Am I pregnant or is it PMS?

Fatigue, cramping and mood swings. Could it be Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or a sign of pregnancy? For a woman attempting to conceive, there are certain symptoms that mimic early pregnancy, especially if you struggle with PMS.

As an OB/GYN, I’m here to help differentiate between the symptoms of PMS and early pregnancy and guide you through the next steps of care.

PMS 101

So, you may be wondering, ‘What is PMS?’ Premenstrual syndrome includes a set of symptoms that typically happen in the few days leading up to and, sometimes, during the first few days of your period. They are typically present with a majority of monthly cycles and can affect your daily life.

There are a multitude of possible symptoms of PMS. Some of the most common include mood changes, changes in appetite, breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain, skin problems and abdominal pain. The symptoms of PMS are typically present before your period and stop within a few days of starting your period. The symptoms can interfere with some of your normal activities.

To diagnose PMS, a healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and rule out any other medical conditions. Medical conditions such as depression, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and thyroid disease can mimic PMS.

If your symptoms are recurrent, it can be helpful to keep a symptom log for your provider to review.

Related: Fertility 101: What you need to know about getting pregnant

Symptoms of early pregnancy

First and foremost, pregnancy is associated with a missed or abnormal period. However, occasionally, there is bleeding in early pregnancy that can be mistaken for a period.

The most common symptoms of early pregnancy include breast tenderness or changes, fatigue, nausea and urinary frequency. Other symptoms can include bloating, cramping and mood changes — these typically arise after a missed period.


If you are experiencing nausea or other common pregnancy symptoms, find out how to manage them with these pregnancy tips from an OB/GYN.

How to tell the difference?

The only way to differentiate between PMS and early pregnancy is to take a urine pregnancy test. Remember, pregnancy tests can be positive as early as the first day of your missed menses. If the pregnancy test is negative, it is important to repeat the test in one week.

But if your pregnancy test is positive, you are in the very early stages of pregnancy! It is important to start prenatal vitamins if you have not already done so. Most OB/GYN physicians will see their patients at approximately seven to nine weeks after their last menstrual period. If you have specific concerns or symptoms, most will see you earlier.

If you think you may be pregnant, make an appointment with an OB/GYN.

Pregnancy on the brain? Get the answers to all your burning questions.

About the author

Fallon Stovall
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Fallon Stovall is a social media consultant and content creator for Baylor Scott & White Health. Her passion is to connect people through powerful storytelling and visuals.

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Am I pregnant or is it PMS?