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 periods 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 periods and the start of pregnancy? 


Understanding premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to differentiate it from pregnancy

Confusing the symptoms of periods or pregnancy is perfectly normal. This disorder is also closely linked to premenstrual syndrome. In fact, the hormonal imbalance linked to the high estrogen secretion prior to periods and the increase in pregnancy hormones (Beta HCG) have the same effects on the body.

Two to 7 days before the expected arrival of your periods 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 periods are known as premenstrual syndrome

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

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

How can you tell the difference between pregnancy symptoms and the arrival of periods ?

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 the duration. Pregnancy will keep the little annoyances going beyond the expected periods date, whereas PMS will disappear with the first day of periods. How can you tell the difference between the signs of pregnancy and those of the arrival of your periods ?

Pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy has its share of surprises. In most cases, the first trimester is the sportiest for moms. The fear of miscarriage and the symptoms of pregnancy 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 !
  • frequent nausea and vomiting in the morning but at any time of the day, which may suggest indigestion
  • Specific culinary cravings, "strawberry cravings" or lack of appetite, disgust of certain foods or smells.
  • Abdominal cramps less severe than those of periods
  • 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 s'darken, 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 with a reliable and rapid pregnancy test . There's no need to wait until you're in amenorrhea (the absence of periods)! Some tests can be taken earlier. When and how should I take a pregnancy test?

  • On the first day of the periods delay: 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 test;
  • 14 days after ovulation and last intercourse. It is possible to have 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 the expected arrival of your periods 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 confirm your pregnancy with a gynaecologist or midwife.

Is the absence of premenstrual syndrome a sign of pregnancy?

The absence of PMS , especially if you're prone to it, can't be a sign that you're pregnant. In fact, PMS varies from one cycle to another and from one woman to another, as it does from one pregnancy to another. What is indicative of pregnancy is the absence of periods from the first day of menstruation. For a person with a regular menstrual cycle, the delay of periods 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 pain from periods and still be pregnant?

It is normal and common for women to experience pain similar to pain periods 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;
  • Pain from periods 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 seek prompt medical attention;
  • Abdominal pain and extra uterine pregnancy. It s's a medical-surgical emergency that can lead to rupture of the Fallopian tube and internal bleeding. Another symptom is vaginal bleeding;
  • Digestive disorders such as the need to pee, diarrhea, constipation or urinary tract infections;
  • ovarian cysts or torsion of the ovarian cyst requiring surgery.

From the second trimester onwards, periods pain is less common. 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 that of periods , but is much stronger.

Is lower abdominal tightness linked to periods or pregnancy?

Tightness in the lower abdomen during pregnancy is due to ligament pain. These pains are sometimes similar to periods pains due to the development of the uterus. These twinges are completely normal and are a sign that your uterus is expanding to accompany the growth of your future baby.

 It is also possible to 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 in relation to each other, creating a tugging, shearing sensation at the symphysis pubis. Pain at periods is caused by the uterus contracting to expel blood from periods under the effect of prostaglandin.


FAQs on the differences between PMS, periods and pregnancy

How can you tell the difference between the arrival of periods or a pregnancy?

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

When do the first signs of pregnancy appear before periods ?

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


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