What Are Implantation Cramps?

Implantation cramps are typical discomfort in the first days of pregnancy. Learn why they occur and how to identify them.
What Are Implantation Cramps?

Last update: 02 August, 2022

The first weeks of pregnancy are often accompanied by some rather strange symptoms, such as implantation cramps. These abdominal discomforts are perceived as slight stitches in the lower abdomen, which resemble menstrual cramps. But if they coincide with a delay in menstruation, they may suggest an ongoing pregnancy.

Although these cramps are common, not all women experience them. That’s why we’re going to tell you what to expect and how to identify them if you’re looking for a baby. Keep reading!

What are implantation cramps?

Implantation cramps, also called embryo implantation cramps, are mild to moderate stabbing pains that appear in the lower abdomen. They occur as a consequence of the fertilized egg adhering to the endometrium, the most superficial layer of the uterine cavity, a few days after conception.

Once in the thickness of the endometrium, the embryo is provided with oxygen and nutrients present in the maternal blood, and this favors its development and survival.

During the implantation process, the mother-to-be may feel some discomfort due to the rupture of blood vessels and the formation of new ones. Thus, implantation cramps are usually accompanied by a slight blood loss, called implantation bleeding, which lasts between 2 and 5 days. This is different from menstruation in that it’s scanty and dark red or brown in color.

Implantation cramps.
After implantation in the uterine endometrium, the blastocyst embryo begins to modify its structure to give rise to the placenta and the organism of the future baby.

When do implantation cramps appear?

The moment when implantation cramps appear varies from one woman to another, as it depends on the regularity of the menstrual cycle.

Generally speaking, if a woman has a regular menstrual cycle of 28 days, it can take 6 to 10 days after fertilization for the egg to implant. That is, between 10 to 14 days after ovulation.

The usual period of presentation of cramps usually coincides with the expected date of menstruation, so it’s common that both phenomena are confused. In fact, many women don’t realize they are pregnant and assume they’ve menstruated, when in fact they have implantation bleeding.

Characteristics of implantation cramps

Implantation cramps are perceived in different ways. They’re usually felt as a mild discomfort or stabbing pain in the lower abdomen. They’re similar to menstrual cramps, but not as intense as menstrual cramps.

Other women report feeling them as a pulling sensation in the belly, accompanied by tingling. These cramps may occur for a single moment or intermittently over one or two days.

Similarly, implantation cramps may be accompanied by other typical symptoms of early pregnancy:

  • Mild pain in the lower back
  • Implantation bleeding
  • Breast tenderness and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A sensation of fullness in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Rejection toward certain smells or foods

Are implantation cramps common?

As we’ve anticipated, not all women feel the discomfort of implantation and in fact, for many, it goes totally unnoticed. Therefore, it’s not possible to estimate a frequency and it’s not taken as a cardinal sign of pregnancy.

If you’re looking for a baby and you feel this discomfort, take a pregnancy test to detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your blood or urine. Of course, you should do it a few days after the absence of your period so that its concentration increases considerably and can be detected with these tests.

A woman with her hands over her abdomen.
Implantation pains occur in the lower part of the belly and can sometimes resemble common menstrual discomfort, although milder.

Is it necessary to take medication to treat cramps?

Implantation cramps don’t become so strong as to require medication. Sometimes it’s enough to take a break or place a little heat on the abdomen for them to subside.

You should not worry about them, because they are an indication that everything is going as expected in this early stage of pregnancy. The uterus is preparing to form the placenta and thus nourish the baby and keep it alive.

You should know that it’s normal to feel slight pinching or cramping in the uterus and pelvis throughout gestation, as they respond to physiological changes that are generated in these tissues. But make sure they’re temporary and of low intensity.

If, however, they persist for more than 2 days or are accompanied by fever or heavy bleeding, seek medical evaluation as soon as possible.

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  • American pregnancy association (2022). ¿Qué Es El Sangrado De Implantación? Recuperado de: https://americanpregnancy.org/es/pregnancy-symptoms-es/what-is-implantation-bleeding/
  • Gutiérrez, R. et al (2019) Implantación embrionaria. Algunos aspectos moleculares en la receptividad endometrial. Revisión Bibliográfica. Multimed vol.23 no.1 Granma ene.-feb. 2019. Recuperado de: http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1028-48182019000100167#:~:text=La%20implantaci%C3%B3n%20embrionaria%20es%20un,y%20posterior%20invasi%C3%B3n%20del%20blastocisto.
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