8 Symptoms Of Pregnancy That Might Actually Be Something Else

If your period is late this month it may either be a cause for celebration or cause for concern — but before jumping to conclusions, it is important to take a breath. Many typical symptoms we associate with pregnancy may actually be related to something completely different. Our diet, exercise, and stress levels can affect our bodies more than we realize. There is no guaranteed sign of pregnancy (even morning sickness has many other causes), so making assumptions too quickly may lead to some serious disappointment.

The only foolproof way to know whether or not you are expecting is to take a pregnancy test and see your doctor. Whether you are actively trying to get pregnant or are actively working to remain baby-free, many of us rely on monitoring changes in our body. The reproductive cycle influences our bodies in many all-too-clear ways (cramps — ugh, emotions — double ugh), and the symptoms of pregnancy and PMS can be eerily similar. Trying to decipher exactly what symptoms mean can be super confusing, so it is helpful to be aware of all the possibilities before stressing one way or the other. In other words, check yo' self before you diagnose yourself.

Here is why signs of pregnancy may be something entirely different:

Missed Period

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While this is one of the most common and well-known signs of pregnancy, a woman can skip her period for a number of reasons. Changes in hormone levels can happen for a number of reasons (pregnancy just being one of them), and this may change the duration or frequency of your period.

Stress is more powerful than we think, and can be extremely disruptive to your body. It can affect the hypothalamus, which works with other systems to control hormone levels. If you are studying for some intense finals you may expect Aunt Flow to be a little late with her monthly visit.

Other reasons why your period may disappear include massive weight loss or weight gain, thyroid conditions, hormone imbalances, and taking certain types of birth control.

Tender or Swollen Breasts

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The changes in hormone levels that occur when a woman first becomes pregnant can produce tender breasts. But just because your chest is achey doesn't mean you need to run to the pharmacy, because sore breasts are also a common side effect of PMS (nature's cruel joke). The day before your period comes, escalating estrogen levels can cause discomfort in the chest area. Thankfully, it should return to normal when your period comes.

If you are sore after the gym, straining your pectoral muscles from strenuous exercise or heavy lifting can also cause breast pain. Fibrocystic breast tissue, a normal condition where breast tissue feels lumpy, may also cause tenderness and pain, especially during PMS.

Nausea

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Morning sickness is experienced in 50 to 90 percent of pregnancies, and is used as a gag in nearly 100 percent of movies where a character gets pregnant. But just cause you are feeling a bit queasy doesn't necessarily mean there's a bun in that oven. Vomiting or an upset stomach can be a side effect of medications, intense stress, viral infections, ulcers, food poisoning, and many other reasons. It seems almost anything can lead to nausea (even, sadly, too much coffee on an empty stomach), so there is no reason to jump to conclusions if you get a tad queasy from time to time.

Fatigue

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During the first trimester of pregnancy, fatigue is a common side effect due to the body's elevated levels of progesterone. This hormone can make you feel drowsy and tired, especially paired with the drops in blood pressure and blood sugar that pregnant women experience. However, exhaustion has many other disparate possible causes. Different lifestyle factors such as too much physical activity, lack of sleep, certain medication, or eating habits can leave you feeling wiped out. Fatigue may also be caused by a common medical condition like anemia, depression, kidney or liver problems, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, obesity, and the list goes on. Like nausea, fatigue is a hard symptom to pin down, so not all signs point to pregnancy.

Moodiness

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Feeling a little emotionally out of control or weepy? That could be a sign of pregnancy, or also ... not. In the beginning of a pregnancy hormones flood the body, creating the emotional rollercoaster effect. But if you are experiencing mood swings, there are many other things that may be playing with your hormones as well. PMS, menopause, stress, anxiety, depression, and even diet and exercise may be altering our hormone levels. But no matter the reason, it's always a good idea to seek help from a health care provider to get to the bottom of why you are feeling ALL the feels.

Bloating

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Feeling bloated is another symptom of pregnancy that is too similar for comfort to its cousin PMS. While hormonal fluctuations can make a pregnant woman or a woman at the start of her cycle feel like a balloon that should be popped, bloating can also be caused by gas, eating foods that are difficult to digest, eating too quickly, a side effect of certain medications or birth controls, as well as some diseases and serious medical conditions.

Constipation

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During pregnancy your bathroom schedule may be thrown out of whack due to the influx of the hormone progesterone, but constipation has many other causes. Taking calcium or iron supplements, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, dietary changes or a low fiber diet, digestive problems, thyroid conditions, medications (such as certain anti-depressants), and stress can all lead to quite an uncomfortable situation. So if the pregnancy test is negative, it may be time to try some laxatives.

Cramping And Spotting

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It may come as a surprise that two symptoms that resemble the beginning of the menstrual cycle are also indicative of pregnancy. During pregnancy, the spotting is called implantation bleeding. It is caused by the fertilized egg attaching itself to the wall of the uterus approximately two weeks after conception. But spotting can also be a result of starting a new birth control, stress, certain medications, infection, uterine fibroids, or a hormone imbalance. This symptom may not mean that you are preggers, but it also shouldn't be ignored.

The only real way to know whether or not you are pregnant is to take the test (and then have it confirmed with a blood test at the doctor's), because there is no use in stressing and guessing when your body may be trying to tell you something important.

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