Premenstrual symptoms, periods and pregnancy: what are the differences?

This month, your body is playing tricks on you. You'renauseous, you're hungry, you have headaches, you feel bloated and you can't fit into your favorite dress. What if you were pregnant? The arrival of your period is a long time coming. Between the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and pregnancy, your stress is increasing and you're not ready to take a pregnancy test. How can you tell the difference between PMS, the arrival of your period and the onset of pregnancy?

Understanding premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to differentiate it from pregnancy

It's perfectly normal to confuse the symptoms of menstruation and pregnancy . This disorder is also closely linked to premenstrual syndrome. In fact, the hormonal imbalance linked to the high secretion of estrogen before the period and the increase in pregnancy hormones (Beta HCG) have the same effects on the body.

Two to 7 days before your period is due, your body will secrete fewer hormones. The drop in estrogen and progesterone levels will cause different symptoms, with varying degrees of severity from one menstrual cycle to the next, and from one woman to the next. The physical, psychological and emotional symptoms that herald the arrival of menstruation are known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS ).

When these symptoms become a nuisance in everyday life, we speak of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). You may experience premenstrual symptoms of varying severity:

  • Significant fatigue;
  • A flare-up of acne.
  • Migraines and headaches;
  • Pain in the legs and back, as well as stomach cramps,
  • Tightness in the lower abdomen
  • Tight breasts, sensitive and painful breasts.
  • Cravings (often for sweet or fatty foods),
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

How to tell the difference between pregnancy and menstruation symptoms?

Some pregnancy symptoms are referred to by doctors as "sympathetic signs" or "reassuring signs". Unpleasant, sometimes disabling symptoms caused by the hormonal upheavals the body undergoes. Totally random from one mother-to-be to the next, they can surprise multiparous women (women who have already had a child) and hide a pregnancy in progress. Only a pregnancy test will give a definitive result on your condition!

The big difference between pregnancy symptoms and PMS lies in their duration. Pregnancy will keep the little annoyances going beyond the expected date of menstruation, whereas PMS will disappear with the first day of menstruation. How can you tell the difference between the signs of pregnancy and those of your period?

Pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy has its share of surprises. In most cases, the first trimester is the sportiest for moms. Fear of miscarriage and pregnancy symptoms can be difficult to cope with. Although pregnancy is not considered an illness, the state it puts expectant mothers in can be disabling:

  • Theabsence of periods!
  • Nausea and nausea in the morning, but at any time of the day, which can be reminiscent of indigestion.
  • Strawberry cravings " or lack of appetite, disgust for certain foods or smells.
  • Abdominal cramps less severe than those experienced during menstruation.
  • hyper-salivation, a metallic taste in the mouth
  • A feeling of exhaustion, of wanting to sleep at any time of day.
  • Pain in the chest, nipples that darken and become larger.
  • Bloating and constipation
  • More frequent urination
  • Hot flashes

Take a pregnancy test if in doubt

The only way to be sure of a pregnancy is to take a pregnancy test , which is quick and reliable. There's no need to wait until you're in amenorrhea (the absence of your period)! Some tests can be taken earlier. When and how should I take a pregnancy test?

  • On the first day of delayed menstruation: Take a classic or early pregnancy test. Morning urine will be more concentrated and give a more reliable result. You can also go to the laboratory for an HCG hormone assay;
  • 14 days after ovulation and last intercourse. You can also go for a blood test to detect the pregnancy hormone. A test should be carried out every two days to check that the levels, which double every 48 hours in early pregnancy, are progressing correctly;
  • 6 days before your expected period with an early test.

In the event of a positive result from a urine test purchased in a chemist's or drugstore, we recommend that you always have your pregnancy confirmed by a gynaecologist or midwife.

Is the absence of premenstrual syndrome a sign of pregnancy?

The absence of PMS , especially if you are prone to it, cannot be a sign of pregnancy. In fact, PMS varies from one cycle to the next and from one woman to the next, as it does from one pregnancy to the next. What is indicative of pregnancy is the absence of menstrual bleeding from the first day of the expected menstrual period. For a person with a regular menstrual cycle, late menstruation is a warning sign of pregnancy. Sometimes the first symptoms of pregnancy, such as tightness in the lower abdomen, will appear in the first days of gestation.

Is it possible to have period pains and still be pregnant?

It's perfectly normal and common for women to experience pain similar to menstrual pain during pregnancy and the first nine months of gestation:

  • Pelvic pain, often localized in the lower abdomen, between the pelvic bones and under the abdomen. They may be simple cramps or acute. They are often linked to the enlargement of the uterus as it prepares to receive a foetus;
  • Menstrual pain and frequent miscarriage in the first trimester. The pain is caused by contractions of the uterus as the fetus detaches and expels. The intensity of the pain should alert you and encourage you to consult your doctor as soon as possible;
  • Abdominal pain and extra uterine pregnancy. This is a medical-surgical emergency that can lead to rupture of the Fallopian tube and internal bleeding. Vaginal bleeding is another symptom;
  • digestive disorders such as peeing, diarrhoea, constipation or urinary tract infection;
  • ovarian cysts or torsion of the ovarian cyst, requiring surgery.

From the second trimester onwards, period pains are rarer. Abdominal pain is often ligament pain. Abdominal pain in the third trimester is associated with Braxton or labor contractions. As the term approaches and during childbirth, the pain resembles menstrual pain, but is much stronger.

Is lower abdominal tightness linked to menstruation or pregnancy?

Lower abdominal tightness during pregnancy is due to ligament pain. These pains are sometimes similar to menstrual pains due to the development of the uterus. These twinges are completely normal and are a sign that your uterus is expanding to support the growth of your future baby.

You may also experience pain in the sacroiliac region and pelvis when standing. Under the effect of pregnancy hormones, the ligaments tend to loosen and the bony parts begin to move against each other, creating a tugging, shearing sensation in the pubic symphysis. Menstrual pain, on the other hand, is caused by the contraction of the uterus to expel menstrual blood under the effect of prostaglandin.

FAQ on the differences between PMS, menstruation and pregnancy

How can you tell the difference between menstruation and pregnancy?

The first signs of pregnancy may appear just before the first presumed day of menstruation. The first sign of pregnancy is usually amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and nausea.

When do the first signs of pregnancy appear before menstruation?

The hormones that prevent you from falling asleep during your period are progesterone and estrogen, which drop in the bloodstream, causing a drop in the sleep hormone melatonin.

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