Luteal Phase Spotting or Implantation Bleeding: What's Going On?
Updated November 7, 2023.
Many people tracking their cycles, especially those who desire to become pregnant, may have googled or heard about implantation bleeding or spotting. But is this a real thing, and how do you know if you're experiencing that or something else like luteal phase spotting?
Let's dive in!
Luteal Phase Spotting vs. Implantation Bleeding
Let's talk about what the luteal phase is.
The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is one of the four phases of the menstrual cycle, which occurs after ovulation in response to rising progesterone levels. Our period typically starts 10-16 days after ovulation, and this entire time, from ovulation until the first day of your period (the first day of red, flowing blood, not spotting!), is known as your luteal phase.
While implantation bleeding may be a cause of bleeding in the luteal phase, there is actually some debate around this, and it is definitely not the only or even the main cause of bleeding in the luteal phase.
Luteal Phase Spotting
One of the most common causes of spotting before a period is luteal phase bleeding/spotting. Remember, the luteal phase occurs after ovulation and continues until the start of your next period.
So, how long is the luteal phase?
The luteal phase typically lasts 10-16 days. However, just like each menstrual cycle is different, there can also be variations in the length of the luteal phase. To calculate the length of the luteal phase, most women typically count the number of days of elevated temperatures after ovulation until the first day of red, flowing blood.
Can you get pregnant during the luteal phase?
After ovulation, the empty follicle that released the egg transforms into a temporary endocrine gland known as the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum then produces progesterone, the hormone that makes the uterine lining ready for a potential embryo (fertilized egg) to implant. During this time in your cycle, you are not fertile and can not get pregnant.
However, we can only confirm when or if we ovulate by tracking our cervical fluid and basal body temperatures or by having an ultrasound. Depending on which fertility awareness method we use and those specific rules, we typically have to wait 3-4 days after we've ovulated to confirm ovulation. If you had sex before ovulation and that egg was fertilized, then the embryo does implant during the luteal phase.
In some cases, progesterone levels drop prematurely, and your uterine lining starts shedding, which may cause spotting a few days before your period. While bleeding can occur as a sign of potential ovulation, please note that bleeding in the luteal phase is not a guarantee of implantation or pregnancy, and you should always check with your medical provider if you think you might be pregnant and you are seeing spotting to ensure something more important may not be going on.
What Is Implantation Bleeding?
Implantation bleeding or implantation discharge is when a small amount of spotting or bleeding occurs ~6 to 14 days after fertilization, which is sometimes also around the time of a missed period.
The implantation bleeding generally lasts just one day and is only a small amount of spotting that may be dark or bright red in color. It also does not typically involve clots or odd colors. It is believed to be related to the fertilized egg attaching itself to/in the uterine lining and is believed to be a normal sign of pregnancy though there is some debate about whether implantation bleeding is to be expected or even related to implantation at all.
So, does implantation bleeding mean you’re pregnant?
Not necessarily! Keep in mind that there can be many causes of bleeding or spotting in the luteal phase. So, you always want to make sure to check in with a medical provider for further workup.
You could possibly have implantation bleeding if you also experience other symptoms of early pregnancy, for example:
- sore breasts
- mood swings
- peeing more than usual
- upset stomach
- morning sickness
- dizziness and/or fainting
If you have questions or concerns about a potential pregnancy, including questions about implantation bleeding, please always contact your medical team for advice.
Learning More Is Key
Tracking your fertility and your cycle phases can help increase your chances of getting pregnant, and it can also help you to see the patterns of your cycle and identify any potential needs for support based on your unique cycle. I personally love using Tempdrop for myself and my clients because:
- It helps to clearly identify the luteal phase with basal body temperature shifts.
- It can be used in addition to tracking your cervical fluid to know when and if you are ovulating.
- It helps give us vital information about the health of our luteal phases so we can see if you are likely producing enough progesterone for a healthy pregnancy or if it would benefit you to have some additional support or medical workup.