Have you missed your period, or had an unusually light one? Has your body going through any noticeable changes? In that case, you might be pregnant---or, if you are over 40 (and in some rare cases, in your late 30s), it might mean you are beginning menopause. Many of the symptoms are similar, so middle age women may have a hard time distinguishing between them.
According to womenshealth.gov, a woman's chances of getting pregnant decreases with age, though women are still able to get pregnant into their 40s, and occasionally their 50s. Most women go through menopause in their late 40s to mid-50s, and perimenopause (onset) symptoms can begin 10 years before that. There are some cases of women going through perimenopause as young as their late 30s, and cases of women having children without fertility treatments into their mid-50s. This overlap of the time frames means there is a rather wide window of time when either is possible.
Pregnant and menopausal women may report missing a period, having an unusually short or light period or experience spotting only. They also report similar symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, irritability, weight gain, bloating, lightheadedness or dizziness, breast pain and headaches. Note that not all pregnant or menopausal women experience all symptoms. Some may experience so few symptoms the change is hardly noticeable, while others may experience many symptoms, from mild to severe.
In the early stages of pregnancy, there are a few symptoms a woman may experience that menopausal women do not normally report: nausea, vomiting, back aches, more frequent urination, food cravings, and the darkening of the areolas. A woman could also refer to her previous menstrual cycles and the date of the last few times she had sex, particularly unprotected sex, to calculate if pregnancy is possible.
There are a number of symptoms that women going through menopause may experience that are not commonly found in pregnancy, or at least not the early stages of pregnancy. Some symptoms that indicate menopause are hot or cold flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness, a decrease in libido, increased allergy sensitivity, loss of hair, increase of facial/body hair, softer or more brittle finger nails, disorientation, confusion, inability to concentrate, memory loss, incontinence, stronger body odour or breath, gum sensitivity, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, digestive problems, muscle tension or soreness, achy joints and itchy or shock sensations in the skin.
According to women's online health resource Epigee.org, you can be both pregnant and menopausal at the same time. A woman can still get pregnant in the early menopausal stages. Until you have not menstruated for at least 12 months in a row, you may still be ovulating and pregnancy is a possibility. One simple way to determine if you're pregnant or menopausal is to take a pregnancy test. Either condition requires care, so if you are experiencing any symptoms at all you should contact your health care provider.