Bloated or pregnant? Here's how to tell

Bloating is one of the earliest indicators that you might have a baby on board.
Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Reviewed by
Dr Claudia Xiao
Last updated on
May 16, 2024
8
min read
6
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Bloat or Pregnant? Here's How to Tell | Kin Fertility
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As women, we are no strangers to standing in front of the mirror, sizing up our stomachs and uttering, "I'm so bloated I look pregnant!."

Well, we often joke about our food babies after a big bowl of pasta, but did you know bloating can be a sign of pregnancy? In fact, bloating is one of the earliest indicators that you might have a baby on board.

While bloating and gas might not be the most enjoyable parts of your pregnancy journey, they are completely normal. But how to know the difference between a food baby and a baby bump?

While the telling can be tricky (without a pregnancy test, of course), there are some telltale signs of pregnancy to look for if you feel bloated.

Before we get into the question of bloat or pregnancy, it's important to understand what bloating is, what causes it and how you can relieve some of your symptoms.

What causes bloating?

It can be an early pregnancy symptom, but your bloat could be just that you've eaten too much pasta or the barista accidentally used dairy milk in your lactose-free latte.

There are a number of non-baby-related things that can cause bloating. Basically, we become bloated when the gastrointestinal tract becomes filled with gas or air [1].

Some of the main causes of bloating are:

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Chewing gum, smoking or eating too fast can cause us to swallow air which can cause bloating and gas.
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Overeating
  • Reflux
  • Certain foods, such as dairy products

Some medical conditions can also cause bloating, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Infections
  • Inflammation such as diverticulitis
  • Blockages in the bowel or bladder
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Cancer such as ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, or stomach
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Certain medications

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can also cause digestive issues, resulting in bloating.

If you are experiencing any of the following along with bloating, you should seek medical attention:

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and lightheadedness
  • Frequent nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain

What are the first signs of pregnancy?

Early signs of pregnancy will be different for everyone, and you probably won't experience all of the signs of pregnancy. However, some symptoms are definitely more common than others.

The most common signs of pregnancy during the first few months include [2]:

Missed period

While many things can cause irregular menstrual cycles, a missed period is one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms. If your period is late for a week or more, you might want to take a pregnancy test, especially if you are experiencing any accompanying symptoms.

Tender breasts

The hormonal changes associated with early pregnancy can cause your breasts to become sore and swollen. This will likely decrease as your body becomes used to the increased hormones.

Morning sickness

Not everyone goes through morning sickness; however, it is also extremely common to experience nausea and vomiting within the first few months of pregnancy.

If that's your case, Kin's Morning Sickness Tea can provide relief. Made with organic ginger, peppermint and subtle aromatics, this herbal tea blend is perfect to sip on when you feel the ick.

Bloating

Bloating during pregnancy can be caused by pregnancy hormones, just like during your normal cycle.

Increased urination

During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases which causes extra fluid to build up in your kidneys and causes you to experience more frequent urination. This, of course, can be exacerbated if the baby insists on sitting directly on your bladder.

Other pregnancy symptoms can include:

  • Mood swings: Again, thanks to the pregnancy hormones, many women may experience mood swings throughout their pregnancy.
  • Spotting: Implantation bleeding is one of the first steps in the pregnancy's progress. It occurs about 10-14 days after conception when the fertilised egg attaches to the uterus lining. It causes spotting during early pregnancy but does not occur in all women.
  • Cramping: Many pregnant women experience uterine cramps within the first few weeks of their pregnancies.
  • Aversions to certain foods: Pregnant women may become more sensitive to certain foods and smells.
  • Constipation: Your digestive system can be slowed by pregnancy hormones, which can cause constipation.
  • Congestion: A less common symptom of early pregnancy is nasal congestion. This is caused by the increased amount of blood and hormones in your body, which can cause mucous membranes in your nose to swell, dry and bleed more easily.

How do I know if I am bloated or pregnant?

Googling bloated belly vs pregnant belly pictures won't help you too much if you're asking yourself if you're bloated or pregnant. While your bloated belly may look slightly different from your baby bump, if you're wondering if it's bloat or a baby bump, there are a few better ways you can tell.

If you are experiencing any of the other pregnancy symptoms, you might have more than just a bloated belly. But the only way to be sure is to take a pregnancy test.

You can take a home pregnancy test; however, if your pregnancy is still in the early stages, this might not be 100% effective. If you suspect you might have a baby on board, you should book in with your GP for a blood test to confirm pregnancy.

Kin's Ovulation Test and Pregnancy Test as part of the Conceiving Essentials Kit are accurate and easy-to-use midstream tests that detect early pregnancy.

What is pregnancy bloating?

