Have you been trying to get pregnant?
The waiting game can be extremely frustrating! What makes it worse is how hard it is to tell if you’re experiencing PMS symptoms or pregnancy symptoms.
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS happens during the second half of your menstrual cycle. It is associated with high levels of progesterone—also one of the vital pregnancy hormones. That’s why it’s no surprise there’s a huge overlap when it comes to pregnancy and PMS symptoms.
If you want to distinguish PMS vs pregnancy symptoms, you’re in the right place. To help you better understand both, we’ll cover their similarities and differences in this post.
Can Pregnancy Be Confused with PMS?
The short answer is yes—and it’s very easy to do so.
PMS and early pregnancy symptoms have a lot in common, so it’s hard for many women to tell the difference.
In fact, here are two of the most common symptoms for both phenomena:
Pregnant women experience stomach pain due to progesterone, which causes your uterus to expand and prepare your body for a baby. The expansion of your uterus puts pressure on your intestines, blocking them and causing constipation associated with pregnancy.
Incidentally, your progesterone levels also shoot up during the last phase of your menstrual cycle. It contributes to digestive disturbances brought about by PMS.
For both PMS and pregnancy, you may experience fatigue as it is caused by increased levels of progesterone in your body.
Feelings of fatigue can last your entire pregnancy. But once you get over your first trimester, the worst is over.
For PMS, fatigue is worsened by other symptoms like insomnia.
Other common PMS and early pregnancy signs include breast pain, crying spells, and weight gain.
Suppose the existing physical and emotional signs and symptoms make it hard to perform your usual activities. In that case, you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD—a more severe form of PMS.
In such cases, visit your doctor immediately.
PMS vs. Pregnancy: 6 Main Differences and How to Tell Them Apart
Even though PMS and early pregnancy symptoms seem exactly the same at the surface level, it’s still possible to distinguish one from the other.
Here are the main things to look out for:
PMS usually starts during the last phase of your menstrual cycle and ends a few days after your menstrual period. So with PMS, expect to have your regular period blood.
You may also experience light bleeding when you’re pregnant. This is called implantation bleeding, which happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to your uterine lining.
Implantation bleeding occurs a few days to a week before the usual start of your cycle, so it’s easy to confuse it with regular menses.
So how would you know if it’s period blood or not?
Compared to your menses, Implantation bleeding is much lighter in color. It can be anywhere from pale pink to medium pink—as opposed to the bright to dark red color of your period blood.
But if you don’t experience implantation bleeding at all, don’t worry. Only 20-30% of women experience this. You can still get pregnant even if you don’t have any spotting at all.
Cramping Intensity and Location
With PMS cramps, the pain will be on your lower abdomen. They’re also a lot more intense than what’s associated with early pregnancy.
Meanwhile, pregnancy cramps happen as your body prepares your uterus for the baby. They are usually located on the lower back or further south of your abdomen. Plus, the pain intensity of pregnancy cramps is much milder.
But remember: Another reason for abdominal or pelvic cramping is pregnancy loss. If you or any woman in your family has a history of miscarriage, take note of the other miscarriage symptoms, like bleeding and watery discharge.
Do you feel like you can just eat anything and everything before your period starts? It’s pretty common for your habits to take a turn for the worse before the start of a new menstrual cycle.
You may find yourself craving sweets and salty foods. But for others, anything goes!
Sure, food cravings are pretty common with both PMS and pregnancy. But with the latter, you may experience strange food cravings, like wanting stale fries in the middle of the night. You may even dislike your favorite food overnight.
Nausea is a common symptom for both pregnancy and PMS. But once it comes with vomiting, it may indicate morning sickness that happens during pregnancy.
Unless you’re very sensitive to hormonal changes, vomiting doesn’t typically happen due to PMS. Women rarely experience both simultaneously, so chances are you’re pregnant.
If you know anyone who’s ever been pregnant, you probably know that frequent urination is one of the early symptoms of pregnancy.
Pregnant women feel the constant urge to pee because they’re technically peeing for two. Apart from their own bodily waste, they’re also filtering the waste from their growing baby.
The urge to urinate all the time can get worse the farther along you are on your pregnancy. As your uterus gets bigger, the pressure on your bladder also increases.
But if you’re not pregnant, you won’t have this experience at all.
Early Pregnancy Test Results
If you want to know for sure, the only way to do so is through a positive pregnancy test. The most accurate results would be two weeks after your expected period.
But if you don’t want to wait, two weeks after having sex may also work. Just keep in mind that if you don’t wait, there’s a chance you’ll get a false negative result—meaning, your test will come back negative even if you’re actually pregnant.
If you get a negative pregnancy test and want to try again, wait a few days before getting a home pregnancy test. It can take a while for the pregnancy hormone hCG to be detectable through your urine.
It’s helpful to know right away if you’re pregnant because it allows you to get the medical care you need as soon as possible.
If you have concerns, don’t be afraid to seek medical help. Your doctor can guide you on managing PMS or promoting a healthy pregnancy.