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

This month your body is playing tricks on you. You havenausea, hunger pangs, headaches, feel bloated and can't fit into your favorite dress. What if you were pregnant? The arrival of your period is overdue. Between the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and pregnancy, your stress is increasing and you are not ready to take a pregnancy test. How can you tell the difference between PMS, the arrival of your period and the beginning of a pregnancy?

Knowing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to differentiate it from pregnancy

Confusing the symptoms of menstruation or pregnancy is quite normal. This disorder is also closely related to premenstrual syndrome. Indeed, the hormonal imbalance linked to the important secretion of estrogens before the period and the increase of pregnancy hormones (Beta HCG) have the same effects on the body.

Two to seven days before your period is due, your body will secrete fewer hormones. The drop in estrogen and progesterone levels will cause different symptoms that vary in severity from one menstrual cycle to the next and from one woman to the next. The physical, psychological and emotional symptoms that announce the arrival of menstruation are called premenstrual syndrome.

When they are embarrassing in daily life, we talk about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It will be possible to feel premenstrual symptoms more or less strong:

  • A state of important tiredness;
  • An outbreak of acne.
  • Migraines and headaches;
  • Pain in the legs, back and stomach cramps,
  • Tightness in the lower abdomen
  • Tense breasts, a sensitive and painful chest.
  • Cravings (often for sweet or fatty foods),
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

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

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

The big difference between pregnancy symptoms and PMS is the duration. Pregnancy will keep the little niggles going past the expected date of your period, while PMS will disappear with the first day of your period. How can you tell the difference between the signs of pregnancy and the signs of your period?

Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy has its share of surprises. The first trimester is in most cases the most challenging for moms. The fear of miscarriage and the symptoms of pregnancy can be difficult to deal with. If pregnancy is not considered an illness, the state in which it puts the future moms is sometimes disabling:

  • Theabsence of menstruation!
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting in the morning, but at any time of the day, which can make you think of indigestion
  • Very particular culinary desires, "strawberry cravings" or lack of appetite, disgust of certain foods or smells.
  • Abdominal cramps that are not as strong as those of menstruation
  • Hyper salivation, a taste of metal in the mouth
  • A feeling of exhaustion, of wanting to sleep at any time of the day
  • Pain in the chest, nipples that get darker and bigger
  • Bloating and constipation
  • More frequent urination
  • Hot flashes

Take a pregnancy test when in doubt

The only way to be sure of a pregnancy is to take a pregnancy test , which is reliable and quick. You don't have to wait until you are in amenorrhea (the absence of a period)! Some tests can be done earlier. When and how should I take a pregnancy test?

  • On the first day of the delay of menstruation: Take a classic or early pregnancy test. The morning urine will be more concentrated and will give a more reliable result. You can also go to the laboratory to perform an HCG hormone test;
  • 14 days after your ovulation and last intercourse. It is possible to go for a blood test to detect the pregnancy hormone. A test will be done every two days to check the good evolution of the levels which double every 48 hours at the beginning of pregnancy;
  • 6 days before your expected period with an early test.

In case of positive results of your urine test bought in a pharmacy or parapharmacy, we advise you to always confirm your pregnancy by a gynecologist or a 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 another and from one woman to another, as well as from one pregnancy to another. What is indicative of a pregnancy is the absence of menstruation from the first day of the expected start date of menstruation. For a person with a regular menstrual cycle, the delay in menstruation is a sign of pregnancy. Sometimes the first symptoms of pregnancy, such as tightness in the lower abdomen, will appear in the first few days of gestation.

Can you have period pains and be pregnant?

It is normal and common for women to experience pain similar to period pains during pregnancy and during the nine months of gestation:

  • Pelvic pain, often located in the lower abdomen, between the pelvic bones and under the abdomen. They can be simple cramps or acute. They are often related to the enlargement of the uterus which is preparing to receive a fetus;
  • Period pains and miscarriage are common in the first trimester. The pains are contractions of the uterus related to the detachment and expulsion of the fetus. The intensity of the pain should alert you and encourage you to consult quickly;
  • Stomach ache and extra uterine pregnancy that creates abdominal pain. This is a medical-surgical emergency that can lead to a rupture of the fallopian tube and internal bleeding. Another symptom is vaginal bleeding;
  • Digestive disorders such as peeing and diarrhea, constipation or urinary tract infections;
  • Ovarian cysts or torsion of the ovarian cyst that will require an operation.

From the second trimester onwards, period pains are less common. Belly pain is often ligament pain. Abdominal pain in the third trimester is associated with Braxton contractions or labor contractions. As you approach term and give birth, the pain is much more like period pain.

Is the tightness in the lower abdomen related to menstruation or pregnancy?

Tightness in the lower abdomen during pregnancy is due to ligament pain. These pains are sometimes similar to period pains due to the development of the uterus. This pinching and pulling is completely normal and is a sign that your uterus is expanding to accommodate the growth of your unborn baby.

It is also possible to feel pain in the sacroiliac area and pelvis when standing. Under the effect of pregnancy hormones, the ligaments tend to loosen and the bony parts start to move against each other and create a pulling, shearing sensation in the pubic symphysis. Menstrual pain is due to the contraction of the uterus to expel the blood from the period under the effect of prostaglandin.

FAQ on the differences between PMS, menstruation and pregnancy

How can you tell the difference between the arrival of a period and a pregnancy?

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

When do the first signs of pregnancy appear before a period?

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

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Les informations issues des articles présents sur le site sont des informations générales. Bien qu’elles aient été relues par des professionnels de santé, ces informations ne sont pas exemptes d’erreurs, ne constituent pas des conseils de santé ou des consultations et n’ont pas vocation à fournir un diagnostic ou proposer un traitement. Ces informations ne peuvent, en aucun cas, se substituer à un avis médical et ne peuvent pas remplacer une consultation auprès d’un professionnel de santé. Pour toute question, nous vous invitons à consulter votre médecin.