Your Guide to Implantation and Pregnancy

Last Updated: April 10, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more about affiliate links.

Are you curious about the process of how you actually become pregnant? No, no, I’m not referring to the “birds and the bees” here, people. I’m talking ovulation and fertilized eggs, and implantation. 

This just might be your guide to implantation and pregnancy that you never even knew you needed!

If I’ve piqued your interest, and even if I haven’t yet, read along with me to learn all about this incredible, amazing, and downright magical process.

It truly is the miracle of life in so many ways.

Follow @mommy.labornurse on Instagram to join our community of over 640k for education, tips, and solidarity on all things pregnancy, birth, and postpartum!

What is implantation?

Implantation occurs when a fertilized egg attaches (or implants) in the lining of the uterus. This typically happens around 1 – 2 weeks after fertilization, and when it happens you may experience some light spotting and/or cramping.

Timeline of conception

Have you ever thought about how conception happens? Like really, truly broken it down to understand the timeline of everything? If you aren’t in the medical field (and don’t classify yourself as a conception enthusiast, ha!), then there’s a good chance you aren’t familiar with all the fine details.

I’m going to break it all down for you right here and now!

Most (but not all) menstrual cycles are about 28 days long. To calculate your cycle, count from the first day of menstrual bleeding to the start of your next menstrual cycle. Ovulation depends on the length of your cycle. 

If you have a 28-day cycle, you can expect to ovulate roughly around day 14. This means 14 days after the first day of your period. If you have intercourse during this time, the sperm should fertilize the egg within 24 hours of ovulation if conception is successful. 

About six days after fertilization, the fertilized eggs implants into your uterine lining. If conception and implantation took place during a particular menstrual cycle, pregnancy begins around day 21. This does not necessarily mean you will have a positive pregnancy test on day 21.

It could take up to another week, give or take, for you to get that BFP (big fat positive), so to avoid provoking any negative feelings or emotions, go ahead and wait until the first day of your missed period!

Related Reading: How to Track Ovulation: 16 TTC Tips from an L&D Nurse

When does implantation occur?

Like I said above, if your cycles are 28 days long, you can expect implantation to happen about six days after fertilization. It’s not an exact science for everyone, especially for those who don’t have a 28-day cycle. A more general guideline for implantation is 6-12 days following conception or day 20-24 of your cycle. 

Are you following me?

Signs of implantation

Even though it’s recommended to wait until the first day of your missed period to take a pregnancy test, there are some signs of implantation that may clue you in before that.

The biggies when it comes to signs of implantation are bleeding, cramping, a dip in body temperature, bloating, and changes in your discharge. It can be a little bit tricky because some of these are similar to PMS symptoms, but I’ll dive into each in a little more depth so you have a better understanding.

1. Implantation cramps

Scientifically there actually isn’t much evidence to support implantation cramps. There is, however, lots of anecdotal evidence to support cramping as a sign of implantation. 

Of those who experience implantation cramps, most feel them in their lower abdomen or lower back. Crazy enough, you might actually experience more cramping on the side of your body where the egg implants.

Since there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence backing it up, it’s tough to know exactly why some women experience implantation cramps. To make a long story short though, the thought is that it boils down to an increase in hormones, as most things in pregnancy do.

A certain hormone that is vital to the implantation process, prostaglandins, is also associated with pain and inflammation. Therefore, it’s believed that the increase of prostaglandins during this process results in cramping for some women.

With all of that being said, cramps associated with implantation are mild. If you are experiencing severe pain or cramping you might have something more serious going on and should be evaluated by your medical provider.

2. Implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding is fairly common. According to some sources, a whopping one-third of pregnant women experience implantation bleeding. Similarly to the lack of scientific evidence on the cramping, there is also not a ton of scientific evidence backing up implantation bleeding as well.

Anecdotally, though, I have spoken to many friends, coworkers, and patients who have experienced implantation bleeding themselves. I actually experienced implantation bleeding myself with my second pregnancy. 

Implantation bleeding is usually brownish or light pink in color unlike a period which is usually bright red. Another way that implantation bleeding differs from your menstrual cycle is that it more closely resembles spotting instead of a continuous, all day flow like a period.

