How To Tell The Difference Between Implantation & PMS Cramps, Because They’re Annoyingly Similar

Ah, the dreaded two week wait — the bane of every woman’s existence who is trying to conceive. Every PMS symptom could be a pregnancy symptom, which is so confusing and the literal worst. Some women may begin feeling crampy a few days after ovulation, but here’s the million dollar question – is your evil Aunt Flo back in town, or is it an embryo “implanting” in your uterus? Do implantation cramps feel different from PMS? Is there any way to tell, or should you wait to get your hopes up?

What does implantation mean anyway? It’s the process of the fertilized egg attaching to your uterus, and is the very first part of pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, you may experience light bleeding and cramping, but some women don’t notice anything at all.

But if you do notice some cramping, according to Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and Women’s Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, it can be challenging to know the difference between implantation cramps and PMS cramps, unfortunately. “The difference between an implantation cramping and PMS cramping is a positive pregnancy test,” she tells Romper in an email interview.

“The majority of PMS symptoms caused by normal cyclic hormonal changes include bloating, weight gain, menstrual cramps, headaches, crying spells, and irritability, which are similar symptoms to early pregnancy,” Ross says.

What about the type of spotting and bleeding? She says implantation bleeding can last between two and seven days, and that the main difference between normal implantation bleeding, an abnormal pregnancy, and PMS cramps is the amount of blood you have and the severity of the cramps.

“Implantation bleeding is a few days of light brown spotting (old blood),” Ross says. And as all women know, periods usually start with light spotting, and lead into a few days of heavy bleeding with bright red blood. “Some women even describe implantation bleeding as a brown or pinkish vaginal discharge," she adds. "The uterine cramping associated with implantation bleeding is mild compared to the more severe cramping seen with a typical period.”

Implantation bleeding can occur six to 12 days after conception, and is often the very first sign of pregnancy, according to Ross. But with 50 percent of pregnancies being unplanned, Ross says many women mistake it for period cramping or bleeding.

Unfortunately, it looks like that two week wait is going to continue to throw you for a loop. If you feel cramping with a brown or pinkish vaginal discharge, it could be implantation cramping, but don’t be alarmed if it’s your period since the symptoms are so similar to PMS — like all early pregnancy symptoms, am I right? Hold tight, and take that pregnancy test 12 days post ovulation, so you’ll hopefully get your answer for sure.