PMS or pregnancy – Difference Between PMS and Pregnancy Symptoms

difference pregnancy pms
Did you know that the symptoms for premenstrual syndrome or PMS and pregnancy are almost the same? Like many women, you might have mistaken the PMS symptoms for pregnancy signs, especially when conception is not planned.

This has caused many to wait anxiously for up to a fortnight to find out whether or not conception took place because of the similarity in the symptoms for PMS or pregnancy. For this reason it is important to understand the difference between the symptoms.

First and foremost, it can be extremely difficult for you to stay patient for two weeks, which is between your ovulation time and when your cycle is expected to begin, to know whether or not you are pregnant if you are trying to conceive. During this period of waiting, you might experience some symptoms that are similar to PMS.

This will make it nearly impossible for you to distinguish between PMS and pregnancy if you are expecting your first child. In these instances, doctors suggest that a pregnancy test is the only reliable method to know if conception occurred.

There are certain PMS symptoms that are not typical signs of pregnancy. For this reason, the common symptoms of pregnancy and PMS are highlighted below along with some explanations to help you distinguish one from the other.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a clinical condition classified by physical and psychological signs that may arise after the ovulation and ends with the onset of next period.

PMS comprises a variety of symptoms that females experience one or two weeks before the onset of their menstrual cycle. Every woman in her life may go through some degree of PMS.

The clinical signs and symptoms of PMS are very vast, and there are over 100 clinical signs that attribute to PMS. The physical symptoms are associated with hormonal imbalance whereas the acute symptoms are deliberating and the severe signs and symptoms are linked with irregular periods.

Pregnancy with typical signs and symptoms of PMS is possible. More than 90% of women experience PMS, however clinically there is no reliable association between Pregnancy and PMS Symptoms.

Researchers are still investigating the exact cause of these clinical PMS symptoms.

There are certain PMS symptoms that are not typical signs of pregnancy. For this reason, the common symptoms of pregnancy and PMS are highlighted below along with some explanations to help you distinguish one from the other.

Symptoms of PMS

PMS or Premenstrual syndrome takes place before the monthly period, which is usually in the second part of the menstrual cycle.

The symptoms refer to different physical, behavioral and emotional changes in the body. This condition will affect most women at some time in their lives, but persons experience it more in their late twenties and early forties.

These symptoms include bloating, fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, acne, leg pain, headaches, joint ache, migraine, muscle ache, low feelings, tearfulness, low sex drive, weight gain, swollen breasts, increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, abnormal aggression, tenderness in breasts, less alert, abdominal discomfort, cramps, lower back pain, food cravings, changes in sleep pattern, abnormal changes in hair and skin, nipple discharge, and increased sensitivity to noise and light.

Please note that every woman will experience different PMS symptoms. You might experience similar symptoms monthly or slightly different ones with erratic intensity.

Symptoms of Pregnancy

Similar to PMS, symptoms of a pregnancy will be different for every woman. Some of the most common symptoms will be highlighted below, but bear in mind that they might necessarily be the same unless confirmed by your doctor.

These symptoms include missed period, cramps, leg pain, bloating, mood swings, pregnancy acne, constipation, nipple discharge, darkening of areola, morning sickness, breast tenderness, swelling in breasts, shortness of breath, backaches, headaches, fainting or dizziness, tingly or sore breasts, increased basal body temperature, urge to urinate frequently, extreme fatigue, implantation bleeding or spotting, breasts feeling fuller or heavier, milky/white vaginal discharge, food aversions or cravings, as well as increased sensitivity to odors, both pleasant and unpleasant.


The following are some clinical signs and symptoms which are common in both conditions, PMS and Pregnancy

Breast pain:

Breast pain is the common symptom in both situations, PMS and pregnancy. Few other changes should be noticed such as swelling, or enlargement of the breast during early pregnancy as well as before period. The sensitivity of breast would be increased in both conditions, PMS, and pregnancy.

Back pain:

Back pain is the second most important and common symptom that can be experienced either a female is pregnant or her period is approaching. It is not a very severe type of back pain, but some women with other health complications might feel it quite painful.


Constipation is the other common symptom which can be observed in both conditions, PMS, and pregnancy. The leading cause of constipation is the digestive disturbance caused by an elevation of progesterone hormone levels during the second half of the menstrual cycle or early pregnancy.

Stress and Anxiety:

Stress, anxiety, and irritability are symptoms that can be experienced during early pregnancy and PMS. Mood changes are experienced during anxiety women might experience crying spells and sad feelings during that period.

Frequent Urination:

Frequent urination is the other important symptom which is common is PMS and pregnancy. Increased amount of urination also depends upon the liquid intake but as a symptom increased urination can happen without consuming much liquids.

Difference between PMS and Pregnancy Symptoms

The following will highlight some of the symptoms that might help you differentiate PMS from pregnancy:

Implantation bleeding or spotting: This usually happens six to twelve days after egg fertilization whenever the fertilized egg affixes itself to the uterus linings. The bleeding is lighter, shorter, and the blood will have a brownish or pink color.

Missed period: If your menstrual cycles are regular, then this will be one of the reliable pregnancy symptoms that you will experience.

Frequent urination: When you are pregnant, your uterus will grow and then push against your urinary bladder. You will have a regular urge to urinate when this happens.

Shortness of breath: Like most pregnant women, you might feel shortness of breath during this time. This happens because the developing embryo needs extra needs oxygen. According to experts, you should report to a doctor immediately if you feel this symptom suddenly and it’s accompanied by pain or worsens when you are lying down.

Morning sickness: This symptom is experienced by nearly 90% of women during pregnancy. It is referred to as a feeling of nausea and can take place at any time during the day.

Increased sensitivity to odors: You might develop extreme dislikes for certain smells and odors when you are pregnant. These include ones that might have been pleasant to you before.

Darkening of the areola: An increase in your estrogens levels will expand the areolar size, causing it to darken as your pregnancy progress.

Increased basal body temperature: This is a most likely positive pregnancy sign if it persists for eighteen days or more after ovulation.

All in all, it might be easier to deduce the difference between pregnancy and PMS symptoms in black and white than when it’s the real thing. As an example, most cases occur when a missed period is a false alarm for pregnancy.

This too can be said for darkening of the areola, among other things. In the end, the best way to know if you are experiencing pregnancy or PMS symptoms will be to take a pregnancy test.


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    2. Ryu, A., & Kim, T. H. (2015). Premenstrual syndrome: a mini review. Maturitas, 82(4), 436-440.
    3. Baker, L. J., & O’Brien, P. M. S. (2012). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): a peri-menopausal perspective. Maturitas, 72(2), 121-125.
    4. Foxcroft, K. F., Callaway, L. K., Byrne, N. M., & Webster, J. (2013). Development and validation of a pregnancy symptoms inventory. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 13(1), 3.
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