If you see a friend after a long time apart, and she’s got a belly bulge that wasn’t there before, you may wonder whether it’s just belly fat from gaining weight or a pregnant belly. Is there a way to tell?
Maybe it’s happened to you. You won’t be the first woman to be congratulated on a pregnancy that you think doesn’t exist. You wouldn’t be the first woman to rush out and buy a pregnancy test to make sure that the touch of flu you had last week wasn’t, in fact, morning sickness.
This article will discuss understanding the difference between a pregnant belly and a fat belly.
Pregnant belly vs fat belly difference
There is a difference between a pregnant belly and belly fat. Having a fat belly looks different from having a pregnant belly.
While you can shed off pounds if you gain weight, a pregnant woman can’t do much about a baby bump, nor should she.
So before you confuse a stomach bulge with a pregnant belly and create all sorts of insecurities for someone, it’s best to learn how to tell the difference between the two.
Why it matters
Nearly all of us have belly fat. Body fat is not bad and thankfully, the stigma is slowly fading about having a fat belly.
There are now celebrities who are proud of a fat stomach and comfortable in their skin. It’s creating a movement of body positivity that is long overdue.
However, for some people, it’s still a touchy subject.
A fat belly
If you have been trying to lose belly fat and someone sees you in public and congratulates you on your pregnancy, then there’s a good chance that your feelings may get hurt.
Belly fat is typically challenging to get rid of. Your genetics and metabolism write the story of how likely it is that you can quickly lose a fat belly and have the body you want.
Also, many women have a little extra weight and would love to join the ranks of pregnant women but have struggled to conceive. Pregnancy tests after pregnancy tests have led them to believe that it’s just not going to happen to them, though.
When we associate weight gain of the belly with pregnant bellies, and we congratulate this woman on her blessing, it can also cause some insecurities.
A bloated belly
Losing weight is difficult enough when we don’t like how we look or feel. Then you’ve got bloating thrown into the mix.
Hormones and stress are huge contributors to how your body looks at any given stage of life.
Pregnancy hormones aren’t just gone the moment you deliver, and you may find that bloating and that “pregnant looking stomach” doesn’t just disappear ten minutes after your child’s birth.
Your menstrual cycle can also cause a bloated belly due to fluctuating hormones.
Stress can also cause gas and bloating, which can give the average person reason to believe that you have a baby bump, albeit probably an early pregnancy bump.
Most of us already feel a little bit sensitive when our bellies bloat. Compared to a pregnant belly, a stress belly can rock our psyche’s fragility.
A pregnant belly
Your body starts changing due to pregnancy before you ever take a home pregnancy test. Pregnancy symptoms can occur in very early pregnancy.
While weight gain isn’t super noticeable or significant until later in the pregnancy, a pregnant belly is something most women don’t want to be confused for a belly fat type.
You’ve probably struggled with reducing stomach fat and are feeling proud of your accomplishment. And then you find out that you’re pregnant; you’re probably already worrying about whether you will be able to shed the mommy belly after delivery.
Being looked at by others as though you’ve just slacked on your diet isn’t going to help you keep your confidence during pregnancy.
Could you be pregnant?
If you’re confused as to whether the extra bit of body you’ve got around your midsection is a pregnant belly vs fat belly, don’t feel silly. It’s not as uncommon as you might think.
Many women have irregular periods, so missing a period or having a late period isn’t anything they aren’t used to.
You can take a test at home for pregnancy, but in most cases, these tests can give false readings if taken too early.
In very early pregnancy, a blood test is the only reliable way of knowing that you are pregnant. If every woman who had irregular periods had blood testing done, the labs that interpret blood work results would be backed up for years.
If you have irregular periods or sometimes skip periods, you may wonder if that extra roll of fat finally making an appearance on your beltline is a mom’s belly.
However, there are other symptoms that you can watch out for to help you decide whether or not a trip to the doctor for a blood test or ultrasound is warranted.
1. Change in breasts and nipples
In some cases, the breasts become tender as early milk production begins. The areolas get darker, and the nipples may appear swollen and more prominent. Your body is changing and preparing to be able to feed your child.
2. Increased dizziness
When you’re pregnant, the blood vessels dilate throughout your body and can lead to dizziness because your blood pressure drops.
If you feel dizzy or the room spins when you get up from the floor or a sitting position, you may want to buy a pregnancy test kit or contact your doctor.
