Implantation Cramping: What is it? How Long Does it Last? When Should I Worry?
Published November 7, 2017
Are you having cramps and wondering if it’s just your period coming soon? Have you been trying to conceive and wondering what implantation feels like?
Implantation cramps are a very healthy part of pregnancy and can often be one of the first signs that a woman is pregnant.
In this post, we will talk about what implantation cramps are, how to tell the difference between menstrual and implantation cramps, what you can do about the pain, and when you should be concerned.
What are Implantation Cramps?
For some women, implantation cramps are one of the very first signs that they have conceived. When conception occurs, an egg is fertilized by the sperm in one of the fallopian tubes. Cells start to divide and multiply rapidly within 24 hours. The fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube for about 3- 4 days before it starts slowly moving down the tube to the uterus and becomes a blastocyst.
Once the blastocyst reaches the uterus, it implants itself into the uterine lining. This process is known as implantation and can often cause what are called implantation cramps. Implantation cramps are usually mild and can often be accompanied by implantation bleeding, or light spotting (source).
However, not all women will experience implantation cramps and/or bleeding. Some women are lucky enough not to have any cramping during early pregnancy.
How Long Do Implantation Cramps Last For?
There’s a very short time in which the blastocyst can implant into the wall of your uterus, sometimes causing implantation cramps. This process typically happens anywhere from 8-12 days following ovulation.
Implantation cramps are usually minor and typically last for just 1 to 3 days until the implantation process is complete (source).
How to Tell the Difference Between Menstrual and Implantation Cramps
Implantation cramps can happen around the same time as your menstrual cycle, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you are having PMS cramps or if you’re experiencing an early sign of pregnancy. However, there are a few differences you’ll be able to spot if you pay close attention to your symptoms.
- The intensity of cramps: Pay close attention to how heavy your cramps are. Implantation cramps are usually mild, intermittent, and feel like a pulling/tugging sensation. Whereas, menstrual cramps tend to be more intense and gradual for most women.
- Duration of cramps: Implantation cramps only last for 1-3 days until implantation is complete. If you’re experiencing pains for longer than three days, then they are most likely PMS related cramps.
- Accompanied implanted bleeding: Implantation cramps are often accompanied with implantation bleeding. If you’re experiencing any spotting and aren’t normally about to have your period, you could be having implantation cramps. Implantation bleeding also tends to be much lighter or even brown in color, whereas PMS bleeding is typically bright red.
Implantation symptoms and early pregnancy symptoms typically occur around the same time, so be sure to watch out for pregnancy signs that are usually not associated with PMS, such as:
- Increased urination
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Food and/or smell aversions
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Missed period
Likewise, you could watch out for PMS signs that aren’t typical with early pregnancy, such as backaches and depression. Keeping track of your cycle on the calendar will also help give you a better idea of if you’re dealing with menstrual cramps or possible implantation cramps.
If you are still unsure, you can always take a home pregnancy test for a more definitive answer. Some home pregnancy tests claim to be able to detect a pregnancy as early as 5-7 days after conception. However, waiting until one week after you would typically have your period will give you the most accurate answer.
More in Maternity Health Care: How to Get Enough Belly Support During Pregnancy
How to Get Relief from Implantation Cramps
Implantation cramps can cause some discomfort, but remember that they will only last for about 1-3 days. These cramps should be minor enough that you shouldn’t have to take any pain medication. If you do need some relief from implantation cramps, try a few of these techniques:
- Try to relax: Stress only causes even more tension and discomfort, so try to relax and sit back and prop your feet up to help the pain pass. You could also engage in some relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing.
- Take a warm bath: Taking a warm bath will also help you relax and ease the tension. The warm water will relax the ligaments and muscles of the uterus, relieving your cramps.
- Hot compress: As an alternative to a warm bath, you could place a hot compress on your problem areas.
- Get a massage: Have your partner give you a nice back massage or look for a masseuse in your area that is trained in prenatal massage.
- Stay hydrated: Getting plenty of fluids will go a long way in easing and preventing any types of cramps.
- Change positions: Simply switching positions may do the trick to help ease the pain.
- Prenatal yoga: Prenatal yoga will help put you in a relaxed state of mind, get your blood flowing, and alleviate your pain. (source)
When to Be Concerned
Cramping during early pregnancy is usually very normal, but in some cases, it can indicate a serious problem.
If you are experiencing any persistent or severe cramping with a positive pregnancy test, be sure to get seen by your OB/GYN or midwife as soon as possible.
It may just be gas or your uterus growing, but it may also be a sign of a miscarriage, placental abruption, ovarian cyst, urinary tract infection, or an ectopic pregnancy (source).
You should also call your doctor if your cramps seem always to be focused on one side of your lower abdomen (regardless if they are severe or not), as this is also a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can cause the fallopian tube to tear or burst, resulting in dangerous internal bleeding (source).
Can I Expect Other Types of Cramps Throughout Pregnancy?
In most cases, minor, intermittent cramps are a very normal part of pregnancy.
Your body is going through a lot of changes to accommodate your growing baby, and when your uterus starts expanding, the ligaments and muscles that support it will stretch and may result in some cramping. It may be even more noticeable when you sneeze, cough, or change positions.
During the second trimester, you may start noticing cramps that are caused by round ligament pain. The round ligament is a muscle in your lower abdomen that supports your uterus. When this muscle gets stretched, you may feel a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache in your lower abdomen.
Other causes of minor cramping during pregnancy include gas and bloating, constipation, and sexual intercourse (source).
Implantation cramps are one of the very first signs of pregnancy for some women and can occur anywhere from 8-12 days following ovulation when the fertilized egg makes it way down the fallopian tube and implants itself into the uterine lining.
Implantation cramps are mild and only last for about 1-3 days. They may also be accompanied by light bleeding or spotting known as implantation bleeding. The pain shouldn’t be too bothersome, but if you need some relief try relaxing, take a warm bath, get a massage, and make sure you’re staying hydrated.
Cramping during early pregnancy is typically nothing to be concerned about. But, if you’re experiencing any severe or persistent cramps or cramps with heavy bleeding, be sure to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. These are possibly signs of an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placental abruption, or an ovarian cyst.
Did you experience implantation cramps with any of your pregnancies? Share with us in the comments how you knew they were implantation cramps and how long they lasted for. Feel free to share this post with all of your expecting mama friends.