Uh-oh. It’s one of those days.
Maybe you went to put on your favorite pair of jeans and they won’t button thanks to your newfound pooch that seemed to appear overnight. Or maybe you’re just feeling a little heavier than usual and aren’t really sure why.
Immediately this question races through your mind: Am I pregnant or just bloated?
Bloating can definitely be one of the earliest indicators of pregnancy, however, bloating can also occur for a number of reasons other than pregnancy. If the bloating only lasts for a few hours or days, you are probably in the clear and may have just eaten too much one night. However, if it seems to linger and you have other symptoms such as gas pains, nausea or fatigue, you might be pregnant.
Deciphering between the two can be a real challenge, but I’m here to, hopefully, ease your mind and help you determine the culprit of your bloat.
Bloated Belly vs. Pregnant Belly
A pregnant belly can be a bloated belly, but a bloated belly is not always a pregnant belly. How can you determine which one you have?
Early pregnancy bloating and regular bloating can feel exactly the same. They both cause you to feel heaviness in your lower abdomen and you may see an extra “pooch” that is not normally there.
While they generally feel the same, there are a few key differences between early pregnancy bloating and regular bloating that may help you determine which one you are experiencing.
Early pregnancy bloating is mainly caused by gas buildup due to hormonal changes occurring in the body.
Regular bloating, on the other hand, is usually a result of the gastrointestinal tract being filled with gas for some other reason such as PMS, overeating or food sensitivities.
Regular bloating and early pregnancy bloating honestly look just the same. There really are no major differences in appearance as both can cause you to look a little extra pudgy in your lower abdomen.
How It Feels
Pregnancy bloating may feel slightly more uncomfortable than regular bloating because of the increased amount of gas that can cause gas pains.
Early pregnancy bloating has often been reported to feel like an overly full abdomen, even when you haven’t eaten much at all.
Regular bloating really only lasts a few hours, or a day, until the gas has cleared the GI tract or your food has digested completely. PMS bloating should only last a few days before or during your menstrual period.
Pregnancy bloating often lasts a few weeks, usually during the first trimester when the body is adjusting to the influx of hormones. The bloating feeling often goes away into the second trimester as the actual baby bump begins to pop.
Is Bloating a Sign of Pregnancy or Period?
Honestly, it can be a sign of both.
Many women will experience bloating as one of the first signs of pregnancy, even before their missed period. However, bloating is also a very common period symptom.
The only way to really tell which you are experiencing is by determining if you are nearing your expected period or not. If you are expecting to start your period in the next few days, you may just be experiencing early PMS symptoms. But if your period is still a week or two away, it’s possible you are beginning to feel a little baby bump.
When Does a Baby Bump Show?
Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. Some women might begin to show as early as the first trimester, especially if it is not their first pregnancy. Other women, especially first time mothers, may not begin showing until the second trimester. In this case, a baby bump will typically begin showing between 16 and 20 weeks.
Questions To Consider
If you are trying to determine if you are pregnant or just bloated, try answering these questions:
- Is there a chance I could be pregnant?
- Am I experiencing any other early pregnancy symptoms?
- Is bloating unusual for me?
- Is it almost my time of the month? Could it be PMS?
- Did I eat anything unusual?
- Have I had a bowel movement recently?
- How long have I felt bloated?
- Did I eat a lot recently?
How To Know for Sure if You Are Pregnant
The only way to know for sure if you are pregnant is to take an at-home pregnancy test.
Common Causes of Bloating
Some of the main causes of bloating are:
- Menstrual cycle
- Eating too fast or overeating
- Weight gain
- Dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance
Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of a more serious condition such as:
- Blockage in the bowels or bladder
- Crohn’s disease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders
Understanding Bloating in Early Pregnancy
Bloating is another one of the many uncomfortable, annoying symptoms of early pregnancy. But why? What causes the bloating so early in pregnancy if the baby is still the size of a bean?
Causes of Bloating in Early Pregnancy
Whenever you get pregnant, your body begins to ramp up the production of progesterone—a hormone that is important for supporting pregnancy.
Progesterone can cause slower digestion and, thus, can create more gas in the GI tract as your body tries to adjust to this new hormonal balance. This excess gas is what causes the bloating and mini baby pooch in early pregnancy.
How Long Does Bloating Last in Early Pregnancy?
How long the bloating lasts varies from person to person. Some women only experience it for a few weeks during the first trimester and other women experience it their entire pregnancy.
How To Relieve Bloating During Pregnancy
Beating the baby bloat can be a difficult task as most doctors won’t prescribe stool softeners or medicine to reduce the gas. However, there are a few natural remedies you can try to alleviate the heaviness of the pregnancy bloat.
- Eat fiber-rich foods such as fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains.
- Daily exercise and movement
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink peppermint tea
Can You Be Pregnant and Not Have Symptoms?
Some women are fortunate and have very minor pregnancy symptoms, or none at all. If only we could all be so lucky!
Can I Be Pregnant and Not Know It 3 Months In?
For some women, the pains of early pregnancy such as weight gain, nausea, morning sickness, heartburn or fatigue never seem to appear. Or, they are so faint that they don’t really notice. In this case, it could be possible to not know you are pregnant until you begin to really show.
However, if you are on top of tracking your menstrual cycle, this isn’t likely to happen because you will notice a missed period.
Hopefully, you were able to find the answers you needed or get the guidance you were seeking in this article! If you are still anxious and can’t let your mind rest, take a pregnancy test! That is the best way to get the closure you need.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.