PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms: What Do You Need to Know?
Women sometimes find themselves asking “Is this PMS or the early signs of pregnancy?”. The difference between PMS and early pregnancy symptoms are often difficult to differentiate, as they are subtle and vary from woman to woman.
PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms
A simple way to determine if you are having symptoms of pregnancy before a missed period is to take a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, you may receive a positive pregnancy test five to six days before your missed period.
During the time before or after a missed period, you may be experiencing typical PMS symptoms and will wonder if these are instead early signs of pregnancy. Could PMS symptoms mean that the pregnancy test is wrong? Not likely.
Again, PMS symptoms and early pregnancy symptoms are so similar that it’s hard to tell the difference. In PMS, there is breast tenderness, bloating and cramping. These happen to be the same symptoms you will find in early pregnancy. The only real difference is that the period is usually missed if you are pregnant.
How to Tell the Difference between Premenstrual Symptoms and Pregnancy Symptoms
The change in hormones from the premenstrual state and the pregnancy state is not very much in the beginning. Only hCG is added in early pregnancy and only after the period is missed is this significant enough to reveal any changes in symptoms. In both cases, there are elevated progesterone levels that can contribute to PMS symptoms. These elevated progesterone levels drop precipitously at the time of the menstrual period but stay elevated if the woman is pregnant.
Eventually, the cramping disappears, and there is no withdrawal bleeding. Breast tenderness persists, and it becomes more obvious that the symptoms are due to pregnancy. In the beginning, the hormone levels are just too similar to be able to identify definitively a pregnancy versus PMS symptoms.
Comparison of PMS and Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Nausea or vomiting (morning sickness)
Sudden food cravings
Food cravings or aversions
Constipation or diarrhea
Constipation or diarrhea
Mood swing (aggression)
Lower back pain
Skin changes (melasma, linea nigra, stretch marks, spider veins)
Increased vaginal discharge
Bleeding or spotting
Swollen feet (edema)
Shortness of breathe
Sensitivity to smells
PMS: A small percentage of women experience nausea during the premenstrual time period.
Pregnancy: One of the most common symptoms of pregnancy – often referred to as “Morning Sickness”, nearly all women experience a combination of nausea and/or vomiting during the 40 weeks of pregnancy.
PMS: Some women may experience tiredness and fatigue during the premenstrual state
Pregnancy: Typically one of the first early signs of pregnancy. Fatigue as a symptom of pregnancy of pregnancy before a missed period may be caused by increased levels of progesterone.
PMS: After ovulation, some women may experience breast changes, such as swelling, enlargement, and tenderness. These symptoms are only temporary and may indicate that your period is coming.
Pregnancy: Breast changes and tenderness is a very common pregnancy symptom and one of the early signs of pregnancy. Heavy, fuller breasts may appear as quickly as two weeks post-partum.
PMS: Some women experience painful stomach cramps 24 to 48 hours prior to the beginning of their period. The pain decreases throughout the duration of the menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy: Mild to slight stomach cramping in early pregnancy is experienced by some women. Similar in intensity to period cramps, these cramps are often felt in the low stomach and back. The experience of cramps in early pregnancy may extend to several weeks or months.
PMS: Due to changes in hormone levels, some women find them laughing one minute and crying the next during the premenstrual time period.
Pregnancy: Just as with PMS, these symptoms are a result of changing hormones which may create emotional changes.
How to Deal with Early Pregnancy Symptoms
When it becomes obvious because of a positive pregnancy test and symptoms of early pregnancy that you are pregnant, there are things you can do to help control some of the symptoms. A hot water bottle can be used to ease cramping, and a cold pack can be used on the breasts to ease breast tenderness. Many doctors recommend wearing a tight, supportive bra early in pregnancy to take down some of the tender nipple pain you experience in early pregnancy.
Tylenol or Advil can be taken for mild discomfort, but most women are reluctant to take any medication during pregnancy, especially in the early stages when development and growth are so rapid. There is no evidence to suggest that these are dangerous in early pregnancy so if your doctor says it’s okay, you can take these medications for your discomfort.
There is medication available for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. If your symptoms are severe, you may be able to get a prescription for this but, again, such medications aren’t proven to be 100 percent safe in pregnancy, so you take a risk taking any medication for early pregnancy symptoms. Years ago, medications were taken by women for nausea in pregnancy that caused severe birth defects. While better testing is available to show that the newer medications are safer in pregnancy than, say, thalidomide was, nothing is absolutely fool-proof, and you are better off tolerating the pregnancy symptoms than you are medicating them.
Ovulation vs. Pregnancy Symptoms
At the time of ovulation, the cervical mucus is clear and stringy. There may be ovulation pain on one side of the body or the other, and there may be some cramping, signaling ovulation. This does not last, and the corpus luteum is formed on the ovary that can be tender when palpated depending on what size it is. The corpus luteum secretes estrogen and progesterone to try and maintain the fertilized egg until it implants and begins making its own estrogen and progesterone.