When in doubt, you would never ever be wrong to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Click me

3. Implantation dip

A lot of women actually track their ovulation by taking their basal body temperature daily. To understand how this works, and what the implantation dip is, you must first understand what your basal body temperature (BBT) is and how it relates to all things fertility.

Your BBT is your temperature when you’re fully at rest. Shifts in your BBT are very closely tied to your menstrual cycle, changes that occur during ovulation, implantation, and pregnancy. Consistently taking and charting your BBT can tell you a lot about your fertile window to help you either get pregnant or avoid getting pregnant.

Without getting too scientific-y on you, I’ll try to briefly explain how hormones affect your BBT. Thanks to the hormone progesterone, your BBT jumps up very slightly after ovulation. A decreasing temperature, over the course of about 7-10 days, is typically a sign that your period is on its way.

So where does the implantation dip come into play? With an implantation dip, you can expect a one-day drop in your BBT before it goes back up the following day. This is different from what happens when implantation doesn’t take place (aka you start your cycle), and your BBT has a steady decline. 

There are other things that can impact your BBT, sleep, stress, and illness to name a few, so don’t rely solely on the implantation dip as a confirmation of pregnancy.

4. Implantation bloating

Bloating, another potential side effect of increasing progesterone levels, can occur with implantation. If you haven’t noticed yet, implantation and progesterone sorta go hand in hand. 

Progesterone has many roles but one thing it does is relaxes your muscles, to include the muscles in your GI tract. When the muscles in your GI tract are relaxed, digestion happens at a much slower rate, which can cause bloating. 

Again, I wouldn’t say to myself, “oh hey I’m feeling bloated, I’m definitely pregnant,” but know that this is one fairly common symptom that women experience in early pregnancy.

5. Changes in discharge

You can actually learn a whole lot about your menstrual cycle and what’s going on with your body just from your vaginal discharge. Changes in your discharge, texture, color, odor, etc, can indicate things are going on.

Cervical mucus changes can actually be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Again, not an end all, be all confirmation of pregnancy, but something to pay attention to if you are actively trying to conceive.  

Just before and during ovulation you can expect to have an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge. You might also notice that it’s also the consistency of raw egg whites, slippery and sticky. 

If implantation does not happen, your discharge will decrease until it becomes absent until your period starts, and the cycle continues. If implantation happens, you might find your discharge to be clear, thick, and not decreasing in amount.

When to take a pregnancy test?

To avoid any inaccurate results, it is best to wait and take a pregnancy test after the first day of your missed period. Yes, there are plenty of tests out there that claim to give 99% accurate results when taken a few days before your missed period. Trust me, I know you are eager for an answer and I know you have maybe been waiting for this for months or even years, but for the most accurate and reliable result, I would wait until the first day of your missed period.

If for some reason you don’t have regular cycles or aren’t getting a period at all then I would recommend taking a test about 3 weeks after having intercourse. 

Pregnancy tests work by measuring the amount of the hormone HCG in your urine. HCG is released when implantation happens, a fertilized egg attaches to your uterine lining. Generally, the best time of day to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning when you get up to pee. That first pee of the day is usually the most concentrated one (unless you somehow have a magical way to drink water throughout the night), so your HCG level is more easily detected.

Keep learning

I hope I made implantation clear as day for you mama or mama-to-be! I have scattered some trying to conceive (TTC) and early pregnancy resources throughout this article but if you are looking for more, I’ve got ya covered! Be sure to check out all of my info linked below!

New call-to-action
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

Are you ready to have an even better birth?

Everything in your hospital’s childbirth class – plus so. much. more. Get the knowledge and tools necessary for a positive birth experience – no matter how you deliver!

Natural Birth Class

Eliminate the what-ifs and feel strong and ready for your unmedicated birth.

Start here if birthing without an epidural is your goal!

Epidural Birth Class

Let go of fear and feel fully prepared for (and unafraid of!) your epidural birth.

Start here if you know you want that epidural – or you’re not sure what your birth goals are!

C-Section Birth Class

Release anxiety and gain a sense of control for your C-section birth.

Start here if you have a planned C-section on the horizon. You deserve birth education too!