When you’re TTC (trying to conceive), every possible sign of pregnancy takes on extreme significance.
You learn everything there is to know about your fertility cycle, and how to spot your own unique differences from one month to the next.
Each sign of your period arriving can be frustratingly similar to a sign of early pregnancy.
So when you experience cramps at 4 DPO (days past ovulation) you wonder what it means.
And whether you’ll get a BFP (big fat positive) on the next pregnancy test.
Let’s take a look at a very specific and critical time in the TTC cycle, to get an understanding of what’s possible and what to expect.
What happens before implantation?
Before we get to implantation, we need to back up a bit and talk about the part when you are trying to conceive.
When you ovulate, an egg is released into the fallopian tube.
If the egg remains unfertilised, it passes through your body and your uterus sheds its lining in your monthly period.
If a sperm meets the egg and fertilisation happens, conception has occurred.
From this moment, the fertilised egg is now called a zygote, and contains all the genetic material needed for human development.
The journey has only just begun, though. Some studies estimate up to half of all fertilised eggs won’t make it to the moment of implantation.
Within 24 hours of fertilisation, the zygote rapidly divides into many cells and starts the journey down the fallopian tube toward the uterus.
This part of the timeline is very important: after about 5-6 days of dividing and multiplying, the zygote becomes a blastocyst.
Fertility clinics report that in an IVF cycle, embryos that make it to this stage of development are more likely to implant when transferred to the uterus.
The blastocyst must now attach to the uterine lining (endometrium) for the embryo to grow and develop.
How many DPO is implantation?
Implantation happens at the moment the embryo attaches to the uterine wall.
It seems so simple, but implantation is only successful when certain factors are triggered in your body.
The cells that will develop into the placenta produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone that’s picked up on pregnancy tests.
Estrogen increases, progesterone is released, and the uterine lining swells.
When implantation occurs, special enzymes are released to break down the barrier between the embryo and uterine lining.
These enzymes allow the blastocyst to bury itself deeper into the uterine wall to become nourished and continue to develop.
The timeline leading to implantation looks like this:
- Egg is released
- Fertilisation happens when a sperm cell meets egg (up to 24 hours after ovulation)
- Fertilised egg travels to the uterus (about 3 days)
- Zygote becomes blastocyst (approx 5-6 days after fertilisation)
- Blastocyst attaches to the uterine wall (approx 6-12 days after ovulation)
It is after this process that a missed period and signs of pregnancy might be noticed.
Can you implant at 4 DPO?
The time frame from ovulation to implantation is roughly 6-12 days.
Within this expected timeline, implantation at 4 DPO is unlikely, but perhaps on the extremely early side of possible.
If an egg has been fertilised, by 4 DPO it’s most likely still travelling down one of the fallopian tubes or has only just arrived in the uterus.
Can you have implantation cramps at 4 DPO?
Because implantation usually occurs no earlier than 6 DPO, it’s a rare accelerated timeline that would allow implantation at 4 DPO.
Although the conception process is dramatic, as human life is being formed, at implantation time it’s still happening on a microscopic level.
Causes of cramps at 4 DPO
A rise in pregnancy hormones could be responsible for early cramps at 4 DPO.
The corpus luteum (basically the shell around the egg) secretes progesterone and estrogen, which signals the uterus to become thick and ready to receive a growing embryo.
Rising levels of the hormone progesterone can cause cramping. This hormone also has the side effect of slowing down digestion, which adds to discomfort in the lower belly.
Since every pregnant body is unique, with different sensitivities to the changes happening inside, it’s impossible to be sure of the source of cramping.
For more information to work out whether your cramps are from implantation, read Implantation Cramps – Could Cramping Be Implantation?
Can cramping be a sign of implantation?
Some women feel nothing at all during implantation, and others feel cramping at any DPO in the implantation process.
People who experience implantation cramping describe the feeling as a pulling, pricking, or tingling sensation, often on only one side of the abdomen or lower back.
As described, the process of implantation involves physical changes that could cause you to feel internal twinges or cramping.
Implantation is sometimes accompanied by implantation bleeding, which tends to happen anywhere from about 7 DPO to the time you expect your period.
Implantation bleeding can be confused with menstrual flow, but it tends to be more like light spotting.
If your cramping is accompanied by heavy blood flow, you should contact your medical care provider to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
For more about what to expect with implantation bleeding, see our article Implantation Bleeding – Everything You Need to Know.
Can you feel pregnant 4 days after ovulation?
Soon after an egg is fertilised, hormonal changes begin to happen; they can make you feel pregnancy symptoms.
Many people report feeling pregnancy symptoms just a few DPO (days past ovulation).
If you’ve been trying to conceive, it’s likely you’re on the lookout for pregnancy symptoms and ready to break out the pregnancy tests. You might even schedule a blood test to check rising hormone levels.
Here’s a list of some pregnancy symptoms BellyBelly readers have experienced in the early days before a positive pregnancy test:
- Low back pain
- Sore breasts
- Food cravings
- Mood swings
- Creamy cervical mucus.
Find out more about signs of pregnancy in Pregnancy Symptoms – 16 Early Signs You Might Be Pregnant.
Do cramps at 4 DPO mean a BFP?
Can you know you’re pregnant at only 4 DPO? Are cramps at 4 DPO a sign you’re going to get a BFP (big fat positive)?
Since cramps can be caused by any number of things happening in your body, we can’t say they’re a predictor of pregnancy success.
A woman’s intuition can be strong and, combined with intimate knowledge of her own body, it might help her to know a baby is on the way – even before science can confirm it.
A home pregnancy test isn’t likely to show a positive result at 4 DPO.
Blood tests might show hCG at 4DPO but your doctor will recommend waiting until the levels are higher.
The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG ) released in early pregnancy will be detectable in a home pregnancy test by about 7-12 DPO.
If you test too early, it can lead to disappointment.
Although it’s hard not to read more into every symptom, and one day of waiting feels like ages, it’s still best to wait until a missed period to take a test for the most accurate result.