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PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms: Unraveling the Differences

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PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms


For many women, understanding the differences between premenstrual syndrome or PMS symptoms vs pregnancy symptoms can be quite challenging. Both conditions share some similarities, leading to confusion and uncertainty, especially if one is trying to conceive or experiencing changes in their menstrual cycle. 

In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of PMS symptoms vs pregnancy symptoms, shedding light on their characteristics, timing, and possible causes to help women distinguish between the two.

What is PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) refers to a collection of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms experienced by some women in the days leading up to their menstrual period. PMS can vary significantly from woman to woman, and its intensity may also change from cycle to cycle. The symptoms typically arise after ovulation and subside once menstruation begins.

Common PMS Symptoms

  1. Mood Swings: Feelings of irritability, sadness, or anxiety are common during PMS.
  2. Bloating: Many women experience bloating or water retention, leading to discomfort.
  3. Breast Tenderness: Breasts may feel swollen, sensitive, or painful.
  4. Fatigue: Women with PMS often experience increased tiredness and reduced energy levels.
  5. Cravings: Sudden and intense cravings for specific foods, especially those high in sugar or salt, are common.
  6. Headaches: PMS may trigger headaches or migraines in some women.
  7. Acne: Breakouts or worsening of existing acne can occur during this time.
  8. Changes in Bowel Habits: Constipation or diarrhea may occur due to hormonal fluctuations.
  9. Difficulty Sleeping: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns can be a part of PMS.
  10. Back Pain: Some women experience lower back pain or mild pelvic discomfort.

Timing of PMS

PMS symptoms typically appear 1-2 weeks before the onset of menstruation and start to improve or disappear once the period begins.

What are Pregnancy Symptoms?

Pregnancy symptoms are physical and hormonal changes that occur due to the implantation and growth of the embryo in the uterus. While some women may experience early pregnancy symptoms shortly after conception, others might not notice any significant changes until they have missed a period.

Common Early Pregnancy Symptoms

  1. Missed Period: One of the most common and reliable signs of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period.
  2. Nausea and Morning Sickness: Many pregnant women experience nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, especially in the morning.
  3. Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or exhausted is a common early pregnancy symptom.
  4. Breast Changes: Breasts may become tender, swollen, or tingly as a result of hormonal changes.
  5. Frequent Urination: Pregnant women may find themselves urinating more frequently than usual.
  6. Food Aversions and Cravings: Similar to PMS, pregnancy can lead to aversions to certain foods and cravings for others.
  7. Mood Swings: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause mood swings and emotional sensitivity.
  8. Dizziness and Faintness: Some women may experience dizziness or feeling lightheaded.
  9. Constipation: Pregnancy hormones can slow down the digestive system, leading to constipation.
  10. Heightened Sense of Smell: Certain smells may become more intense or bothersome during pregnancy.

Timing of Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy symptoms can vary, but they usually start appearing a few days to a few weeks after conception. However, the timing can differ from woman to woman, and some might experience symptoms earlier or later in their pregnancy.

Differentiating PMS from Pregnancy Symptoms:

While PMS and pregnancy symptoms may overlap, some key differences can help distinguish between the two:

  1. Timing: PMS symptoms occur before menstruation, while pregnancy symptoms typically appear after conception or a missed period.
  2. Menstruation: PMS symptoms subside with the start of the menstrual period, whereas pregnancy symptoms persist or intensify.
  3. Intensity: Pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness and breast changes, are often more intense than typical PMS symptoms.
  4. Missed Period: A missed period is a strong indicator of pregnancy, but it does not occur with PMS.
  5. Basal Body Temperature (BBT): Tracking BBT can help identify potential pregnancy as BBT remains elevated during pregnancy and drops just before menstruation.
  6. Pregnancy Test: A home pregnancy test can confirm pregnancy by detecting the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in the urine.
  7. Implantation Bleeding: Light spotting, known as implantation bleeding, may occur during early pregnancy, but is not a typical PMS symptom.
  8. Breast Changes: Breast tenderness is common in both PMS and pregnancy. However, in pregnancy, breasts may feel fuller, heavier, or more sensitive than usual.
  9. Fatigue: Both PMS and early pregnancy can cause fatigue, but the nature and intensity of the fatigue may differ.
  10. Mood Swings: Mood swings are a shared symptom, but the intensity and duration may vary. Pregnancy-related mood swings might be more persistent.
  11. Cramping: While mild cramping can occur in both situations, severe abdominal pain is not a typical PMS symptom but might be concerning in early pregnancy.

