. Cramps can be challenging; we get it! We know what you’re going through, and we’re here for you. Today we’re sharing the answers you’re looking for and offering advice on everything concerning cramps—read on to learn more!

What Is Implantation Cramping?

Your period usually starts six to 12 twelve after ovulation, but if a fertilized egg has already developed in the fallopian tubes, it will prepare for its journey towards implantation.

The fertilized egg will leave the fallopian tube and travel down to the uterus at this time. Then, the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall—this is when implantation occurs, which can cause a sensation called implantation cramps for many women. Implantation cramping is not something to cause worry or concern unless, of course, you didn’t expect to be pregnant or you think something is out of the ordinary.

Are Menstrual Cramps and Implantation Cramps the Same Thing?

Not quite. The main difference between implantation cramps and menstrual cycle cramping is:

  • The implantation process has to begin in the uterus wall to have implantation cramping occur.
  • Period cramps are caused by prostaglandins, which make the uterine muscles contract.
  • Simple enough, right?

Well, while some women are trying to conceive, others aren’t quite ready to start their motherhood journey, or they don’t expect to be pregnant right now. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between typical period pain and signs of pregnancy when they experience cramps and (what seems like) premenstrual symptoms.

How to Recognize Implantation Cramps vs. Menstrual Cramping

So, how do you tell the difference between types of cramping? It’s mostly based on:

  • The severity of cramps. If you experience cramping as a regular part of your periods, along with premenstrual syndrome, you’re like most menstruating women. As we’ll continue to explain, implantation cramps often feel much lighter.
  • Missed period. If you’re experiencing cramping, but you’ve missed your period, it’s often an early sign of pregnancy. To further confirm pregnancy, take a pregnancy test.
  • Bleeding. If you’re cramping and you have your usual monthly flow, it’s unlikely that you’re pregnant.
  • Other early signs of pregnancy (keep reading as we’ll explore those signs in detail!).

When Will Implantation Cramps Happen?

Not every woman will feel implantation pain, but for a typical 28-day cycle, implantation cramps will likely occur sometime between days 20 and 22. In other words, implantation cramping will make an appearance—if at all—about a week before your next period is due.

What Do Implantation Cramps Feel Like?

Implantation cramps feel similar to premenstrual cramps but as more mild cramping with prickly, tingly twinges of intermittent abdominal discomfort. Fortunately, these types of cramps tend to stick around for only two to three days during the implantation process and should fade away as you develop further into the first trimester.

Where Do Implantation Cramps Hurt?

If you’re experiencing implantation cramps, you’re likely dealing with mild cramping in the lower abdomen that feels lighter than typical period cramps.

Is Implantation Bleeding Normal?

Yes, light bleeding or lightly-colored spotting called implantation bleeding often accompanies implantation cramping. It’s not abnormal for you to have light pink, red, or brown implantation bleeding without cramping, either. During the first trimester of pregnancy—long after the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining—many women continue to experience light bleeding or spotting.

Severe vaginal bleeding, however, is always a reason to check with your doctor, especially if you know it’s not just your period or you’ve been trying to conceive.

Other Implantation Signs and Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Besides implantation cramps, other signs of early pregnancy include:

  • Mood swings that can feel similar to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS);
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue;
  • Breast tenderness and changes in the appearance or feeling of breasts or nipples;
  • Nausea or “morning sickness” (not just a morning thing);
  • Late or missed period;
  • Frequent urination, especially in the middle of the night;
  • Aversion or sensitivity to certain foods and smells.

If you’re experiencing implantation cramps or any of these other early signs, it’s time to take an at-home pregnancy test. How soon you’ll have a positive pregnancy test result depends on the levels of the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) in your body.

Wait at least five days after your missed period before you take an at-home pregnancy test; otherwise, you’ll likely test too soon to tell and waste money on tests.

When to See a Doctor for Implantation Cramps

If you want to confirm your urine pregnancy tests taken at home or want to try and receive a positive result a little sooner, you can speak with your regular physician about a Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) blood test.

For more serious symptoms related to implantation cramping, such as these, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Heavy bleeding and severe cramping;
  • History of ectopic pregnancy or fallopian tube damage and infection;
  • Severe pain in the lower abdomen.

These symptoms and other signs can point to a miscarriage during early pregnancy. It is critical that you seek your doctor’s advice to assess the status of your pregnancy and symptoms to intervene with any concerns affecting your ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to full term.

How to Ease the Pain and Discomfort of Implantation Cramps

Much like period cramps, implantation cramping can have you begging for pain relief. Some things that can help to alleviate the pain include:

  • OTC pain medication, such as acetaminophen;
  • Relaxation exercises;
  • Hot and cold compresses;
  • Warm bath or shower;
  • Massage;
  • Topical lotion or cream at the external site of pain.

When you feel implantation cramps, they can have you thinking that you could just curl up in a ball until the pain passes, and that’s pretty normal. Remember to take care of your body and tend to the pain as you would with period cramping, and always talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms out of the ordinary or concerns about your pain.

Quality Maternity and Women’s Health Care

Our maternal medical care team in the Women and Children’s Pavilion has a team of specially trained OB Nurses, board-certified physicians, and top-of-the-line labor, delivery, and recovery care systems.

RMC is committed to patient safety, comfort, and guiding new parents through one of the happiest moments in life. Each milestone through prenatal to postnatal care is catered for at RMC.