What Are Implantation Cramps?

cramps

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If you’ve ever been pregnant or tried to get pregnant in the past, you may have heard of implantation cramps. But when, exactly, does this type of cramping happen and why?

First, let's review a quick biology lesson. When you ovulate, one of your ovaries releases an egg into your fallopian tubes; if you happen to have sex within 24 hours (before, during, or after) this release, there’s a chance that egg could become fertilized with sperm. When that occurs, the newly fertilized egg settles into the lining of your uterus, making a nice cozy home for itself.

That implantation process, though, can cause some mild cramping, also known as implantation cramps. Not everyone feels them, they have zero impact on the health of your pregnancy or growing fetus, and they may or may not be accompanied by other early signs of pregnancy, like spotting.

Still, they may be one of the very first symptoms tipping you off to the new little bun in your oven. Here’s what else you need to know about implantation cramps.

What Do Implantation Cramps Feel Like? 

The sensation is different from person to person, but in most cases, they feel like mild cramps, usually dull and aching, or light twinges. Some people also describe feeling a prickling, tingling, or pulling sensation. The sensations may come and go or last for one to two days before disappearing.

Usually, the sensations can be felt in the lower back, lower abdomen, or even the pelvic area. Although only one of your ovaries releases an egg, the cramping is caused by its implantation in the uterus—so you can expect to feel it more in the middle of your body than just on one side.

When Do They Occur?

Every menstrual cycle is a different length, and a newly fertilized egg can take anywhere from six to 10 days after ovulation to implant itsel in your uterus. So it’s hard to say exactly what your personal window of time for experiencing implantation cramps might be. 

Generally, if you have a regular menstrual cycle, you can expect to feel implantation cramps about 4 to 8 days before your next period is scheduled to occur. (The average length of time between ovulation and menstruation is about 14 days, so if implantation happens 6 to 10 days after ovulation, that leaves you with a timeframe of 4 to 8 days before your period hits.)

Again, this is all assuming you have an average 28-day menstrual cycle, which doesn’t apply to all people. If your cycle is shorter or longer than 28 days, that will affect when in your cycle implantation occurs.

How Common Are Implantation Cramps?

No one knows for sure—only that some women notice them and others don’t! It’s more likely that you’ll observe implantation cramps if you’ve been trying to conceive; the possibility that this month is the month you could get pregnant will probably put you on high alert for early signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

On the other hand, women who aren’t expecting to become pregnant may technically feel implantation cramping but not even give it a second thought. And, of course, some women simply won’t feel anything at all.

Do They Feel Like Period Cramps?

The sensation itself is similar to period cramps, but is typically not as strong. Many women don’t realize they’re experiencing implantation cramps because they’re due to start their period within the next week; they dismiss their mild cramping as premenstrual symptoms. 

Here’s where things get really tricky. The early signs of pregnancy overlap a lot with premenstrual symptoms! It can be tough to tell exactly what’s going on, since both scenarios often cause fatigue, mood swings, cravings, and sore breasts. Be patient (even though it’s hard!) because at this point in your cycle, reading too deeply into your symptoms could lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, or disappointment.

What If They Are Painful?

If your implantation cramping is affecting your day, you can try applying heat with a warmed-up heating pad or taking acetaminophen. (Although you don’t know for sure if you’re pregnant yet or not, acetaminophen is the safest OTC pain reliever to take during pregnancy, so choose it if you really want to be on the safe side.)

However, it’s important to note that implantation cramping shouldn’t be debilitating. If your pain is severe, accompanied by other worrying symptoms like heavy bleeding or fever, or is only occurring intensely on one side of your body, you should contact your healthcare provider. It could be a sign of early miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or an ovarian cyst.

What If You Don’t Feel Them? 

Not feeling any implantation cramps doesn’t mean that you’re not pregnant or that something has gone wrong with the implantation process. Some women just don’t feel them or don’t realize what they are feeling counts as implantation symptoms.

If you’re trying to conceive, there’s no reason to think that pregnancy is any less likely to occur if you don’t feel any implantation cramps.

Other Signs of Implantation

A few other symptoms might happen around the same time that you have implantation cramps. These are some early signs of pregnancy that you may or may not notice:

And, last but not least, if you don’t get your period a week or so after experiencing suspected implantation cramps, that could be the most significant symptom of all. It’s too early to take a pregnancy test when you feel implantation cramps. In order to get an accurate result, you need a certain level of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) present in your urine. This is a hormone produced by your body during pregnancy, but in the very early stages, it’s often only there in small amounts.

There’s definitely not enough HCG to be detected on an at-home test during implantation. By the time you’ve actually missed your next period, though, you can definitely try taking an at-home test.

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