Overview of Pregnancy Symptoms vs PMS Symptoms
PMS and pregnancy have many of the same symptoms. That’s why it can be a bit difficult to tell if you just have PMS, or if you might be pregnant. Keep on reading for all the details to help you figure it out.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition that is characterized by physical and psychological symptoms that develop at some point after ovulation (which occurs during the middle of the menstrual cycle) and ends at the start of a woman’s period.
The symptoms of PMS can include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Breast tenderness
- Appetite changes including food cravings
- Mood swings
PMS symptoms may very similar to those of early pregnancy. However, there are subtle differences that varies between woman to woman and the following will help us better understand those differences.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of PMS and pregnancy. We’ll start with the symptoms that are different between pregnancy or PMS and then get into the ones that overlap. Here is a list for a quick reference:
PMS and Pregnancy: Things that are Different
- Breast pain
- Mood Changes including depression or anxiety
- Food cravings and aversions
- Vaginal discharge
- Darkening of the area around the nipples
- Acne flare-ups
PMS and Pregnancy Symptoms: What’s the Same?
- Increase urination
- Back pain
- Weight gain
PMS vs Pregnancy: What’s Different?
Symptom #1: Bleeding
One of the first signs of pregnancy for some women is light vaginal bleeding and spotting which is usually dark brown or pink. It’s due to the fertilized egg implantation into the walls of the uterus.
This occurs between 10-14 days after a woman has conceived and is typically not enough to fill tampons or pads. The spotting usually lasts for a day or two and is thus shorter than a normal period.
Learn more about Implantation Bleeding.
Of course, if you’re pregnant, one of the first signs of it is that your period will be “late.” If you really are pregnant, you won’t end up getting your period at all! Despite the myth that you can have kind of normal periods, and then suddenly a baby pops out, this isn’t really true. If you’re having heavy bleeding during pregnancy, something isn’t right, or you’re not pregnant.
Women who have PMS, usually won’t have bleeding. But after their period starts, the flow becomes heavier and could last for over a week. If you’re not pregnant, you can just expect to have your normal menstrual flow.
Can I have my Period and Still Be Pregnant?
If you have some of the early signs of pregnancy, but then eventually get your period, can you still be pregnant? The easy answer is probably not.
Although some people have light bleeding or spotting during the early parts of pregnancy, if it’s heavy enough to be an actual period, you’re probably not pregnant.
If you’re unsure about exactly how heavy your bleeding is, see your doctor or use a home pregnancy test.
Early Stages of Pregnancy or PMS?
Symptom #2: Breast Pain
During early pregnancy, a woman’s breasts may feel sensitive, sore, or tender to the touch and may also become fuller as well as heavier. This phenomenon usually occurs one or two weeks after conception, and can last for sometime as your progesterone levels rise because of pregnancy.
Women with PMS may experience breast tenderness and swollen breasts in the second half of their cycle. The tenderness can range between mild to severe, but is most severe right before a period occurs. The symptoms tend to be more severe for women in their childbearing years.
Breast tissue, especially in the outer areas, may feel bumpy and dense. During this time, women may experience breast fullness and tenderness with a heavy, dull pain. The pain later subsides during or after their period as their progesterone levels decrease.
Symptom #3: Fatigue
During pregnancy, the rising levels of the hormone progesterone can make an expecting mother tired. The fatigue can increase in women during their first trimester, but it may even last throughout their pregnancy as well. To help them cope with their pain, expecting mothers must eat and sleep well.
Week by week, this symptom may get better or worse. It just depends on each individual.
During PMS, fatigue or tiredness and also sleep problems are quite common. However, they should go away at the start of your period. Other than that, you should exercise to help improve your sleep and reduce your fatigue.
PMS vs Pregnancy Symptoms
Symptom #4: Mood Changes
When pregnant, you may experience mood changes that may last till the time you give birth. During pregnancy, you may feel an array of emotions, like getting excited that you’re about to have a new member to the family. You may experience moments of sadness and cry often as well.
The latter symptoms may indicate depression. If you’re depressed and are concerned about your symptoms, you should go see your doctor. It is common to experience depression during pregnancy and it can also be treated.
During PMS, you may feel a bit grouchy and irritated. Besides that, you may also experience anxiousness and crying spells. Though the symptoms usually go away after the start of your period.
Getting plenty of sleep and exercise can lighten some of the PMS mood swings. However, like pregnancy, any feeling of sadness, hopelessness, being overwhelmed and having a lack of energy for two or more weeks is a sign of depression. So be sure to talk it out with your healthcare provider.
Symptom #5: Food Cravings/Aversions
One of the common symptoms of pregnancy is that you may have high cravings for certain and become completely uninterested in other foods. In fact, you may even stay away from certain tastes and smells, especially the ones you usually like. These effects can last throughout your pregnancy.
You may also have pica, which is when you compulsively consume things that have no nutritional value like dried plant flakes, ice, dirt or pieces of metal. If you experience such a phenomenon, go see your doctor right away.
Food cravings is one of the most common PMS symptoms.
