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PMS or pregnancy symptoms? What are the differences?

by Sonia Chartier, on 14 March 2016, Women's Health
pregnancy symptoms

Pregnant or PMSing? The symptoms can be remarkably similar. Sensitive, swollen breasts, emotions all over the place, fatigue, cramps, pimples…

Do you jump for joy or panic (depending on the circumstances) or do you just make sure you have what you need in your handbag?

Yes, the symptoms may be similar and sometimes confusing. But there are differences, sometimes noticeable ones.

Look out for the symptoms in question in the two weeks between ovulation and your expected menstruation date. These are the first signs of implantation of the ovum and they vary from woman to woman.

  • Spotting: Sometimes you may see some pinkish or brownish bleeding, similar to what you see at the beginning of your period. This happens six to twelve days after fertilization, when the ovum attaches itself to the lining of the uterus.
  • Cramps: With PMS, cramps occur 24 to 48 hours before bleeding begins. In early pregnancy, you could also experience abdominal cramps that can last up to several weeks.
  • Frequent need to urinate. It is possible that increased blood flow to the bladder makes you want to pee more often.
  • Swollen breasts: Whether during pregnancy or PMS, your breasts can swell and become sensitive or even painful one to two weeks after ovulation. When the ovum is fertilized, this particular symptom can become even more pronounced: when you go from a 34B to a 36D practically overnight, it’s probably not due to PMS.
  • Cravings: During PMS, cravings often make you want to eat junk food, and your appetite is off the charts. When you’re pregnant, cravings are often remarkably specific and can be completely different from what you usually enjoy. For example, a vegetarian might suddenly feel as though she could eat a horse… literally!
  • Your sense of smell becomes hypersensitive. Food smells and perfumes that never bothered you before may suddenly become nauseating and repulsive.
  • Breathing trouble or breathlessness: This is simply because the embryo needs oxygen. This symptom can occur in early pregnancy, but it’s a good idea to see a doctor about it just in case.
  • Dizzy spells and vertigo are typical early on in a pregnancy. They can be caused by hormonal fluctuations or they might arise because your body needs to produce a larger quantity of blood.
  • Morning sickness is a misnomer given that it can happen morning, noon or night. It affects 90% of pregnant women at some point. Some women throw up, others don’t, but nausea can occur as early as the first weeks of pregnancy.

All of these symptoms come and go; they can be subtle or in your face, and if anything holds true, it’s that they’re different for every woman or even from one pregnancy to the next with the same woman.

If you don’t get your period when you expect it, or if your PMS symptoms seem unusual, remember that a home pregnancy test takes only two minutes. You’ll take a load off your mind and stop worrying yourself sick.

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