Is it PMS or are you pregnant? Depending on your life situation, you may or may not be hoping those mood swings and cramps are just PMS. Unfortunately, the two have very similar symptoms. If you’re unsure of whether you’re pregnant or just experiencing PMS, here are 8 things you need to know.
Table of Contents
- 1. Cramps that last more than a day are likely PMS
- 2. PMS symptoms vs pregnancy symptoms: the difference
- 3. Breast pain that lasts for weeks is a common pregnancy symptom
- 4. PMS symptoms start just before your period
- 5. A negative pregnancy test may not be accurate
- 6. Lower back pain may just be PMS
- 7. Odd food cravings can be a sign of pregnancy
- 8. If you’ve missed a period, you may not be pregnant
1. Cramps that last more than a day are likely PMS
Many women experience cramps a day or two before their period arrives. But women can also experience cramping during implantation. How can you tell if the cramping you’re experiencing is implantation or menstruation?
- Implantation cramps are not as intense, and only last for a short period of time. Implantation also typically occurs shortly after ovulation – not just before your period (for most women).
- Menstrual cramps can be very intense, and may last several days.
The bottom line: if you’re experiencing intense cramping and those cramps last for more than a day, you’re probably experiencing PMS.
2. PMS symptoms vs pregnancy symptoms: the difference
Many PMS symptoms are similar to the symptoms you would experience in the early stages of pregnancy. However, there are also some symptoms that are unique to pregnancy and would not occur if you were merely experiencing PMS.
Here some unique early signs of pregnancy:
- Increased urination: Frequent urination is a common symptom of early pregnancy, and one that is not normally associated with PMS.
- Food aversions: If the sight or smell of certain foods makes you feel sick to your stomach, you may be pregnant. This is another symptom that does not typically occur with PMS.
- Morning sickness: If you’re otherwise healthy but feeling extremely nauseous or vomiting, you may be experiencing morning sickness, a classic pregnancy symptom.
- Spotting: Most women do not experience spotting during PMS, but a woman in the early stages of pregnancy might.
- Breast changes: While it’s not uncommon for women to experience breast tenderness before period, darkening of the areolae is typically not a symptom of PMS. If you’re experiencing this, you may be pregnant.
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3. Breast pain that lasts for weeks is a common pregnancy symptom
Many women experience some breast tenderness during PMS, but the pain is short-lived. Pregnant women experience breast pain early on, and that pain continues for several weeks. Some women have breast pain that lasts throughout their entire pregnancy.
What causes the extended pain? During pregnancy, the body continues producing progesterone to help support the pregnancy. Increased levels of this vital hormone are what cause the breast pain pregnant women experience.
If you’re not pregnant, your body will stop producing progesterone before your period, which is why the pain is markedly reduced or disappears altogether.
4. PMS symptoms start just before your period
If you’re experiencing symptoms early on, it may be a sign of pregnancy and not PMS. When does PMS start? Most women experience PMS five to ten days before their period. If you’re experiencing breast tenderness, extreme fatigue, and other early pregnancy symptoms well before your period, it may not be PMS.
5. A negative pregnancy test may not be accurate
One of the best ways to determine if it’s PMS or pregnancy is to take a pregnancy test. However, it’s important to remember that a negative result may not be accurate.
If you chose to take the test very early (five or more day before your period), the HCG levels in your body may not be high enough to trigger a positive result. For best results, take a pregnancy test after or the day of your missed period. If you can’t wait that long, choose an early pregnancy test that will allow you to test up to five days before your period.
6. Lower back pain may just be PMS
You often hear women complaining of back pain when they’re pregnant. However, this pain typically doesn’t arise until the second or third trimester when the additional baby weight starts taking its toll.
If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back and you’re due for your period, there’s a good chance that you’re just experiencing another classic PMS symptom. Back pain that’s associated with menstruation is shooting, but some women experience throbbing or aching. The pain can sometimes radiate down into the legs as well.
7. Odd food cravings can be a sign of pregnancy
Women who are going through PMS often experience cravings, but their cravings are often for salty or sweet foods. During pregnancy, women crave odd food combinations (i.e. pickles and ice cream).
If you’re craving foods that you’ve rarely or never craved before during PMs, it may be a sign that you’re pregnant. Because this is a subtle symptom, it’s important to be on the lookout for other signs before getting your hopes up (or freaking out).
8. If you’ve missed a period, you may not be pregnant
The classic, tell-tale sign of pregnancy is a missed period. However, periods can be late or missed for other reasons as well.
If your cycle is regular and you’ve never missed a period before, there’s a good chance that your missed period means that you’re pregnant. However, if your cycle tends to be irregular or unpredictable, you may not be pregnant.
Even a woman whose cycle is like clockwork can experience a missed period without being pregnant. Stress, changes in your diet, increased physical activity and a host of other factors can cause your period to be late or missed altogether. If you’ve made major life changes or are under a tremendous amount of stress, a missed period may just be a sign that you need to give your body a rest.
The symptoms before a period and early pregnancy are often very similar, but there are a few telltale signs of either one that will help you determine which one you’re experiencing. If you have been sexually active during the month, it’s important to take precautions and act as if you are pregnant until you know for certain. If you want to know for sure whether you’re experiencing PMS or are pregnant, take an early home pregnancy test.