3. Frequent urination
Although it’s not often experienced in the very early stages of pregnancy, having to pee often is a tell-tale sign. Your uterus is expanding and putting pressure on the bladder, hence the need to go to the toilet more often.
4. Morning sickness
If you find yourself nauseous or puking right after you have eaten, at any time of day, while you’ve done nothing that would otherwise make you feel sick, you may be pregnant.
Don’t let the word “morning” trick you. Women report feeling ill and sick to their stomachs not just upon waking up but many other times during the day and even at night.
5. If you’re sexually active
If you are sexually active and don’t use protection and then start to notice you have gained weight in the lower belly area, you may have a baby inside you rather than too many nachos.
Be sure to track your periods and ovulation cycle if possible, and if you have had unprotected sex, don’t rule out pregnancy.
6. Hard low belly
Excess weight in the stomach area before pregnancy can make it more difficult to tell if you’re pregnant. Overweight women typically don’t begin to show as quickly as women with a lower body mass index.
A pregnant belly, however, is firm as the uterus expands. It starts low and goes from the lower abdomen upwards. You might be pregnant if you feel like there’s a rock in your pubic bone, and it feels hard to the touch.
7. Fetal movement
We’ve all heard the stories of women who didn’t know they were pregnant at all, then went to the bathroom or took a bath and ended up delivering a baby. Such things do happen. You can’t make this up.
If you feel fetal movement, it’s a sure sign of pregnancy. It’s not gas, and it’s not just bloated bellies trying to rid themselves of too much cheese.
The feeling of a baby moving inside your belly is distinguishable, and if you think you’ve been feeling it, and haven’t had a period, then you need to contact your doctor.
Is it just belly fat?
Unhealthy food choices can lead to weight problems and obesity. We all know this.
If you have parents who have problems with obesity, then there’s also a good chance that you carry that same genetic disposition.
If there’s no chance of suspected pregnancy, and you just happen to like sugary foods and junk foods, then there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to fit into your favorite jeans. The reason can be just accumulated fatty tissue rather than a growing baby.
A prominent belly caused by excess fat is usually soft and spread out over the entire human body. However, some people carry it more conspicuously in their stomachs than other body parts.
If the belly moves and gyrates with the person, and isn’t firm or mostly firm, then there is a good chance that all the fat you see or feel in your tummy is due to unhealthy foods, especially fatty foods that are consumed in excess.
Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, water, and exercise, and speaking to a doctor can help you lose weight if that’s your goal.
It’s important to remember that fat in and of itself is not a bad thing. Your body needs to store fat to keep you safe and warm.
Moderation, however, is essential in maintaining proper health. Avoiding sugary foods and maintaining a good diet can also do wonders to keep your body in shape.
Is it a bloated stomach?
Abdominal bloating can mimic pregnancy because, like the pregnancy hormone, your belly expands outward to make room.
A bloated stomach is often hard to the touch and doesn’t move or gyrate when you move or manipulate it.
Stomach bloating can be caused by chronic stress (also known as stress belly), excess alcohol consumption, sluggish bowels, and lactose intolerance.
Some cancers, such as breast cancer, and their corresponding treatments can cause painful bloating.
A pregnancy belly makes the belly expand gradually. It may itch a bit, but it doesn’t hurt.
Bloating due to gas or stress is uncomfortable. It feels like a build-up in the gut that needs to escape but can’t.
What happens to existing belly fat when pregnant?
Existing belly fat doesn’t go away when you get pregnant. Instead, you may find that your bump doesn’t show quite as early as some other mothers with small bodies.
You may also notice that the shape of your bump may be more round than outward once you get pregnant. This happens because your belly that was there before the baby arrives spreads out to cover more area as your body expands to allow room for the baby.
How to tell the difference
There are many reasons we may be confused about the bodies of our friends, family members, and even our own bellies.
None of us are built the same, and body changes like an expanding midsection can be more than a little confusing.
Belly fat is soft and can be easily manipulated by movement, such as walking about or rolling your tummy with your hands.
The pregnancy belly is stiffer and starts in the lower abdomen, working its way upward. It’s firm and can’t just be moved around.
Bloating is also more firm than excess fat but is painful and usually short-lived.
If you see someone and genuinely don’t know the cause of the extra cushion, then don’t say anything. Instead, ask a question like, “Is anything new? Any news?”
They’ll tell you if they are pregnant and want you to know about it.
If you suspect you may be pregnant or have a health issue causing bloating, it’s best to watch for other pregnancy symptoms, take a test at home, or see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.