If you are pregnant, there may be some increase in cervical mucus but it is usually not similar to ovulatory mucus. It is not stringy or stretchy like ovulation mucus is, and it is usually white in color rather than clear. This is one of the first signs of pregnancy, and it is generally present just at about the time of the missed period. The breast tenderness that is part of PMS symptoms does not go away as it does when you are not pregnant. Instead, the breast tenderness intensifies as the pregnancy hormones are predominant.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can a woman have a period while she is pregnant?
A woman may notice light vaginal bleeding/spotting around two weeks after conception. It typically last only a few days and is lighter and shorter than a normal period.
Some women may experience intermittent vaginal bleeding during pregnancy that they may confuse for a regular period. Bleeding during pregnancy is not the same thing as bleeding during menstruation.
Spotting is slight vaginal bleeding that leaves light traces of pink or light brown blood. Causes of spotting included ovulation, implantation, the beginning of labor, infection, and other illnesses.
Menstrual bleeding (period) is caused by the body’s natural hormonal cycle. Period bleeding has a heavier flow than spotting and may last from 5 to 7 days. In addition, period blood is bright red and requires the use of pads or tampons.
You may experience a variety of symptoms during the time before your period or after your missed period. Keep a log of the symptoms you are experiencing to determine if there is a pattern. Five to six days before your missed period you may choose to take an at-home pregnancy test. You may also choose to an appointment with your health-care provider to get a blood test to detect pregnancy hormones in your body.
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Cramping During Pregnancy
Cramping during pregnancy can be very concerning to a pregnant mother. Cramping can be mild to severe. Cramps can be a signal of a problem or just another sign of a stretching and growing uterus. The question then arises, should I be concerned about cramping? We hope to clarify some of the common causes of cramping during pregnancy.
Causes of Cramping During Early Pregnancy
1. Implantation cramping – Some women will experience cramping upon implantation. Implantation usually occurs 8-10 days after ovulation. You should not experience implantation cramping after a positive pregnancy test; however, many a woman has experienced cramping only to find that she is indeed pregnant shortly there after.
2. Stretching uterus – As your body prepares for it’s new baby your uterus will stretch and expand. The ligaments that support the uterus will stretch and with this stretching may cause mild cramps.
3. Miscarriage – Cramping during early pregnancy, especially accompanied by spotting or bleeding, is a warning sign of a possible miscarriage.
4. Ectopic pregnancy – Ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Signs of an ectopic pregnancy include cramping and abdominal pain (particularly on one side), spotting, or bleeding.
5. Other causes of cramping during early pregnancy – constipation or gas pains. Pregnant women often have problems with constipation. This can lead to uncomfortable cramping as well.
Causes of Cramping During Late Pregnancy
1. Round ligament pain – The infamous round ligament pain strikes pregnant women often in their second and third trimester. As in early pregnancy the uterus continues to stretch and grow. As the uterus expands the ligaments stretch to support it. Mild cramping may occur.
2. Preterm labor – Cramping, mild or severe, diarrhea, and back pain can all be indicators of preterm labor.
3. Braxton Hicks contractions – In the second and third trimester pregnant women will often have Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are the irregular intermittent contractions that occur during pregnancy.
4. Labor – During early labor cramping and back pain are common symptoms.
Because normal pregnancy cramps can be hard to differentiate from a sign of danger, we recommend discussing any cramping with your doctor.
5 Weeks Pregnant Stomach Cramps Causes | Abdominal Cramping in Pregnancy
I am just gone 5 months pregnant and I got sick today? My stomach was cramping and I felt so unwell, is this normal? Or should I be worried?
Pregnancy Abdomen Pain
Some mild abdominal discomfort is common in pregnancy, but if it severe and with cramps it is advisable to consult with your health care provider.
Let us know causes of normal abdominal pain during pregnancy.
- Ligament and the muscles get stretched, as the uterus grows in size
- Pain while coughing, getting up from chair, bath tub.
- Some woman feel contraction of the uterus but it is not associated with pain; this is also called false labor pain.
Some hints to get relief from pregnancy related abdominal discomfort.
- Avoid sudden change of position, especially from the waist.
- Abdominal pain due to gas is relieved from walking.
- Warm bath helps to relieve pain.
When you should consult your health care provider?
Severe abdominal pain can be due to many reasons, like appendicitis, colitis due to bacteria; gall bladder colic, kidney pain, etc. contact your health provider in this situation.
If you have following complaints in pregnancy like
- Cramps or contraction every 10 minutes
- Bleeding or discharge from vagina.
In such situation it is better to consult a doctor for physical check up.