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A few SteadyHealth readers asked what the tangible difference between a fat belly and a pregnant belly is. Before we go any further, let me just say that looking at your external body is a very bad way to determine whether or not you are pregnant, especially in the early stages and especially if you are considering not continuing the pregnancy. A home pregnancy test, missed menstruation, and a visit to the doctor are the three things that, together, clue you in beyond a doubt. 

Though looking pregnant as the uterus expands and the baby grows is clearly a characteristic of pregnancy, anything from ulcerative colitis to hormonal changes and cancer can cause a "pregnant look". By the same token, some women who are definitely pregnant don't look it. This is more often the case in obese women. 

Having said that, let's take a look at the tangible differences between a pregnant and fat abdomen. 

How A Pregnant Abdomen Develops

Before the first trimester (first 12 weeks) is up, you are highly unlikely to feel anything at all, though some abdominal bloating that is indistinguishable from the kind you experience when you have distension may appear.

Once you hit the 12 week mark, you may be able to feel your own uterus. It will be located somewhere above the pubic bone and have a harder, rounder, feel than the surrounding area. 

As your pregnancy continues into the second and third trimesters, the uterus will grow larger and eventually, it will push other organs slightly out of the way to make space for the growing fetus. The normal pregnant belly will feel harder than normal, but not inflexible — more like there's a strong balloon in there than a rare-metal alien ship. When a pregnant woman has a Braxton Hicks contraction (a "practice contraction"), however, the belly tenses up and it feels rather hard. 

What Does A Fat Abdomen Feel Like?

I've chosen to use the word "fat" because that's what you'll be feeling, not in at attempt to shame voluptuous women, who can refer to their bodies in whichever way they personally prefer. 

Fat abdomens are squishy and soft. (The caveat here is that a pregnant fat abdomens are also squishy and soft, with the added bonus of a growing baby inside.) If a woman is overweight, it's highly unlikely that all the fat is concentrated in her abdominal area, and areas like the thighs and breasts will also be squishy and soft. 

Are You Wondering Whether You Are Pregnant?

The earliest pregnancy signs often include:

  • A missed menstrual period. Women who tend to have irregular periods will find this harder to determine. 
  • Tender and sore breasts, much like what many women feel in the days leading up to their periods. 
  • Pregnancy nausea, also known as morning sickness. You may just feel queasy, especially in response to smelling or tasting certain things, or you may vomit. 
  • An increased sense of smell. 
  • Needing to urinate more often. 
  • Constipation, which also brings abdominal bloating with it. 
  • Being extremely fatigued a lot of the time. 

These early pregnancy symptoms, when taken together, represent a more reliable predictor of whether you are pregnant than the look of your abdomen. They indicate that it is time to take a pregnancy test. 

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