How to know if your period is coming or you are pregnant is a question many of you asked yourself many times during the two-week window between ovulation and the onset of periods.
For women trying to get conceive, this window can be a time of anxiety, excitement, and anticipation. On the other hand, for women worrying about an unwanted pregnancy due to unprotected sex, this period can be stressful.
A week before she starts her period, a woman might experience various physical and emotional symptoms (PMS). Many of these premenstrual syndromes (PMS) overlap the symptoms of early pregnancy.
Usually, it is hard to differentiate between early pregnancy symptoms and premenstrual symptoms. However, this article helps you understand the common signs of PMS and early pregnancy and how to tell apart them.
What Is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS, is a set of physical and emotional symptoms that appears one or two weeks prior to the onset of menstrual bleeding. The numbers of days and intensity of these symptoms vary from person to person. PMS usually disappears once the period begins.
Some Signs And Symptoms Of PMS
While some women experience emotional issues during PMS, aches, and other physical discomforts bother others. Here are some common symptoms of PMS.
Related Reading: 11 Foods That Should Be Avoided When Trying To Conceive
1. Skin breakouts
A majority of women experience pimples and acne prior to their monthly periods. Premenstrual breakouts usually disappear after the periods. Many women feel intense fatigue and headaches prior to their periods. They feel worn out even if they are not involved in any tiring activity.
2. Mood swings
Mood swings are another classical PMS symptom. A majority of ladies go through a rollercoaster of emotions prior to their period. Depression and anxiety also commonly appear prior to periods. Most of the ladies also experience muscle cramps (in legs, abdomen, etc.) with or without spotting before periods.
3. Lower back pain – sign of PMS
Lower back pain is another common symptom that women experience before and more often during their period. Some women experience joint pain, as well. Breast sensitivity- soreness and heaviness that ranges from mild to severe is another common PMS sign.
Bloating and temporary weight gain are also experienced by many women prior to their periods. Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns also indicate impending periods. The vaginal discharge also changes prior to periods.
5. Digestive issues prior to periods
Digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal gas also appear prior to monthly periods. Increased urination is also a sign of impending periods. Changes in eating habits- food aversion or craving also sometimes come prior to periods for many women.
Common Signs Of Early Pregnancy
Not all women experience all of these early pregnancy symptoms. However, many of them experience some of these signs in varying magnitude.
Breast sensitivity is the most common early pregnancy symptom. Fatigue and sleepiness happen as the changes happen in metabolism in order to support emerging new life. Nausea and dizziness is another classic early pregnancy symptom.
Raise in basal body temperature is associated with early pregnancy. The body temperature may increase by half to one and a half degrees. Food craving and aversion to certain food can strike from the early days of pregnancy itself.
Headaches and mild cramps also appear before you missed your period, indicating chances of early. Changes in the skin like skin darkening and darkening of areola also happen during the early week of pregnancy. Pregnancy also makes women prone to acne flare-ups.
Constipation is counted as an early pregnancy symptom. Spotting or mild bleeding may also happen during the early week of pregnancy in some cases (not a common sign). Increased urination is one of the early pregnancy signs. Putting on weight and bloating are also some of the early pregnancy symptoms.
Unique Pregnancy Signs (Signs That Are Less Likely To Happen During PMS)
You also understand from the signs mentioned earlier, there are some signs that are unique for early pregnancy. If you do notice your body carefully, you might be able to spot the early signs of pregnancy before periods. Here are some unique early pregnancy signs which will not appear during PMS:
- Changes in areola happens only if you are pregnant. Due to the surge of pregnancy hormones, the size of the areola increases, and the nipple becomes darker
- Shortness of breath alone will not be an early pregnancy sign, But if it is accompanied with two or more other signs of early pregnancy, it will be an indication of pregnancy
- An increase in basal body temperature is a typical sign of early pregnancy
- Changes in cervical mucus are another important sign of pregnancy. Once you get pregnant, the cervical mucus will turn sticky, whitish, and thin, and you will experience white discharge
Related Reading: How To Prepare Body For Pregnancy After 30
Signs Common To Approaching Periods And Early Pregnancy
As you go through the signs noted above, you will understand most of the signs of PMS and early pregnancy is the same.
Common signs: Headaches, fatigue,mood swings, constipation, acne breakouts, breast changes, changes in eating and sleeping habits, light spotting, weight gain, and bloating.
Why Are Some Signs Common For PMS And Early Pregnancy?
Hormone variation is the reason behind similar PMS and early pregnancy symptoms. The level of female hormones goes down during the week before the period. This decline in hormone levels triggers the PMS symptoms.
Six to eight days past the ovulation, the levels of progesterone increase incredibly. This happens no matter if the woman is pregnant or not. It’s the body’s way of preparing for the possible pregnancy.
However, this spike in hormone triggers symptoms similar to early pregnancy. If the woman becomes pregnant, the symptoms continue until the body gets adjusted to the surging pregnancy hormones.
On the other hand, if the woman is not pregnant, the progesterone level falls, thereby subsiding the pregnancy symptoms, and eventually, a monthly period sets in.
