Is It Just PMS or a Sign of Pregnancy? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

It's common to feel tired, irritable, and suffer from headaches – symptoms typically associated with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – just before your period. But what happens when these symptoms persist, and your period doesn't start when expected? This might lead you to wonder, ‘Am I merely late, or could I possibly be pregnant?'

Delayed or Absent Period

Typically, if there's no fertilized egg in your uterus, you'll experience your period due to the shedding of the uterine lining. However, if there is a fertilized egg, the uterine lining remains intact to support the fetus's growth, thus halting the menstruation process.

Although pregnancy is a common reason for delayed periods, it's not the only one. Other medical conditions like thyroid issues, celiac disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or even chronic stress can result in late periods.

Breast Tenderness

Experiencing sore, tender breasts can be confusing as it's a common symptom of both PMS and pregnancy. In the case of pregnancy, an increase in progesterone and hCG hormones (produced in the placenta after fertilization) leads to an increase in blood volume, making breasts feel heavier and swollen.

However, PMS can also cause breast tenderness. Other factors include menopause, high caffeine intake, mastitis, or a pulled chest muscle from exercise. If you're unsure, consult your doctor.

Changes in Appetite

Women often have specific food cravings during their menstrual cycle and pregnancy. However, unusual cravings or aversions to certain foods you usually enjoy can indicate pregnancy.

Studies show that 84% of women experience food cravings during pregnancy! While there's no consensus on why this happens, some experts attribute it to hormonal changes affecting taste and smell.

Extreme Fatigue

Feeling excessively tired even after ample sleep can signal either PMS or pregnancy. This symptom is especially prevalent in the first trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes, increased blood production, and fluctuations in blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Nonetheless, extreme fatigue can also indicate thyroid problems, diabetes (Type 1 and 2), anxiety, depression, or sleep apnea.

In conclusion, if you're unsure whether your symptoms indicate a late period or a possible pregnancy, it's best to consult a medical professional for advice. Unfortunately, the symptoms discussed above aren't exclusive to either condition.

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