When you’re trying to conceive, it’s common to be hyper-aware of every little twinge happening in your body. Many of the early signs of pregnancy can also be symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Here’s a bit about common early pregnancy symptoms, and how to spot the difference between PMS and pregnancy.
The biggest sign that you’re pregnant? A missed period. In a poll of pregnancy symptoms from the American Pregnancy Association, 29 percent of women reported a missed period as the first pregnancy symptom they noticed. If you don’t start your period on the day you thought you would, grab a home pregnancy test and see the results. While it can be tempting to test before you miss your period (as some tests claim to be able to do), the earliest you should use a home pregnancy test is the first day of your missed period.
The reason? It gives the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) enough time to build up in your body for a test to detect it. Testing too early can lead to false negative results. Tests become more and more accurate with every day past a missed period. If you get a negative test and still don’t have a period, wait a few days then test again. There are other reasons your body could miss a period, including stress, excessive weight gain or loss, hormone imbalances, or high levels of exercise.
One in four women report nausea as the first hint they may be pregnant. This one is a little more clear-cut, as nausea and vomiting aren’t common PMS symptoms (though some women do experience digestive discomfort before starting their period). Morning sickness typically starts around week six of pregnancy, and is caused by the big hormonal changes your body is going through early in pregnancy. And fair warning…the term morning sickness can be a bit misleading as some mamas experience nausea or occasional vomiting all day long.
While breast pain is definitely a common symptom of early pregnancy, many women experience breast pain before starting their period, too. During early pregnancy (one to two weeks after conception) your breasts might feel sore, tender to the touch, and heavy. A sign that it might be early pregnancy versus PMS? Many women notice their nipples are very sensitive (and even painful at times) in the early weeks of pregnancy. If you’re experiencing this, don’t worry; it will pass after a few weeks. Some pregnant women also start to notice darkened and enlarged nipples as early as two weeks past conception.
Though not quite as common, some women experience what’s known as “implantation bleeding.” This can occur when the embryo implants into the uterine wall about six to 12 days after ovulation, and sometimes spotting and light cramping can occur along with it. Not all women experience implantation bleeding, or may assume that the cramps they experience are a sign that their period is coming soon. The biggest difference between implantation bleeding and your period? The amount of bleeding. Light spotting could be implantation bleeding, while an increasingly heavy flow is an indicator your period has arrived.
If you’ve ever had a period, you likely know mood swings can be a sign of PMS. But mood swings can also be a sign of pregnancy, particularly during the stressful (and emotional) two weeks after ovulation. In either case, do your best to get those feel-good endorphins flowing through exercise, as well as plenty of sleep, to try to take the edge off of your moodiness.
If you feel sad, depressed, or hopeless for more than two weeks, talk to your provider about depression. Whether or not you’re pregnant, depression is common and you don’t need to suffer. Treatment and help are available.
Fatigue or tiredness can also be a sign of early pregnancy, due to rising levels of progesterone as your body works to support a pregnancy. But fluctuating hormones also happen when your body is preparing to menstruate. Fatigue associated with PMS typically goes away once your period begins, while pregnancy fatigue can be intense for many women (especially during the first trimester). We’re talking the “fall fast asleep on the couch at 7:30 p.m.” kind of tired.
Bloating, headaches, and back pain can also be symptoms of—you guessed it—both early pregnancy and PMS. It can be confusing (not to mention frustrating) when you’re experiencing so many similar symptoms during your two-week wait. Do your best to get your mind off of what’s going on in your body by keeping busy and taking care of yourself. We’re wishing you luck.