Therefore, after a week or so after ovulation, the women could experience symptoms common for PMS and early pregnancy like bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
How To Know If Your Period Is Coming Or You Are Pregnant
Symptoms like bloating, mood swings, fatigue, and headaches are part and parcel of both PMS and pregnancy, and therefore, differentiating the two can be quite challenging.
However, although most of the impending period and early pregnancy symptoms are the same, closely watching and analyzing, and comparing some signs will help you distinguish both.
Here are some factors that can help you decide whether it is an impending period or pregnancy:
Impending period: The cramping of PMS will be severe, and it is accompanied by back pain. The level of severity varies with women. The cramp usually decreases as the period starts and will go away as the period ends. Joint pain that bothers women right before their period will not happen in early pregnancy.
Pregnancy: Cramping women experience early in pregnancy will not be severe. The mild cramps around this time window of pregnancy are nothing, but implantation pain happens with an egg embeds into the uterine wall. These cramps appear in the lower back or lower abdomen and last longer than PMS cramps.
Impending period: You will feel very much tired even if you are not physically exerted. The fatigue happens as a part of an impending period goes away when your periods are very near.
Pregnancy: Experiencing extreme tiredness and fatigue, coupled with a delayed period, can be an early pregnancy sign. You feel extremely tired and wish to sleep throughout the day.
Impending period: Changes in estrogen level that happen prior to periods can trigger a headache. Headache that happens prior to periods subsides as the period begins.
Pregnancy: Soon after successful implantation, pregnancy hormones start to surge, and this hormonal fluctuation can cause sudden headaches. Headaches during early pregnancy last for longer periods and can be extremely painful.
Impending period: Bloating is natural prior to periods. Hormonal changes bring about water retention, which can give a bloating feeling. There will be a slight change in your weight as well. It tends to increase and then fall back t normal when your period starts.
Pregnancy: Bloating during pregnancy will be more prominent. You feel extremely bloated, especially after eating a meal because of the increasingly fluctuating hormones.
5. Feeling gassy
Impending period: Fluctuation in hormone levels prior to periods slow down the gastrointestinal tracts. This can make the woman gassy just before the period sets in.
Pregnancy: The surge of pregnancy hormones can also develop gas issues. Many women experience abdominal gas, besides a missed period, early in their pregnancy.
Related Reading: 7 Home Remedies For Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
6. Mood swings
Impending period: Mood swings are very common during PMS, and these emotional roller coasters will subside when you get your period.
Pregnancy: Mood swings will be stronger and continue for a longer period. If the mood swings persist, and if you miss your period, you can doubt pregnancy.
7. Pimples and acne
Impending period: Just before the period starts, the level of estrogen and progesterone drops. This fall in hormone level urges the sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum.
Too much of this oily secretion clogs the pores and result in breakouts. Many women take the appearance of pimples as an indication that their period is nearing. Premenstrual flares usually appear around 7 to 10 days before periods and subside as soon as the period sets in.
Pregnancy: Even if you don’t usually get pimples or acne during periods, you may get them in early pregnancy. Skin changes during pregnancy is often noticed. These pimples persist longer and will most likely settle down only after your hormone levels stabilize.
8. Breast changes
Impending period: The hormonal fluctuationthat happens prior to periods can increase breast sensitivity. The breasts become swollen and tender, and there will be some pain. However, this tenderness, pain, and swelling will subside as the period nears.
Pregnancy: During early pregnancy, besides being sensitive, the breasts get sore as well. And this pain also lasts longer.
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9. Food craving and aversion
Impending period: Your eating habits are likely to change when you have PMS. You crave some food prior to periods; however, food aversion is rare. Also, you can easily resist your cravings prior to periods.
Pregnancy: Extreme cravings for some food that is not a part of your usual menu and suddenly developing a strong aversion to one of your favorite foods indicates you are pregnant. Also, neither of these cravings and aversions towards food can be controlled. A heightened sense of smell also indicates pregnancy.
Impending period: There will not be any bleeding or spotting until the period starts. Once the period starts, the bleeding will be heavier, which could last for a week.
Pregnancy: If you are expecting your period, but instead, only get light bleeding for a couple of days, you may be pregnant. This light spotting can be implantation bleeding- bleeding happens when the fertilized egg gets implanted into the uterine wall.
11. Nausea and vomiting
Impending period: Even though some women experience nausea prior to periods, vomiting is not usually associate even with extreme PMS.
Pregnancy: Nausea and vomiting are more common in early pregnancy. Most women feel nauseous and tend to vomit before getting a positive test result.
12. Frequent urination and Increased body temperature
Both these signs are strong indicators of early pregnancy and not at all associated with impending periods.
13. Nipple changes
Although breast changes are a common sign of impending periods and early pregnancy, nipple changes are usually associated only with pregnancy. The nipple becomes more sensitive, and the areola around the nipple turns darker and grows larger.
Not all women are prone to PMS. Likewise, not all women experience early pregnancy symptoms. The intensity of PMS signs and early pregnancy signs also varies from person to person. While some women are affected badly, some may experience mild or no signs at all.