Differences between PMS symptoms and pregnancy

Differences between PMS symptoms and pregnancy

Premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy share as a cause of symptoms the increase in progesterone. Learn a little to differentiate them.

Differences between PMS symptoms and pregnancy

Last update: 22 January, 2022

Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy they are very similar and tend to be confused. The differences are discreet and there is variability between women and women.

During the first 12 weeks of gestation, the signs of pregnancy are very nonspecific. There may even be no signs, except for the absence of menstruation.

On the other hand, premenstrual syndrome is the set of signs and symptoms that are related to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, after ovulation, when progesterone levels peak. These symptoms appear 1 to 2 weeks before the expected start of menstruation and disappear by the time menstruation begins.

Premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy share that their symptoms are due to variation in progesterone levels. That is why they are so similar.

Common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy

We will start by talking about the common symptoms between premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy. They are the following.

Swelling and tenderness in the breasts

Due to the increase in progesterone, there is an increase in tension in the breasts. The tissue becomes irregular and dense. It generates dull pain and tenderness in the breasts.

PMS and pregnancy differ in that in PMS, swelling and tenderness in the breasts improve with menstruation. While in pregnancy it can persist until the time of delivery.

The hypersensitivity in the breasts is intense in some women, who suffer even the friction of the clothes.

Fatigue and sleepiness

Another symptom associated with elevated progesterone is fatigue. Tiredness and sleep problems are common in PMS and pregnancy.

They differ because in premenstrual syndrome fatigue is not so marked and disappears 2 to 3 days before menstruation. While in pregnancy it usually accompanies the woman until the moment of delivery.

Humor changes

PMS and pregnancy share mood swings. However, in pregnancy there is more crying, compared to premenstrual syndrome which has a predominance of irritability, anxiety and bad mood.

When the mood disturbance in premenstrual syndrome is severe and disabling, it is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In which case there are behavioral symptoms that disappear with menstruation and affect work and interpersonal relationships.


abdominal cramps

In pregnancy there is abdominal swelling due to progressive growth of the uterus and fluid retention. In addition, there may be dull, aching pain, similar to that which occurs during menstruation in the lower abdomen.

The same happens in premenstrual syndrome, but in this case the pain is usually more intense and increases as the expected start date of menstruation approaches. The pain disappears between the second day and the end of this.

Changes in eating habits

In premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy there are changes in eating habits. During premenstrual syndrome there is anxiety directed towards the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, sweets and chocolate.

Pregnancy is more associated with cravings for very specific products, with an aversion to certain smells and tastes. In addition, the pregnant woman has nausea.

Symptoms that differ between PMS and pregnancy

Despite having several symptoms in common, there are some that are more common in each case and allow us to differentiate between premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy. Let’s see in detail.

nausea and vomiting

The nausea and vomiting in pregnancy they are predominant in the morning and can be accentuated by certain odors. They occur between 3 to 4 weeks after conception and are due to the increase in the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin. They allow to differentiate premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy because they are not common in the former.

Morning sickness is classic pregnancy. In premenstrual syndrome they are not present.

absence of menstruation

The absence of menstruation is the key symptom to differentiate premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy. Period delay, especially in women with regular cycles, is the most important symptom.

In pregnancy there may be little bleeding at the beginning, which is prior to the expected date of menstruation and is different from this. It is a thick, pinkish blood with brown tones and is a light flow that usually lasts 2 to 3 days.

This is implantation bleeding and occurs when the fertilized egg implants in the endometrium. However, it does not occur in all pregnancies. The expectation is that menstruation does not occur until after delivery.

Can PMS and pregnancy be differentiated based on symptoms alone?

Symptoms of PMS and pregnancy vary from woman to woman. So the really useful thing would be to track the signs in search of possible changes over time.

The definitive way to differentiate PMS from pregnancy is by taking a pregnancy test. Given the delay of menstruation, suspicion can be had, which must be confirmed.

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