We know how it is, you’re living life as normal and one morning you think ‘where did that belly come from?’ Don’t worry, we can help you with the differences between a pregnant belly vs fat belly.
First of all, if there’s a chance that you might be experiencing early pregnancy, you may have already started with pregnancy symptoms. If not, it’s likely they will start soon. A growing baby can cause lots of changes.
This blog includes:
- Early signs of pregnancy
- What’s the difference between a pregnant belly vs fat belly?
- Staying healthy in pregnancy
- I don’t know if I’m pregnant
- Gaining weight but not pregnant
- Pregnant belly vs fat belly difference
Early signs of pregnancy
The first sign of pregnancy that most women have is a missed period. For women who track their menstrual cycle, this is usually easy to spot. But for women who don’t, or who have irregular periods, it can be more difficult.
When you miss a period due to pregnancy, you may still experience period-like symptoms. These can often be confused for early pregnancy symptoms.
If you’ve missed a period and you’re sexually active, it doesn’t always mean that you’re pregnant. There could be other reasons why you’re experiencing weight gain.
This may depend on how far along in pregnancy you actually are. Most sickness occurs at around week 6 of pregnancy, but you may experience sickness from week 4.
Morning sickness happens in 8 out of 10 pregnancies. But it’s worth keeping in mind that there are many other reasons why you might experience sickness.
Spotting when you’re due on your period is not uncommon. It may just be your body removing toxins and old blood. Spotting can also occur due to some forms of birth control. You may wish to mention this at your next appointment.
In pregnancy, the embryo must implant itself into the uterine wall. This is called implantation and can cause spotting at around 4 weeks pregnant.
Spotting is usually much lighter in flow than a typical period. It is also usually light pink or brown, not bright red.
If you are not pregnant and experienced missed periods and prolonged spotting, you should seek medical advice.
In early pregnancy, you may experience some cramping. This symptom is often combined with implantation bleeding and usually means the baby has implanted successfully.
If you are not currently pregnant or on your period and you experience frequent, painful cramping, seek advice. It could be a sign of a more serious condition such as endometriosis.
So you don’t know if you’re pregnant but you’ve noticed extra weight? Due to pregnancy hormones, in the early stages, it is common to experience bloating.
The human body is very clever. In pregnancy, the hormone progesterone continues to rise as the pregnancy progresses and this affects gastrointestinal motility which can cause bloating and can change toilet habits too.
Some women find that in pregnancy, they start experiencing sluggish bowels. Constipation can be uncomfortable and cause a pregnant looking stomach due to bloating.
Even at the beginning of pregnancy, you may experience changes to the nipples, includign tingling. These can include darkening in colour and even early milk production. You may wish to purchase some small milk pads to help you with this.
Many women don’t feel fetal movement until the 18th week of pregnancy. It can be even later if it’s your first baby.
What’s the difference between a pregnant belly vs fat belly?
Do pregnant bellies have rolls?
Pregnant bellies tend to start showing signs at around 12 weeks. At this point, you may start to notice more of a bump rather than just a bloated belly. You may also be experiencing more pregnancy symptoms. In which case, you should do a test if you haven’t already.
In the same way that progesterone can cause bloating, it can also be the reason why your bump is growing.
This increased pressure can cause more frequent urination and can also make your stomach feel quite firm. A pregnant woman would have a more round belly, after all you are growing a baby! Pregnant women are also less likely to be putting weight on elsewhere.
The main way to differentiate between a pregnant belly and stomach fat is that excess fat appears more in rolls.
When gaining extra weight without pregnancy, you’re more likely to put all the fat on elsewhere too. A common area for women is the thighs.
Another key difference between a baby bump and weight gain is that weight gain is generally softer. Belly fat can often be squeezed a lot easier.
Staying healthy in pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy diet in pregnancy is important, not only does it protect you, it also keeps your baby safe. A healthy diet means eating foods in moderation and having balanced meals.
You may also wish to try some light exercise such as pregnancy yoga. You might be already incorporating pregnancy vitamins into your routine, if not you could try folic acid. After 12 weeks, you won’t need to take folic acid as the baby’s neural tube will be closed. Folic acid is best started three months before pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. It should be continued throughout pregnancy and is a component of most prenatal vitamins. In general, after 12 weeks, the baby’s neural tube will be closed.
I don’t know if I’m pregnant
The best and most accurate way to confirm a suspected pregnancy is through a home pregnancy test. Even if you are only experiencing a few mild pregnancy symptoms, it’s better to be aware if there’s a chance.
Gaining weight but not pregnant
We would recommend doing a pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy in the first instance. Like we mentioned earlier, there’s many reasons why you might be increasing belly fat without being pregnant. These can include:
Stress causes changes in your hormones. These changes can lead to you making unhealthy food choices such as consuming high fat foods. It can also lead to excess alcohol consumption. This therefore means you end up with a ‘stress belly’.
A stress belly is not a medically defined term but it is often associated specifically with abdominal bloating. A stress belly compared to a pregnancy belly is likely to come with its own symptoms.
Genetics can often be the cause of a bloated belly area. The best way to reduce the chances of this is to eat a proper diet. You can do this by avoiding sugary foods and other unhealthy foods.
The way that your body can store fat is hugely dependent on your genetics. This also highlights the importance of regular exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle.
If you notice that you have suddenly gained weight in the belly area and there’s no explanation, seek advice. It might be that you’ve eaten too much chocolate (oops!) but it may also be a warning sign.
If you’re worried that you may be overweight, you could check your body mass index (BMI). This test requires your age, gender, height and weight and can be done online in private. Many women gain weight for various reasons.
Many overweight women can feel nervous about seeking help, but it’s important to maintain good health. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, what matters is how you deal with it and trying to be healthy.
A healthcare professional may suggest ways to help you lose belly fat and make healthier choices.
Pregnant belly vs fat belly difference
If you’ve read this article and noticed some of the signs but you’re not pregnant, you should seek advice. Drastic changes to your body must be monitored.
The best way to decide whether you have excess weight or a pregnant belly is to complete a pregnancy test. If you receive a positive result, you should make an appointment with the doctor. Tests are accurate as they pick up on a pregnancy hormone called HCG.
The most clear physical difference between the two is the way the body has stored the fat. In pregnancy this will be around the stomach and will feel much firmer. Without pregnancy, the fat is likely to feel soft and gather in other areas of the body.
You shouldn’t rely on physical symptoms alone but if you do start to notice multiple signs, do a pregnancy test. Tests can be bought easily over the counter from pharmacies or supermarkets.