“I think I’m pregnant. But I feel like I’m getting my period!
“How am I supposed to know?!”
In the days around your period, it can be hard to know whether or not you’re experiencing the usual symptoms of your cycle or whether your body is preparing to grow a baby.
The most obvious sign of pregnancy is a missed period. Missing a monthly period is often the first clue that indicates a woman is pregnant. You already knew that.
What if your period is just late this month? How are you supposed to know whether or not you’re actually pregnant?
Maybe what you’re experiencing is not pregnancy, but PMS.
What is PMS?
PMS stands for “premenstrual syndrome,”
PMS is a set of symptoms, both physical and emotional, that typically occur the week before a woman’s monthly period starts,
PMS may also stand for Pass My Shotgun, Psychotic Mood Shift, Puffy Mid-Section, Provide Me with Sweets, Pimples May Surface, Pass My Sweatpants…just kidding!
It Might Be Pregnancy… It Might Be PMS
Just a note of reassurance. If you think the beginning of pregnancy can be a confusing time – am I pregnant? I don’t think so! This feels like every other time of the month! – you’re right!
Many women go through the struggle of trying to determine whether or not they’re pregnant for many weeks. Even after a positive – or negative – pregnancy test, you can still doubt the result, especially if you don’t feel the way you think you should.
You might think, “This feels just like PMS. My period is going to start any day now.”
So let’s look at which symptoms of your normal cycle could be a positive indicator of pregnancy and what symptoms of pregnancy are nearly identical to what you experience before and during your usual cycle.
Related Post: 17 Best Homemade/DIY Pregnancy Tests That Work
It’s normal to cramp before your actual period starts. It’s also completely normal to cramp during the early weeks of pregnancy.
The only difference? Typically, women who aren’t pregnant will start their monthly cycle within a day or two of cramping while most pregnant women won’t begin their regular monthly bleed. Let’s talk more about that next.
It’s completely normal to spot during the time of your period if you are indeed pregnant. And it’s also normal to have a lighter-than-normal period and be unquestionably not pregnant.
Many things can factor into having a lighter-than-normal period. One of the most common reasons to have a super light period is when you’ve been under a great deal of stress, either physically or emotionally.
A lot of stress in your life, such as hard physical training or exercise, or a lack of sleep, can all interfere with your regular period. Just because you don’t have your regular cycle doesn’t mean you’re pregnant.
And just because you spot or bleed lightly when you normally have your period does not mean that you are not pregnant.
3. Swollen, Sore Breasts
Not every woman gets sore breasts before their period. And not every woman gets sore breasts in early pregnancy.
And some women who never get sore breasts as a part of the regular premenstrual syndrome may experience breast swelling and tenderness for the first time during pregnancy.
Again, you can see how this can be quite confusing!
It’s hard to know whether or not sore, slightly swollen breasts are a part of your regular monthly cycle or if it is indeed a sign of early pregnancy.
Either way, what you should do is wear a good fitting, supportive bra to minimize your discomfort. A few minutes with an ice pack on your chest may also offer you some relief.
There’s a few reasons why PMS has a bad reputation. We’ve all heard people joke about “shark week” or “the curse.”
Of course, having blood flowing out of you every month can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and often, downright painful. And if men were able to experience what us women go through each month, they may not be so quick to automatically think we’re “on the rag” every single time we’re a little out of sorts.
It’s true, many of us do get crankier right before our period. We can blame many things – but it comes down to those awesome – or maybe annoying – female hormones that make us feel tired, bloated, and sore, which often increases our crankiness.
And yet, some of those same female hormones that can make us miserable each month also give us the ability to become pregnant and sustain a new life inside of us for nine months.
So now you see how your normal monthly irritability can also be one of the early signs of pregnancy.
6 Symptoms Unique to Pregnancy
Now that we’ve discussed five symptoms of early pregnancy that are almost exactly the same as what you might experience during your regular monthly cycle, let’s take a look at some early signs of pregnancy that are much more specific to pregnancy.
1. Abdominal Bloating
Our lovely female hormone fluctuations are once again the cause behind monthly abdominal bloating. As progesterone rises after ovulation, we tend to hold more water in our abdomen.
If you’ve ever tried to do up some slim-fitting pants at this time of the month, you’re probably familiar with what I’m talking about. Pass My Sweatpants.
Whether we are pregnant or not, progesterone will rise. In pregnancy, progesterone will continue to rise during the first trimester and that bloating feeling often stays along with it.
But in a regular monthly cycle, progesterone drops off as bleeding begins.
While bloating will go away when you are not pregnant, it often persists if you are pregnant, thanks to the increase of progesterone.
