Article written by Marea Goodman, Licensed Midwife and Certified Professional Midwife, and medically reviewed by Sarah Marsh, RN, CNM, MSN, MPH
When you are trying to get pregnant, any sensation in your lower abdominal or pelvic area can immediately spark your attention. Many people wish that they had an ultrasound machine that could tell them exactly what is happening inside their body while they are trying to conceive. Here at Mosie Baby we know that sometimes, that two-week wait after insemination can feel excruciating—it’s hard to remain patient when you are constantly wondering whether sperm has met egg. Any physical sensation is compelling. Is it implantation cramping? Or period pain? Or digestion sounds as a result of eating all of that ice cream?
This article will help you learn all about implantation cramping, where it’s located, what it feels like, and when it occurs. It will also help you distinguish between implantation cramps and period pain in the hopes of giving you a little more clarity about what you are experiencing in your body post-insemination.
What are implantation cramps?
Implantation cramps refer to the sensation of a fertilized egg connecting to the wall of your uterus. When sperm meets egg, it travels down your fallopian tubes until it reaches your uterus. Then, it begins to burrow into the blood and oxygen-rich uterine lining. This process, for some people, can lead to cramping. Not everyone feels implantation cramps— it is estimated that about 30% of pregnant people experience implantation symptoms. Experiencing implantation cramping depends on many things, including the amount of nerve endings you have in your uterus and how much attention you are paying to your body at any given moment. Implantation cramping is sometimes accompanied by light to moderate bleeding, but not always.
What are period cramps?
Period cramps are caused by contractions originating in your uterus, which is in your lower abdominal area, right behind your pubic bone. These contractions occur because your body is getting ready to release the fertile uterine lining that your uterus prepared in case a fertilized egg tried to implant inside it. If no conception occurs, your body releases the blood-rich uterine lining in preparation for another cycle of ovulation. Periods for most menstruating people occur every 26-34 days.
Where is implantation pain typically located, and what does it feel like?
Implantation pain is located inside your uterus, which is about the size of your fist (when you are not pregnant). Most people who experience implantation cramping report that it feels like a tingling sensation in their uterus, or light, sometimes rhythmic twinges. Some people experience it as a dull aching sensation or as mild cramps. Others can experience implantation cramps as achiness in their lower back. For most people, the pain is not too severe, and it usually comes and goes.
Where is period pain typically located, and what does it feel like?
Like implantation cramping, period pain occurs in your uterus. It is generally more of a rhythmic, achy sensation in your lower abdomen (uterus) or lower back. For most people, period pain lasts for longer than implantation cramping does, and is associated with heavier bleeding than comes with implantation.
When does implantation cramping occur?
Implantation cramping generally occurs about 8 to 12 days after insemination— that’s the amount of time it takes for the fertilized egg to travel through your fallopian tubes and begin to burrow into the wall of your uterus. Fun fact: one egg, before fertilization, is about the size in diameter of a human hair. By the time it has been fertilized and reaches your uterus, it has grown to about the size of a poppy seed.
When does period cramping occur?
Most people experience period cramps about one to three days before menstruation or about two weeks after insemination.
How long does implantation cramping last for?
Implantation cramping lasts anywhere from a one-second sensation to a few days, depending on your experience in your own body. Many people do not notice any sensations caused by implantation.
How long does period cramping last for?
The experience of period cramps varies immensely from person to person, but it generally lasts between one to five days, depending on the severity of the period.
Other common symptoms of pregnancy
There are so many other common symptoms of pregnancy that can help give you insight into your fertility or the time in your cycle. Many people experience soreness in their breasts and/or nipples, increased exhaustion, and increased hunger and/or thirst. As noted earlier, some people experience implantation bleeding, which can be anything from light-pink spotting to a light period. Other early pregnancy symptoms include nausea, bloating, digestive changes, and temperature changes (your temperature rises when pregnancy occurs). Increased emotional sensitivity is a common symptom as well. However, it is normal to have increased emotional sensitivity while trying to conceive in the first place—it can be such an emotional roller coaster!
When should you see a medical professional
You should contact your medical professional if you are ever concerned about what is happening in your body—they are there if you need them. If you are bleeding so heavily that you are filling up a pad or a menstrual cup in less than an hour, or feeling light-headed as a result of blood loss, contact a medical professional immediately. Or, if you are experiencing severe cramping or intense, sharp pain on one side of your abdomen, this could potentially be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy and we recommend seeking professional help immediately.
Well, that’s a lot about implantation cramping, period pain, and pregnancy. We wish that you could have access to that magic ultrasound machine that could tell you exactly what is happening inside your body— but since we can’t give you that, we hope that this article helped to demystify what implantation cramping really is. If you are experiencing what might be implantation cramps, you can always call your medical provider and ask them to order a serum (blood) based pregnancy test. These blood tests can accurately identify pregnancy about eight days after insemination, around the time implantation cramping occurs.