Surprise Takeaway! Did You Know This?

Beyond the well-known physical and emotional symptoms, PMS has also piqued the curiosity of researchers and scientists due to its intriguing complexities. The exact cause of PMS remains somewhat elusive, but it is believed to be linked to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. 

The interplay of estrogen and progesterone, along with neurotransmitters like serotonin, is thought to play a significant role in triggering these symptoms. Interestingly, some studies suggest that lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and stress levels, might also influence the severity of PMS. As research continues to unveil the mysteries of this phenomenon, understanding PMS could provide valuable insights into women’s health and pave the way for more tailored treatments and support.

How Do You Know If You Are Pregnant Or Experiencing PMS?

Distinguishing between pregnancy symptoms vs PMS can be tricky, as they share some similar symptoms. However, there are some key differences to help you differentiate:

– Missed Period: If you have missed your menstrual period, it could be an early sign of pregnancy. However, some women may still experience light bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy, which can lead to confusion.

– Implantation Bleeding: Some women may notice light spotting or bleeding when the embryo implants into the uterine lining during early pregnancy. This can be mistaken for a light period, but it is usually shorter and lighter than a regular period.

Pregnancy Symptoms: Early pregnancy symptoms may include nausea, breast tenderness, fatigue, frequent urination, food cravings, mood swings, and a heightened sense of smell. These symptoms can also be present during PMS, but their intensity and duration may differ.

– Basal Body Temperature (BBT): If you track your basal body temperature as part of fertility monitoring, you may notice that it remains elevated for an extended period during pregnancy, whereas it drops just before menstruation in non-pregnant cycles.

– Pregnancy Test: The most definitive way to confirm pregnancy is through a home pregnancy test or a blood test conducted by a healthcare professional. These tests detect the presence of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine or blood.

Did You Know Your Period Was Coming But Were Pregnant?

It is important to understand that a true menstrual period, involving the shedding of the uterine lining, does not occur during pregnancy. However, some women may experience light bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy, which can be mistaken for a period. This is known as implantation bleeding and is caused by the embryo implanting into the uterine lining. It usually occurs around the time when the woman’s period would have been expected.

If you were sexually active and experiencing pregnancy symptoms but noticed some bleeding around the time your period was due, it could be implantation bleeding, indicating a possible pregnancy. However, to confirm pregnancy definitively, it is best to take a pregnancy test or seek guidance from a healthcare professional.


Understanding the differences between PMS symptoms vs pregnancy symptoms is essential for women who are trying to conceive or simply seeking relief from discomfort during their menstrual cycle. By recognizing the unique characteristics and timing of each, women can make informed decisions about their health and family planning. If in doubt, consulting a healthcare professional is always the best course of action to get accurate guidance and support.

PMS Symptoms Vs Pregnancy Symptoms FAQ's:

1. How can you tell if you're pregnant or just starting your period?

The main distinction between the two is that pregnancy prevents your period from coming on. Vomiting and nausea are pregnancy-related symptoms that are frequently distinct from PMS. After the 12th week of pregnancy, early pregnancy nausea frequently goes away.

2. Can a pregnant woman get menstrual cramps?

Early pregnancy and PMS can also cause stomach pains. Early pregnancy and the days before a period are both typical times when people experience mood swings, sobbing fits, or other emotional distress. Once menstruation starts, these PMS symptoms usually go away.

3. When do pregnant women's nipples begin to hurt?

One of the first (and most prevalent) signs of pregnancy, breast pain can be felt from weeks 4 to 7 and lasts the whole first trimester.


On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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