2. Frequent Urination
Most women associate pregnancy with needing to run to the bathroom frequently.
It’s true. As your uterus begins to expand to accommodate the growing fetus inside of you, it can put pressure on your bladder. And in the later months, unborn babies are infamous for using their mommy’s bladders as a trampoline or punching bag.
But in the early weeks when the fetus is still small, why would you be urinating more frequently?
As soon as a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, your body starts releasing a whole new slew of hormones specific to pregnancy. These hormones trigger your body to make more blood to support the development of the placenta and therefore, the baby.
When you’re pregnant, your body is working very hard. It makes sense, right? Your body is making an entire, although little, human being.
It’s far beyond the scope of this article to get into all the details of what the female body all does in order to successfully carry a baby to term.
But what we can tell you is that extra work triggered by pregnancy hormones makes you pee more in the early weeks of pregnancy, even before you know whether or not you are in fact pregnant.
3. Unusual Tiredness, Fatigue
Speaking of all the details involved in creating a brand new human being in only 40 weeks, all this extra work your body is doing will probably leave you feeling unusually exhausted.
If you’ve never had children, it’s common to claim you feel tired. But complain to a pregnant mom – or a mom of a newborn – about being tired and she may roll her eyes at you, at the very least.
Growing a baby is hard work. And the most interesting part of this work is that the finest details from the beating of the heart at 6 weeks to the manufacturing of over 200 bones happens mainly within the first trimester.
That’s right, by the end of the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, your baby is nearly completely formed!
The next two trimesters are the time when your baby grows in size and puts on weight. The hardest work is over and that’s why most women start to feel better after the first trimester is over.
No wonder your body is tired! You’re growing a baby in hyper-drive!
We’re all familiar with the woman on TV who rushes off to the toilet first thing after breakfast to toss her muffins, even before she knows she’s pregnant. This may or may not happen to you.
Nausea in early pregnancy is caused by a couple of things.
The first is hormones. Those lovely female hormones are at it again.
All the pregnancy hormones that get released the moment the fertilized egg implants in the womb can be quite overwhelming for some women. Some women are left feeling downright sick.
This queasiness is a form of morning sickness that can last from a few moments to all day long. It can be made worse by a few things:
feeling overtired (and we already know how tired you’re going to feel!),
unstable blood sugar levels (we’ll talk about that next),
and more saliva than usual (another one of those things that happen to many women when their bodies go into baby-building-mode).
If you’ve missed your period and you’ve been feeling nauseous for more than a few days, you might be experiencing an early symptom of pregnancy.
5. Cravings or Food aversions
Some women crave pickles and ice cream and other women would run to the bathroom in disgust at the thought of such a combination.
Of course, the pickles and ice cream thing is just a myth.
But along with changing hormones, nausea, and exhaustion, your body may suddenly hate your regular morning cup of coffee. Or your grandma’s famous spaghetti and meatballs.
A lot of health-conscious women may find themselves choking down their healthy green smoothies or gagging on their tuna and goat cheese salad at lunch.
Yes, your body desperately needs healthy building blocks as it works hard to create that tiny little human inside of you. But your stomach doesn’t always cooperate.
If you’re suddenly pushing away your regular morning breakfast or reaching for an odd combination – like ice cream and pickles – it may be your body’s way of telling you…heh, I’m pregnant!
6. Weepy or Overly Emotional
If you thought the normal emotional roller coaster of PMS was bad, buckle up. Combine those wonderful pregnancy hormones with feeling tired, bloated, and nauseous, you may end up being crankier than you’re used to.
Then again, some women sail through pregnancy, happier than a clam at high tide. But this is the minority of pregnant women.
Most women in early pregnancy find themselves crying at things they wouldn’t normally cry about – like TV commercials or an unexpected kind gesture – or the very real thought that your life is going to change drastically in a few short months!
If you’re pregnant, it makes sense that you’re suddenly feeling less than optimal. All the physical symptoms you may experience during early pregnancy may have you feeling weepier – or angrier – than you normally feel during PMS.
Am I Pregnant or Not? What can I do?
In the very early days of pregnancy, it can be hard to tell whether or not you’re experiencing PMS or if you’re actually on a 9 month path that leads to the arrival of a brand new, miniature human being.
If you’re not sure, the best thing you can do is to wait and see, managing your symptoms the best you can while properly caring for yourself.
Pregnant or not, the best things you can do to take care of yourself include:
- sleeping as much as you can,
- resting when you need to,
- eating the healthiest foods you can stomach,
- and exercising gently, based on the energy you have that particular day.
Either way, taking care of your body can help regulate your hormones a little better, making the uncomfortable symptoms caused by PMS or pregnancy a little easier to deal with.