Women on PMS are likely to notice a change in their eating habits. They may crave for sugars, chocolate, sweets, carbohydrates, or salty foods. If not that, then they might have a ravenous appetite. These symptoms don’t occur in the same manner as when a woman is pregnant.
Symptom #6: Nausea
Experiencing morning sickness is a sure sign of pregnancy. A month after pregnancy, women experience short periods of nausea, which may or may not be followed by vomiting. In spite of the name, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day. But this may vary between women.
If your period is late, you shouldn’t expect any nausea or vomiting. However, you may experience some digestive discomfort like nausea, that can be followed by symptoms of PMS.
Symptom #7: Cramping
Pregnant women may experience mild or light abdominal cramping. These cramps may be similar to the ones that are felt during a period, but they usually occur in the lower stomach or lower back.
If you have a pregnancy loss history, pay attention to these symptoms and rest. Talk to your doctor if they don’t go away. The cramps can last from weeks to months during pregnancy. It is crucial you see your doctor immediately if the cramps during your pregnancy are accompanied by either bleeding or watery discharge.
You may experience dysmenorrhea if you have PMS, which are cramps that occur 24 or 48 hours prior to your period. It’s due to mild contractions of the uterus. The pain may reduce during your period and disappear completely by the end of your flow.
How to Reduce Menstrual Cramps
There are a number of ways to treat painful periods, including menstrual cramps. Some of these include dietary changes, home remedies, over the counter painkillers, as well as medical treatments from your doctor.
However, one interesting, new option is the Livia. The company calls it the “off-switch” for period pain. The way is works is that the machine emits a frequency that disrupts menstrual cramps. Scientific studies have shown some good results.
You can learn more about it here: Livia Review. Or, check it out for yourself over on Amazon:
Symptom #8: Vaginal Discharge
When you’re pregnant, an increase in estrogen can lead to an increase in milky, white discharge. It may be thicker in texture than regular discharge throughout your cycle, but it’s often hard to know the difference. This often lasts throughout pregnancy.
A spike in progesterone levels before your period may cause an increase in vaginal discharge. It’s usually thick and sticky, and the quantity will be less than during ovulation.
Symptom #9: Darkening of the Areola
As early as a week or two after conception, the areolas or nipples can darken. It may also develop later on in the pregnancy.
Changes in the colour of the areolas or nipples are not caused by changing hormones during your cycle.
Symptom #10: Acne
During early pregnancy, there’s usually no chance related to this.
Some people have hormonal acne that can often flare-up right before their period.
Symptom #11: Fatigue
During early pregnancy, fatigue is very common.
Before a period, it’s normal to feel tired and fatigued. However, this feeling usually goes away once you start your period.
PMS or Pregnancy: Shared Symptoms
There are a number of symptoms that both PMS and pregnancy share. Many of them are caused by the same underlying condition: hormonal changes. We’ll outline a few of the most common ones here.
Symptom #1: Headaches
Changing hormones can results in headaches during pregnancy as well as leading up to your period.
Symptom #2: Constipation
Levels of progesterone rise during the second half of the menstrual cycle when you’d be going through PMS, which can lead to constipation.
During early pregnancy, changing hormones can cause this problem as well.
Symptom #3: Increased Urination
Most people who are pregnant experience the need to urinate more. Some people also find that more frequent urination happens right before their period is about to start.
Symptom #4: Back Pain
Both pregnancy and PMS can lead to an increase in back-pain and discomfort.
Symptom #5: Weight Gain
During PMS, one of the most common symptom is bloating, which can seem like weight gain. During early pregnancy, you’ll also of course gain weight as well as your body prepares for the pregnancy.
Symptom #6: Headaches
It’s normal to experience hormonal headaches, and both pregnancy and before your period are times when hormones are wildly fluctuating.
When to See your Doctor about Pregnancy Symptoms vs PMS?
A common question that people have is whether or not they should see their doctor if they’re confused about PMS or Pregnancy. A good rule of thumb is to wait for a week or two after the time of your regular period and visit your doctor for a pregnancy test.
This assumes that you have a normal menstrual cycle though. If your cycle is very irregular, and you miss periods, or have very late periods, then you may want to wait an additional amount of time, perhaps another week or two.
The most common reason for a missed period is pregnancy! There are other reasons to miss periods so don’t just assume it’s because you’re pregnant. If you have any concerns, please visit a medical professional.
However, if you get your period, then you’ll know that your symptoms were most likely related to PMS.
Here are some of the home pregnancy tests you could also consider taking as well:
PMS Symptoms vs Pregnancy: Conclusion
It is very crucial that you know the cause of your symptoms. The sooner you find those causes if or when you’re pregnant, the sooner you can get the right care for yourself. By far, the best way to differentiate the symptoms of PMS and early pregnancy is by taking a pregnancy test.
PMS Symptoms vs Pregnancy Symptoms: Have your Say!
Do you have any questions or comments about pregnancy symptoms vs PMS symptoms? Or tips and advice for how to differentiate between the two? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.