SYMPTOMS & SIGNS OF PERIOD VS. PREGNANCY

January 30, 2024

Photo by Rashed Paykary on Unsplash.


Your period is late and you're feeling some classic PMS symptoms - or are you? For those of us in our menstruating years, we've all had the "is my period coming or am I pregnant?!" thought one time or another. Navigating the maze of hormonal bodily signals can sometimes be tricky - but don't worry, here's a cheat sheet!

 

 

HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PERIOD AND PREGNANCY?

If it is your period, it will make it's entrance sooner or later (likely sooner - PMS symptoms tend to hit right before your period is due) - but you just may have to wait a few days to see if it arrives.

"The biggest sign that you're pregnant is often missing your period", says Sydney-based General Obstetrician and Gynaeocologist Dr. Nicole Stamatopoulos. This is probably a sign that it's time to take a pregnancy test, which Dr. Stamatopoulos suggests as the most preferred time to do so. "Some of the urine pregnancy tests can be done as early as a week before a missed period, but my preference is to do a pregnancy test after missing your period," she adds.

  

WHAT ARE THE SHARED SYMPTOMS OF PMS AND PREGNANCY?

Periods and pregnancy share some sneaky symptoms like fatigue and mood swings, but "breast pain and nausea can also be common signs for both," explains Dr. Stamatopoulos. These shared symptoms can make it tricky to tell the two apart initially. Both can make you feel like your body's throwing a surprise party where yep, you're the star of the show. Here are the (uninvited) party guests:


CRAMPS

Menstrual cramps tend to feel like a dull, continuous ache, whereas early pregnancy cramps are sneakier and milder, resembling gentle twinges. These result from the body's adjustments in preparation for a little VIP guest.


MOOD SWINGS

Period mood swings are like a monthly mood rollercoaster, courtesy of hormonal shifts. As hormones like estrogen and progesterone do their monthly dance, emotions can swing from the depths of despair to the heights of euphoria. It's like having a hormonal symphony playing in the background, affecting mood, patience, and overall emotional well-being. Pregnancy mood swings, dialed up a notch, come with surges in estrogen and progesterone, adding extra drama to the physiological pregnancy journey.


BREAST TENDERNESS

Breast tenderness before or during periods is common, caused by, you guest it: hormonal changes! In early pregnancy, the surge in hormones can lead to heightened sensitivity or soreness in the breasts, often more pronounced than typical menstrual tenderness.


SPOTTING

Spotting before your period isn't uncommon, and is like a sneak peek of what's to come, hinting at its grand entrance. But confusingly, it can also be a sign of pregnancy; during early pregnancy, spotting might be the embryo setting up shop in the uterus, though it may show up lighter and shorter than your typical pre-period teaser. Read more about what might cause spotting in our go-to guide.


BLOATING

Period bloating is a familiar monthly visitor for many of us pre period, caused by hormonal shifts. During early pregnancy, bloating can also occur due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow. While period bloating is regular, pregnancy bloating may feel a bit more persistent and pronounced. (Yep, it's basically impossible to tell the two apart).


HEADACHES

Period headaches often join the pre-menstrual party, triggered by hormonal changes (it's always the hormones). In early pregnancy, headaches can result from hormonal fluctuations too, but they might be a bit sneakier. Think of them as your body's way of adjusting to the baby-building process. 


This isn't an exhaustive list! You can also consider shared symptoms like acne, weight gain, excess gas and even constipation. There's so much overlap between periods and pregnancy in the above symptoms that it would almost be impossible to tell whether they were caused by one or the other if you were unaware of your status. You may want to consider the symptoms that are unique to pregnancy to help you delve a little deeper.

  

WHAT SYPTOMS ARE UNIQUE TO PREGNANCY?

Only pregnancy brings the VIP guests; think nausea and bizarre food cravings. "Morning sickness also doesn't really start until you miss a period," says Dr. Stamatopoulos. It's like having a secret agent in your belly, while your uterus preps for its monthly soirée. Here's what to look out for:

DARK NIPPLES

During pregnancy, hormonal shifts signal the first of many noticeable and remarkable physical adaptations: darkening nipples. But this change isn't a cosmetic tweak; it's a strategic move by your body. The increased melanin to the area acts as a shield, preparing these crucial areas for breastfeeding's demands. Clever, hey?!


SKIPPING A PERIOD

Missing your period is the very loud pregnancy alarm bell. It occurs when a fertilised egg implants in the uterus, disrupting the usual menstrual cycle. A no-show period is like your body whispering, "Time to take a pregnancy test!"


FOOD CRAVINGS

Pregnancy cravings are the body's culinary whimsy, often sparked by hormonal shifts. These urges, whether for pickles or ice cream, might be your body signaling specific nutritional needs or simply indulging in the delightful quirks of gestation.


NAUSEA

A.k.a. morning sickness - which, as you may know (or soon learn), doesn't just happen in the morning. Elevated hormones, especially hCG, trigger the stomach's sensitive response, leading to queasiness (and yes, often vomiting). It's essentially your body's way of adapting to the significant hormonal shifts that come with growing a tiny human inside.


MORE FREQUENT URINATION

Pregnancy sure can bring on the pee! Rising hormones, notably hCG, boost blood flow to the pelvic area, This prompts the kidneys to work extra hard to keep things clean in prep for a developing baby, by filtering more blood and producing additional urine. 

      

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Navigating the monthly dance between period and pregnancy symptoms is like deciphering a hormonal riddle. From cramps to cravings, it's a tricky maze. If you're caught in the "is it PMS or baby time?" dilemma, remember, these shared symptoms often make it nearly impossible to differentiate without a little insider info. If you find yourself unsure or need help decoding your body's messages, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor. Your body's a storyteller, and sometimes a pro translator is all you need for the plot twists. 



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