Pregnancy bloating is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Sometimes this can even occur within the first trimester, before your first missed period.

Not all pregnant women will experience bloating and gas during their pregnancy, and there are many different causes [3].

What causes pregnancy bloating?

A few things, such as diet, can cause bloating during pregnancy, but the main culprit is high progesterone. This hormone relaxes your muscles, including your gastrointestinal tract, which results in slower digestion.

This can also cause constipation, which can make the bloating worse.

Another cause of bloating during pregnancy is the foetus itself. As your baby grows, it will take up more room in your womb, which places added pressure on the surrounding organs. This alone can make you feel bloated.

It could be as simple as pregnant women are generally aware of their bodies, which could cause you to feel your pregnancy gas and bloating more intensely [4].

How early in pregnancy does bloating begin?

Bloating often starts in early pregnancy, usually within the first trimester. How long it lasts varies from person to person. While some women may not experience any bloating at all or only have it for the first few weeks, some may experience this symptom for their entire pregnancy.

However, it typically begins in the first trimester, around 11-12 weeks and worsens around the third trimester as your growing baby takes up space.

You may experience some relief as your body adjusts to the elevated progesterone, which can alleviate bloating.

What does early pregnancy bloating feel like?

Early pregnancy bloating and normal bloating feel exactly the same.

Your pregnancy bloating may feel slightly more uncomfortable due to the additional symptoms and increased amounts of gas which can worsen gas pains.

Many women describe pregnancy bloating as the feeling of an abnormally full abdomen or a hot ball of gas within their stomachs. Although it might feel uncomfortable, you can still have a perfectly healthy pregnancy while experiencing bloating and gas.

What are some ways to reduce bloating during pregnancy?

There are several at-home remedies and medical treatments for pregnancy bloating.

You can treat occasional bloating at home by:

  • Fibre: Eating more fibre-rich foods, such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, and whole grains, will aid digestion.
  • Exercise: Do pregnancy-friendly exercises such as Pilates and yoga, as well as take regular walks. The best bloating and baby-friendly yoga poses are child's pose and happy baby. A quick walk around the block can also be enough to get your bowels moving and provide fast and effective relief from constipation.
  • Treat with heat: Applying a heat pack to your stomach or taking a warm bath can help relax your stomach muscles and soothe any gas pain.
  • Drink peppermint tea: Peppermint helps relax the digestive system and allows stool and gas to pass more easily.
  • Water: Drinking plenty of water will help your digestive system move and flush out any trapped nasties.

Bloating can also be treated medically if it's bad enough. Your doctor may prescribe:

  • A fibre supplement
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Medication to aid digestion
  • A probiotic to improve gastrointestinal conditions and gut health.

They also may conduct allergy tests to determine gluten or lactose intolerance or other food sensitivities; this might require keeping a food diary. You should contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain [5].

Our body needs to stay hydrated and healthy at the best of times and this also aids in reducing bloating.

I am bloated but not pregnant, what does this mean for my body?

Bloating is extremely common and can do a number of different things. So, if you're bloated but not pregnant, intestinal gas is probably the culprit.

If you regularly experience bloating after eating, you may have a digestive issue or food allergy. But It could also be as simple as eating too much too fast.

Women will also experience more bloating during their menstrual cycle. In rare cases, bloating can indicate a more serious medical condition. If you are experiencing frequent and painful bloating, you should see your GP.

How long does a bloated stomach last?

Normal abdominal bloating typically goes away on its own within 24 hours but this could be a little longer if you are pregnant.

If you are experiencing bloating that lasts for more than a few days, you should speak to your doctor.

How to relieve stomach bloating?

Pregnant or not, there are many ways you can relieve bloating. As mentioned earlier, regular exercise, small meals and plenty of water can help reduce bloating. There are also other things you can try to relieve your symptoms.

These are:

  • Squats and lunges
  • Abdominal massage
  • Debloating capsules
  • Stool softeners.

A high-quality probiotic supplement can also prove helpful here.

Kin's Daily Digest is a 4-in-1 supplement for a healthy gut (and mind). Containing pre and probiotics, fibre and digestive enzymes, it debloats and relieves indigestion, constipation and gas, while also boosting your gut health and promoting a positive mood.

How can I prevent stomach bloating?

Bloating is a part of pregnancy and life, so it can't be avoided altogether. But, you can certainly take steps to prevent it from happening regularly, whether within your life or as pregnancy progresses.

Here are some ways to prevent bloating:

  • Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Avoid chewing gum and swallowing air
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Avoid carbonated beverages
  • Eat slowly but consume regular meals (an empty stomach can cause more bloating)
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Try a low-FODMAP diet [6]

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