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How to Distinguish Between Irregular Periods and Pregnancy

For sexually active women, irregular periods can be an immense source of anxiety. Many will immediately wonder if an abnormal period is a sign of pregnancy - a loaded question if becoming pregnant isn't planned. Find out how to tell if it's an irregular period or pregnancy to lessen the burden of anxiety and finally understand the difference between them.

Taking a pregnancy test is the surest way to find out if you are pregnant

Identifying Irregular Periods

Irregular periods are considered anything that diverges from a woman's regular menstrual cycle, including spotting, missed periods, changes in blood flow, shortened or elongated cycles, cramping, and more.

However, it is important to remember that what is normal for one woman may be abnormal for another. Track your menstrual cycles and symptoms to better pinpoint any personal abnormal changes.

How Can I Tell If It's a Pregnancy?

The quickest way to be sure is to take a simple pregnancy test or a blood test.

However, if it's too soon for a home pregnancy test to be reliable, or if you are looking for peace of mind until your doctor's appointment, here are some of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy to look out for:

  • Breast tenderness. Your breasts may feel extra tender or sore suddenly, perhaps even more than they usually do during menstruation. They can also feel swollen and heavier.

  • Fatigue. You may be feeling particularly tired or sleepy throughout the day for no apparent reason, like you need to nap frequently.

  • Queasiness. Nausea with or without throwing up can strike during pregnancy. It can happen at any time of day or night, but it is most classically felt in the morning during the first trimester.

  • Food cravings or aversions. Suddenly, you may not be able to stand the smell or taste of foods you once loved, and random cravings may show up on a dime. Luckily, these are temporary.

  • Frequent urination. It's common for women to have to go to the bathroom more often than usual when pregnant.

Early signs of pregnancy can differ for every woman, as do those of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Therefore, keep in mind that experiencing the following symptoms does not necessarily mean a woman is pregnant as they can occur from other causes, such as stress or switching birth control.

Once a woman is pregnant, menstruation does not occur. However, she may experience implantation spotting, which typically resembles a light period.

Other Causes of Irregular Periods

Usually, irregular periods in middle-aged women are due to hormonal imbalance and are the first symptom of perimenopause, which typically begins in a woman's 40s and lasts until her menopause date.

Also, frequent irregular periods could be a symptom of other health complications, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid dysfunction, polyps, or cancer. Visit your doctor to rule out any underlying causes.

More Information

If you are experiencing irregular periods, it is not necessary to assume you are pregnant. As aforementioned, there are many other variables that affect a woman's menstrual cycle. Click on the following link to read about effective and natural irregular period treatments during menopause.

Uncommon Symptoms of Irregular Periods

Read on to learn how to recognize when irregular periods may be cause for concern.

Are Migraines a Side Effect of Irregular Periods?

Understand the link between the hormonal changes that occur during perimenopause, irregular periods, and migraines.

Irregular Periods and Heavy Bleeding during Perimenopause

When a woman reaches perimenopause, she will experience irregular periods. Read on to find out what causes heavy bleeding and how can you treat it.

  • Cleveland Clinic. (2015). Abnormal Menstruation (Periods). Retrieved February 20, 2019, from
  • Mayo Clinic. (2017). Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first. Retrieved February 20, 2019, from
  • Office on Women's Health. (2019). Pregnancy tests. Retrieved February 20, 2019, from