Bloated or pregnant: How to tell

Pregnancy

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Some people may find it hard to tell the difference between being bloated or pregnant as they can share similar symptoms. If a person is unsure whether they are pregnant, they may wish to take a pregnancy test.

Bloating is the feeling of fullness in the stomach, which sometimes includes abdominal distention. Bloating is very common and has many causes. Most people will experience bloating from time to time.

For women, being pregnancy may cause bloating. But many pregnancy symptoms are not unique, which can make telling the difference between being bloated or pregnant difficult without testing.

A woman holding her stomach and not sure if she is Bloated or pregnantShare on Pinterest
The symptoms of pregnancy and bloating can be similar.

If a person is sexually active and has certain symptoms, such as bloating, pregnancy is possible. But since many other factors can result in bloating, the cause may not always be clear.

People who track their menstrual cycle may notice if they have missed a period, which can help determine if pregnancy is a possibility.

One of the best ways to determine if a person is bloated or pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test. A range of pregnancy tests is available for purchase in pharmacies and online.

It is important to know that a home pregnancy test can lead to false negatives, especially early in pregnancy.

A medical professional can confirm pregnancy with a blood test, urine test, or an ultrasound exam.

Pregnancy is just one of many things that can cause bloating. If bloating is not due to pregnancy, it is helpful to determine the cause in order to take steps to reduce bloat.

If someone thinks they are experiencing new or persistent bloating, it is advisable to discuss their symptoms with a doctor.

Other factors besides pregnancy that may lead to bloating, include the following:

Menstrual cycle

Bloating is very common before and during a person’s period.

The 156 participants of one study completed a survey about their menstrual history and gastrointestinal symptoms before and during their periods. The results indicated that 62% of the women had premenstrual bloating, and 51% had bloating during their menses.

Bloating is thought to occur due to changing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle.

Learn more about period bloating here.

Certain foods

Various types of food increase a person’s risk of bloating. Vegetables, for example, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts may lead to bloating. Dairy products and beans may also cause gas and bloat.

Carbonated drinks

Certain drinks can lead to bloating. Carbonated beverages, such as soda, contain carbon dioxide gas, which is a common cause of bloating.

Eating too quickly

Eating too fast leads people to swallow air. The increased air in the stomach causes gas and bloating.

Chewing gum and using a straw can also increase the amount of air that reaches the stomach.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Bloating is a possible symptom of a range of gastrointestinal conditions. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating.

It is also possible that more than one factor is causing bloating. In some cases, a combination of the causes above can lead to bloating.

Ovarian cysts

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled or solid sac that grows on a person’s ovary or ovaries. Cysts can form at any time but are most common when they form during a person’s menstrual cycle.

Cysts can cause pain and bloating in the lower abdomen. Rarely, ovarian cysts can be cancerous, which is why it is best to have a doctor check out cysts when they occur.

Early pregnancy symptoms may vary from person to person. Also, not everyone experiences all the signs. It is typical to develop at least a few symptoms in early pregnancy.

In some cases, symptoms dissipate as the pregnancy progresses. In other instances, symptoms may return or continue throughout pregnancy.

Common early pregnancy symptoms include:

Bloating

Bloating is a common early pregnancy sign. In some cases, bloating can occur even before the first missed period.

During early pregnancy, the hormone progesterone increases to prepare the uterus. Progesterone also slows digestion, which can trap the gas in the intestines that may cause abdominal bloating.

Spotting

Spotting during early pregnancy may occur as soon as 6 days after conception, as a result of implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding involves light spotting after the fertilized egg implants into the uterus.

Missed period

A missed period is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and usually occurs about 2–3 weeks after conception. But there are other possible reasons for a missed or late period besides pregnancy.

Learn about the possible causes of a missed period.

Fatigue

Fatigue also develops early in pregnancy, usually within the first few weeks, when higher levels of progesterone may increase sleepiness.

Although fatigue can develop early on, it is common throughout pregnancy, especially as a woman’s due date nears.

Increased urination

Increased urination often occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy due to changing hormone levels. Frequent urination can also continue throughout pregnancy once the growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder.

Learn about possible causes of frequent urination in females here.

Breast changes

Breast changes usually develop at about 4–6 weeks of pregnancy but can sometimes occur earlier.

Breast changes typically include tenderness and swelling. Breast tenderness is due to increased estrogen levels.

Many women feel similar breast tenderness before their period. Darkening of the areola may also develop in pregnancy around week 11.

Nausea

Nausea and possibly vomiting can occur when a woman is pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nausea usually develops before 9 weeks. This symptom occurs as a result of the increase in pregnancy hormones.

Mood swings

Moods swings can occur any time during pregnancy, including within the first month. Mood swings may include irritability, depression, and excitement.

Occasional bloating is typically nothing to worry about. If pregnancy is a possibility, taking a home pregnancy test may be a first step.

When bloating continues for several days, it is best to see a doctor.

If a person thinks they are pregnant, it is essential to discuss this with their doctor. Prenatal care is critical for the well-being of both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus.

To treat occasional bloating, whether due to pregnancy or other causes, the following tips may help:

  • eat slowly to reduce the amount of air swallowed
  • drink plenty of water
  • eat fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation
  • avoid chewing gum
  • eat smaller portion sizes

Bloating is extremely common. It can have many causes, from diet to constipation. Pregnancy can also cause bloating due to changing hormone levels.

For someone wondering if bloating is due to what they ate or pregnancy, having other pregnancy signs provides additional clues. However, other things may also lead to fluctuating hormone levels, including the menstrual cycle.

The best way to know for sure whether a person is bloated or pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test and seeing a doctor.

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