Whether you're trying to get pregnant or definitely, definitely not trying to get pregnant, there are certain telltale signs that can either give you hope when they show up or send you into a panic. But are they actually harbingers of pregnancy (this time), or is whatever you're feeling a symptom of another condition (or nothing at all)? There are several early pregnancy signs that could be something else entirely. So how can you tell the difference?
Making things even more confusing is the fact that early pregnancy can look an awful lot like PMS (and those symptoms tend to show up right around the time you'd be expecting your period). Hence the all-too-common experience of being completely let down when whatever your symptoms are turn out to be part of a particularly intense period... or the result of eating some questionable leftovers or even an undiagnosed, unrelated medical condition.
Generally, if these symptoms aren't caused by a pregnancy, they're still nothing to worry about. (Okay, in some cases they're cause for concern, but usually not.) And don't get hung up on looking for "traditional" symptoms only, either. The funny thing is, certain signs that you're expecting — like a cold that just won't quit — might go completely unnoticed because you don't typically associate them with being preggers. The human body is full of surprises, sigh.
So if you're dealing with any of the following issues, don't necessarily assume you've got a new addition on the way. (But don't assume you don't, either.)
Sore boobs can most definitely be a sign of early pregnancy (as I can tell you from experience). But not necessarily a reliable one: Breast pain can be caused by a number of issues, from the obvious (your period) to the not-so-obvious (an ill-fitting bra). But the good news is, most of these issues aren't life-threatening... so if the first place your mind goes is breast cancer territory, don't freak out.
"Most breast cancers do not cause pain," Diane Young, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Cleveland Clinic's Willoughby Hills Family Health Center, told Women's Health. If ovulation-related hormones or the wrong size bra aren't too blame, your pain could be from a pulled muscle (caused by too many push-ups, for example), benign cysts, or even a caffeine sensitivity, Dr. Young explained.
Naturally, missed or late periods are a pretty major pregnancy sign, but nearly everyone experiences this at some point or another even when pregnancy isn't a possibility.
“I tell women that one to two abnormal cycles or missed cycles a year is probably okay,” Mary L. Rosser, MD, PhD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Health System in New York City, told Health. “If it’s persistent or consistent, meaning three months or more, then you do need to seek a visit with a healthcare provider.”
Your cycle might be out of whack for no discernible reason at all, or because you've been exercising a lot or because you're underweight (or overweight). Or, there could be a non-pregnancy medical condition to blame such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a thyroid disorder, uterine fibroids, diabetes, or endometriosis.
Feeling inexplicably queasy is one of the first symptoms that might make you start to wonder about the possibility of a baby on board, especially if there's not a stomach bug going around. But there are other things that could be turning your stomach upside down, from dehydration to low blood sugar to headaches to stress, as Randy Wexler, M.D., an internist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told SELF. Even taking vitamins or medication on an empty stomach can result in nausea, he explained, which is why you should always remember to have a snack before you down any supplements.
“Often, just a piece of bread or a few crackers will suffice,” Dr. Wexler said.
There's no question that early pregnancy often comes with bloating. But, then again, so does PMS... and even just plain eating, whether it's the way you eat (too fast, which can cause you to swallow air) or which foods you consume.
“Certain foods like cruciferous veggies ([like] broccoli or beans... will produce gas as a byproduct of digestion,” Lisa Ganjhu, a gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told Allure.
Most bloating is nothing to worry about, but as Dr. Ganjhu added, chronic bloating can also be a sign of some serious conditions like cancers of the colon, stomach, liver, and/or ovaries.
Mood swings can be an especially confusing symptom if you're wondering (or worrying) about being pregnant. Hormonal fluctuations are often to blame, but pregnancy is far from the only condition that messes with your hormones: Your period, stress, diet, exercise... all of these things can trigger a hormonal hurricane.
"Women can be, and many are, greatly affected by hormone fluctuations. Sometimes it gets to the point of feeling totally overwhelmed — as if for a time they have lost control of their life," Christiane Northrup, MD, author of The Wisdom of Menopause and Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom, told WebMD.
It's enough to put you in a bad mood just thinking about it!