Between period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps, many women get confused about why they are cramping, asking themselves "am I pregnant or late?" Some even worry it may be something serious.
Let us not forget that pain is an alarm of something going on underneath, however, it is not always an indication of danger.
Here we will explain the pain you may be feeling around your period and help you understand your symptoms.
Period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps: How it all starts
First, let us review some basic biology to understand the science behind period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps. Every month, your ovaries release an egg into the fallopian tube.
The egg has 2 pathways, either one is the main difference between period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps:
If you have intercourse around ovulation time, the egg gets fertilized and travels to the uterus where it implants itself into the wall, which makes you pregnant.
If this egg does not get fertilized, the uterus starts to contract to shed its lining out of the vagina alongside your egg, and your period occurs.
Although both implantation and uterus contraction cause cramps, their cause, duration, and even feeling are different.
Early pregnancy cramps: why do they happen
When looking at period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps, you can see that the first one does not only happen because of implantation.
Here are other multiple reasons for early pregnancy cramps
Changing the size of the uterus
As you go on with your pregnancy, your uterus, which is a solid muscular organ, will expand. This expansion causes some cramping, especially as you cough, sneeze, or change position.
Round ligament pain
About your fourth month, you may feel a sharp stabbing pain in your lower abdomen. This is completely normal as the ligament supporting your uterus “The round ligament” starts to stretch.
Hormones changing during pregnancy slow down your bowel movement, you may feel bloated and constipated which means some discomfort and cramps.
Semen is rich in prostaglandin, which is a hormone-like chemical that causes your uterus to contract and your cervix to dilate. This is why you may feel cramps after intercourse.
Pregnant women have susceptibility to yeast infections and UTIs, either one can cause mild cramps.
However, comparing early pregnancy cramps to period cramps should not be done until you are 100% sure positive you are pregnant.
Period cramps: How, why, and when
Period cramps, which are the most common symptom that happens before or even during the period, are mild or moderate throbbing pains in the lower abdomen and stress in your back, hips, and even bowel.
But why do they happen? Well, do you remember prostaglandin? This substance contracts your uterus to help expel its lining. This contraction causes the blood to slow or stop temporarily from the uterus, which causes cramping. The cause of cramping is the main point we use to compare period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps.
Luckily, these cramps start a few days before the period and subside by the third day.
Period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps: How similar are they
If you are a woman trying to get pregnant, chances are that you may not know the difference between period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps.
It may be confusing to tell as implantation happens 6-12 days after you ovulate, which is about the same time in your cycle when the period is supposed to start.
Also, implantation is reported to be combined with light bleeding or “spotting” which could make you think you are just starting your period.
On the other hand, the feeling is a little different as some women describe it as a pulling or tingling sensation at the lower part of your abdomen, in the middle or on either side, and the cramping pain is less severe than PMS.
Unfortunately, feeling alone is not a good way to tell the difference between period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps.
The only thing that can tell is a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests can measure human chorionic gonadotropin “HCG” about 3-4 days after implantation, which is about the third or fourth day of the period.
Period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps: When can they be worrying
Regarding the difference between period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps, we can agree that they happen around the same time, but that does not mean that they are the only reason for cramping.
Some diseases may cause cramps such as
It happens when tissues grow, like the uterus before your period, outside the uterus like tissues in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining.
It is a non-cancerous tumor in the muscular layer of the uterus. It causes cramps when it is growing.
A condition happens when the epithelial lining of your uterus starts to grow into the muscular layers.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Sexually transmitted bacteria cause infection of the pelvic tissues resulting in cramping.
In some cases, the cervix opening is too small that it holds most of the blood during the period causing a lot of pressure on the uterus.
So when should you see a doctor? After your pregnancy is confirmed, following up with your gynecologist is very important especially if you have any odd symptoms.
Here are some of these symptoms
- If your cramps feel like contractions, especially if they are severe and regular, it may be a sign of premature labor.
- If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, have significant bleeding, and your cramps are focused on one side, you could be going through a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
- If you are experiencing severe back pain with nausea, vomiting, or fever, this could mean you have an underlying problem like a kidney stone, appendicitis, or gallbladder issues.
Period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps: How to relieve them
The fact that this article has been comparing period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps does not mean that they have something in common, they both hurt. But thankfully, there are ways to lower the pain.
Simple ways to reduce the cramps
- To start simple, relax, drink some water, or lay down.
- Heat application can help soothe your muscles. Try a nice hot bath or put a heating pad over your belly.
- Cramps may indicate that you are stressed, so calm down. Yoga, meditation, or going for a walk is always a good solution.
- If all of this does not work, you can always use some over-the-counter painkillers. Paracetamol is the safest option. However, do not forget to consult with your doctor first if you are pregnant.
Comparing period cramps vs early pregnancy cramps is very difficult until the pregnancy is confirmed, as they are very similar in location, time, and even all-around symptoms.
However, every woman experiences pregnancy and period differently, so do not be alarmed if your cramps are a little stronger, or weaker, or if you did not feel them at all.
And always remember, your health comes first. so, contact your doctor if your gut tells you something is wrong.
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