What is a period?

Signs your period is coming include tender breasts, headaches, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, lower back pain, fatigue, bloating, joint pain, acne, and diarrhea or constipation.
Signs your period is coming include tender breasts, headaches, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, lower back pain, fatigue, bloating, joint pain, acne, and diarrhea or constipation.

A period, also called menstruation, is when your body removes the buildup of the lining of your uterus. This buildup of menstrual blood and tissue flows out of your vagina. The day your period starts is the first day of your menstrual cycle, which lasts until the first day of your next period.

Recognizing the signs that your period is coming helps you prepare to deal with the symptoms your body goes through during your menstrual cycle.

Signs of a period

You will probably feel certain symptoms in the days leading up to your period, including:

Tender breasts

Changes in hormone levels before menstruation can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness in your breasts before your period.

Headaches

When estrogen levels drop before your period, it can trigger headaches, including migraines.

Abdominal cramps

Menstrual cramps are throbbing, cramping pains caused by excessive chemicals produced by your uterus before your period that make the muscles in your uterus tighten and relax.

Muscle aches

You may also feel pain in your muscles, resulting in body aches.

Lower back pain

The pain caused by your abdominal cramps can also extend into your lower back, giving you lower back pain in the days leading up to your period.

Fatigue

Hormone changes before your period can affect your brain chemistry, making you feel more tired before menstruation. This can also cause sleep problems, which can contribute to your fatigue.

Bloating

Changes in your hormones can cause you to retain water before your period, making you experience bloating.

Joint pain

Estrogen is a hormone that helps control joint pain, but right before your period, your estrogen levels go down. This can increase your joint pain.

Acne

Changes in hormone levels can make your body produce more oil, which clogs your pores. This can cause you to develop pimples before your period begins.

Diarrhea or constipation

Your digestive system can experience changes when your period is coming, causing you to have diarrhea or constipation.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, includes the range of emotional and physical symptoms you may experience in the days leading up to your period. In addition to the physical symptoms listed above, you may also experience mood-related symptoms. These can include:

  • Irritability
  • Trouble focusing
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Lack of interest in talking to others
  • Crying spells

Causes of periods

During your menstrual cycle, one of your ovaries releases an egg. At the same time, the lining of your uterus builds up to prepare for a possible pregnancy. But if you don’t get pregnant, your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels fall and tell your body to start your period, flushing the buildup of menstrual blood and tissue through your vagina. Bleeding can last 2 to 7 days.

While most menstrual cycles are 28 days long, women experience different cycle lengths. Your menstrual cycle can also be altered by different factors, including:

You may get your first period between the ages of 8 and 15 and have a menstrual cycle longer than 38 days. As you get older, your menstrual cycles usually become more regular, but they may become irregular in your 40s. Once you experience menopause, your menstrual cycles end.

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When to see the doctor for your period

If your period lasts more than 7 days, if you experience strong pain, or if you have a heavy menstrual flow and need to change pads or tampons every hour, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

You should also call your doctor if:

  • You haven’t experienced a period in 90 days
  • You have periods more often than once every 21 days
  • You have periods less often than once every 35 days

Missed or irregular periods can be a sign of stress or a medical condition. Talk with your doctor to find the cause of your irregular periods and how to treat it.

Tests for periods

If you have abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam, rectal-vaginal exam, pelvic ultrasound, or other tests to learn the cause of your excessive bleeding. If you miss your period, a home pregnancy test will let you know if you’re pregnant. However, if it comes back negative, a doctor can conduct a blood test to determine if you’re pregnant or not.

Treatments for periods

Eating a healthy diet low in caffeine, alcohol, and salt helps manage premenstrual symptoms. Exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress also help alleviate symptoms. However, if a healthy lifestyle and over-the-counter medication are not enough, a doctor can prescribe birth control pills and other medications to relieve your symptoms.

Can early pregnancy symptoms be the same as period symptoms?

It is easy to confuse early pregnancy and the symptoms of your menstrual cycle, which is usually referred to as your period. There are many similarities in these symptoms. Both may be uncomfortable or painful.

