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Many of the symptoms of early pregnancy are similar to what you might get just before your menstrual period begins. For example, the typical pregnant woman gets cramps in the first trimester that may feel similar to period cramps, making it difficult to decide whether to take a pregnancy test or wait for the period to come. One of the only ways to tell whether you have pregnancy cramps or period cramps is to consider their severity, as an embryo often only causes light cramps. Additionally, if the cramping is pregnancy-induced, you should notice other symptoms, as well. In general, if you are feeling a little different this cycle compared to past months, it may be time to take a test.
The first step to figuring out what type of cramps you have is to compare the intensity to what you are used to. For example, if you normally get severe period cramps that require pain relievers and a heating pad, but your current cramps are much lighter, you might be pregnant. In addition, if you normally do not feel cramping in your back just prior to menstruation, but you currently do, this could also be a sign of early pregnancy.
To add further confusion to the matter, some women experience light bleeding, called spotting, with their pregnancy cramps. This is usually due to implantation of the embryo, and typically occurs an average of ten days after ovulation. Not only does this frequently cause light cramping, but it also may result in light bleeding due to the embryo burrowing into the uterine lining. You may assume that the spotting is the start of your period, but if the light bleeding does not turn into a flow, and then stops after a few days, it could be implantation instead. On the other hand, if the bleeding becomes heavier than your normal period, you should consult a medical professional because you might be experiencing a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
If you are still not sure whether you are having pregnancy cramps or period cramps, you should consider any other symptoms you have. For instance, you may have tender breasts, fatigue and nausea, all of which are common in early pregnancy. Of course, if you normally experience these just before your period, it may still be difficult to tell the difference. In such a case, it may be necessary for you to take a pregnancy test once your period is late, as it should be accurate at that time. After you have determined the cause of your cramps, you can find out ways to treat them, if needed.