If you’re trying to conceive a baby, chances are you are evaluating every little sign and symptom you experience. But differentiating between the signs of PMS or pregnancy can seem next to impossible. Given that many early signs and symptoms of pregnancy mimic impending menstruation, the only way to know you are pregnant for certain is for your health care provider to confirm it through a urine or blood sample, or by an early ultrasound.
Light spotting, sometimes accompanied by mild abdominal cramping, can indicate either PMS or pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, implantation bleeding typically occurs six to 12 days after conception. Menstruation then generally ceases for the duration of the pregnancy. However, extreme fatigue, stress and hormonal imbalances can wreak havoc on the menstrual cycle, leading you to believe you might be pregnant. Also, some women experience light spotting throughout their pregnancy.
Swollen and Tender Breasts
A telltale sign of both PMS and pregnancy is swollen and tender breasts. During pregnancy, however, the areolas and nipples darken and increase in size. And unlike during PMS, the bluish veins just beneath the surface of the skin in pregnant breasts become more prominent as blood to them increases in volume.
You might feel tired and lacking in energy the days prior to getting your period. However, fatigue in the early stages of pregnancy is more pronounced. As your body performs the task of growing a baby, you feel exhausted at every turn. You might feel more energized during the second trimester as your body’s changes stabilize. But fatigue settles in again during the third trimester when the size of your expanding belly makes lying down or sleeping uncomfortable.
Nausea and Vomiting
Although you are not guaranteed to experience morning sickness during pregnancy, nausea and vomiting can strike as early as two weeks following conception. Most morning sickness resolves toward the end of the first trimester, but some women have it the duration of their pregnancy. Though PMS might cause you to feel bloated and sick to your stomach at times, the symptoms are short-lived in comparison.
Aches and Pains
Increased headaches and backaches are common symptoms of PMS and pregnancy, due primarily to fluctuating hormone levels. Menstrual-related backaches resolve within a short period of time, whereas a dull backache can last throughout the entire pregnancy.
Certain food cravings are not uncommon during PMS and pregnancy, so this symptom alone cannot diagnose one condition or the other. Food cravings generally result from a lack of a specific nutrient in the body, or they could be a coping mechanism for physical or emotional distress.