It may be difficult to know if you’re pregnant because early pregnancy symptoms are so similar to period symptoms. If you were not planning a pregnancy, you may go months without knowing that you’re pregnant. This is why it’s helpful to know the differences and similarities of early pregnancy and period symptoms. 

What is pregnancy?

Pregnancy is the period of time when your baby develops in your womb. Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, or about 9 months. It is broken up into three trimesters

There are different expectations for each trimester. Some people may not know that they’re pregnant during their first trimesters. 

What is a period?

Menstruation is when a woman bleeds due to the periodic, usually monthly, shedding of her uterine wall lining. Menstrual blood and tissue discharge from the cervix in your uterus and passes through your vagina. 

Your uterine lining thickens each month to prepare for a pregnancy. When that doesn’t happen, the lining is shed. Women’s cycles and flows are all unique. 

Signs of early pregnancy and period symptoms

Most period cycles tend to have a heavier blood flow than the spotting of blood that can occur in early pregnancy. However, there are other symptoms that can be the same for both early pregnancy and a period.  

Signs of early pregnancy

If you were not expecting or planning to become pregnant, you may get symptoms of early pregnancy that you could mistake for period symptoms. Early pregnancy symptoms include: 

Many of these symptoms could be the result of switching your birth control medication or the effects of stress. They might also be indicators of other conditions. 

If you have these symptoms and suspect that you may be pregnant, you should see your doctor for an accurate test. 

Symptoms of a period

The changes in your hormone levels before your period cause physical and emotional changes. Those changes are known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

Typical symptoms of PMS include: 

  • Feeling bloated
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling irritable
  • Acne breakouts or oily hair
  • Loss of interest in sex

It is completely normal to experience the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. Some emotional or mental symptoms include: 

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depression, or feelings of sadness
  • Trouble concentrating and memory issues

Causes of early pregnancy and periods

Early pregnancy symptoms are caused by the baby growing in your womb. The extra hormones and bodily changes that occur over the course of 9 months will have effects on your body. 

Your period symptoms occur monthly or close to it in order to shed to the lining of your uterus. PMS is the cause of physical and emotional symptoms of your period. 

Causes of early pregnancy 

Focusing on your preconception health can help reduce your future pregnancy symptoms. Preconception health can begin years before you decide to have a child. Doing this may help relieve your symptoms later when your hormones have increased and they start to appear. 

It’s okay if you did not plan your pregnancy. There are remedies to help with your symptoms in the beginning as your body changes. 

Causes of a period 

There’s no concrete research behind why PMS happens. It may be linked to your changing hormone levels during your menstrual cycle. PMS is not caused by stress or mental issues, but these factors can worsen your symptoms. 

Some lifestyle factors could play a role in your PMS symptoms. Factors that could worsen symptoms include: 

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Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain? See Slideshow

Diagnosing early pregnancy and periods

You may have an easier time determining which symptoms you’re having if you start by tracking your symptoms on a calendar each month. This will help you determine how you’re feeling and notice any patterns you may have including PMS. 

Your doctor will ask you several questions to rule out possible problems. They may want to know about your eating habits, exercise habits, work, and family history. 

Keeping track of your symptoms will also help you know if you’ve missed a period. 

Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose pregnancy. If your doctor suspects you may be pregnant, they will order a blood test and ultrasound scan to confirm. 

Treatments for early pregnancy and periods

Both early pregnancy and period symptoms are easily managed on your own. 

Once you’ve found out that you are pregnant, you should learn what to avoid and what to do to help your baby have proper development. Before you try any home remedies, check with your doctor first to make sure they are safe for you and your baby. 

To ease pregnancy symptoms, eat healthfully, drink plenty of fluids, and take your prenatal vitamins. Reduce your stress with yoga and meditation. If these remedies do not work, contact your doctor about safe medications to take. 

If you have gotten your period and are not pregnant, there are remedies you can try at home to care for your PMS symptoms. These include: 

  • Exercising regularly through the month
  • Eating healthy foods consistently
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Managing stress through yoga and mediation
  • No smoking

There is no cure for PMS symptoms or early pregnancy symptoms, but you can manage your pain. Try home remedies to relieve your discomfort. 

If you have severe abdominal pain that is persistent, you should contact your doctor immediately.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/5/2022
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