Pregnancy

Could a swollen belly be a symptom of pregnancy?

Many women trying for a child, waiting for the right time to get tested, wonder if having a bloated belly before the period is a possible sign of pregnancy .

The same question is also asked by many other women, who perhaps fear they have become pregnant after having unprotected sex .

As we will see in this article, abdominal swelling is one of the many symptoms that   can actually accompany the first days and months of pregnancy . However, it also represents a very common discomfort, which can have various causes , completely different from each other.

Swollen belly: pregnancy or period?

Belly bloating can be defined as a  feeling of fullness  in the stomach, which sometimes also includes a distension of the abdomen.

Some pregnancies are accompanied by belly bloating in the first few weeks or subsequent trimesters. On the other hand, many  pregnancy symptoms , especially in the initial stages, are completely subjective : this means that every woman experiences pregnancy in a completely personal way.

At the same time, these symptoms are also non-specific : that is, they can be caused both by pregnancy and by other conditions, such as hormonal changes that precede the arrival of the period .

Consequently, the only way a woman has to understand whether she is pregnant or not is the pregnancy test , to be performed if possible not before the first day of delay (or at least 14 days after ascertained ovulation).

Period delayed and belly swollen: am I pregnant?

If a person is sexually active, has unprotected intercourse, and has certain symptoms, such as a bloated belly , they may be pregnant , especially if their periods are late (meaning that they haven’t had their periods when expected). ).

On the other hand, since there are many other factors that can cause bloating, pregnancy may be one of the least likely causes .

Women who  carefully monitor their menstrual cycle (for example by measuring basal temperature or ovulation tests) know if and when they ovulated and how many days have passed since ovulation : therefore, they can understand if menstruation is actually late . In this case, if swelling is also present, it could be a symptom of pregnancy .

For women who don’t monitor ovulation , however, it can be more difficult to know if the period is late and if unprotected intercourse took place during the fertile period , especially if they are irregular.

In any case, as we have already said, the only way to understand if conception has taken place is to take a home pregnancy test , which can be purchased at pharmacies, supermarkets or online stores.

Beware of false negatives

A urine pregnancy test can give a false negative if done too soon after ovulation or at the wrong time of day.

Although extremely reliable, a test performed when the pregnancy hormone (beta hCG) is not concentrated enough in the urine can give a negative result even if the woman is pregnant.

If you have any doubts about the reliability of the test, talk to your doctor. They may recommend retesting or run a   blood beta hCG test.

Other causes of a swollen belly

Pregnancy is just one of the many causes that can lead to abdominal swelling. If you’re not pregnant, it’s helpful to try to figure out what’s causing the symptom to ease the discomfort.

In particular, if it is a new and persistent condition it is good to talk to your doctor.

Below, we present to you some conditions that, together or separately, can cause belly bloating before your period (and beyond).

Menstruation coming

Having a swollen belly is very common before and during menstruation . It is thought to occur due to changes in the levels of circulating hormones estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, having a swollen belly just before your period can be completely normal and not attributable to pregnancy.

Foods that cause bloating

There are various types of foods that can cause or increase the feeling of bloating. Among these we find , for example , vegetables such as cabbage , unhusked legumes and dairy products .

Carbonated drinks

Carbonated drinks, i.e. drinks containing carbon dioxide , are a common cause of bloating.

Meals too fast

Eating too fast promotes swallowing of air and therefore bloating in the stomach . Chewing gum or drinking through a straw can also increase the amount of air reaching the stomach.

Irritable bowel syndrome

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

Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are   formations, usually benign, which can be visualized in the ovaries during an ultrasound. Cysts can cause pain and swelling in the lower abdomen . In the presence of these persistent symptoms, it is always advisable to go for a medical check .

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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