Pregnant Belly vs Fat Belly Difference – Pregnancy or Just Bloating?

By Maria Wilcox •  Updated: 06/07/22 •  11 min read
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Ever wonder about the pregnant belly and fat belly difference? Wonder no more. In this post, we will explore the many differences between a pregnant belly vs a fat belly. We will also acclimate you to some other more accurate ways to determine whether or not you (or someone else) is pregnant. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.

Is My Stomach Bloated or Am I Pregnant?

Is It a Baby Bump or Bloating?

Ah, pregnancy. It can have your body doing all kinds of things you never knew it could do until now. Not only does your body change as you grow pregnant, but also, you’ll likely notice a big difference when you are postpartum, too.

For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the changes that your body will take on while you are pregnant, specifically during the early phases of pregnancy

pregnant mom

If you’re wondering, “Is my stomach bloated or am I pregnant?” you are likely in the first (or maybe second) trimester and are unsure of what to expect. Maybe you’ve skipped a period and have packed on a few pounds and it’s left you wondering. Or maybe you already know you are pregnant but aren’t noticing your body looking any different. No matter the case, we can tell you that there are subtle differences between a pregnant belly and a bloated belly. However, it can often be hard to tell the difference.

A bloated or “fat” belly might be one that feels “jiggly” or “squishy” to the touch. It isn’t likely to take on a “D” shape. Meaning it won’t be a belly that grows taut and protrudes similar to the stereotypical belly bump that all of us have seen. 

A bloated tummy will have explainable causes, such as having eaten too much dairy, gluten, junk food, or retaining too much water. Majority of women get bloated, especially before menstruation takes place.

Though a bloated belly plagues women everywhere, it ISN’T a sign that you AREN’T pregnant. 

Allow us to explain.

pregnant couple

A bloated tummy can be a sign of pregnancy just like a taut and round tummy can be. The difference, however, is that a bloated tummy will be most likely in the early phases of pregnancy. Meanwhile a taut tummy will become more prevalent from the second trimester and onward.

But wait… there’s more.

You may not realize it but even women that are far along in their pregnancies may not ever experience that taut and round stomach that pregnant women are so often portrayed as having. The reason? Due to genetics, extra weight, bone structure, and other factors, some women might actually have baby bumps shaped more like the letter “B” than “D”. In fact, women that have these sorts of baby bumps are often referred to as having B-shaped bellies

Does this mean that something is wrong? Absolutely not!

Women with B-shaped bellies often go on to have perfectly healthy babies. As mentioned, the difference lies in the genetics, bone structure, and fat displacement of the body that determines how your baby bump is shaped. There are many women that have a b-shaped belly who are very fit and who aren’t even pregnant!

Therefore, it is important to know that though your baby belly may not look like a traditional baby bump, the most important thing is that you and your baby stay healthy. 

How Does a Pregnant Belly Feel?

How a pregnant belly is going to feel is going to vary from person to person. And also from month to month.

For some women, especially those who have had one or more babies already, the stomach may grow quite quickly, even within the first trimester, by growing firm and taking on a “D” shape. Still, others may not even notice they are pregnant. Their stomach seems to stay the same, even as the months pass on.

Those who carry extra weight around their midsection can miss the fact that they are pregnant if the amount of fat in the midsection is enough to conceal the growth of the uterus. Still, others who have a B-shaped bump may not think they are pregnant because their baby bump may not look like a traditional one.

As you can see, there are no one-size-fits-all answers to knowing how a pregnant belly actually feels. We can say, however, that most pregnant bellies will take on a round and firm shape by the mid to late second trimester with some “showing” a little earlier or later than that, depending on their body type. 

pregnant woman lying on the sofa

How to Feel Your Stomach to See If Pregnant

There is actually no real way to feel your stomach to see if you are pregnant…at least not in the early stages.

Even women that have had babies before will have a normal-sized uterus until it begins to expand to fit the size of the baby months down the road. Before then, any firmness or growth in belly size is likely due to bloating caused by hormones or digestive issues which are prevalent in pregnancy, again, usually because of hormones. 

As the months roll on, if you do notice your stomach changing shape, it will likely grow round and firm. Also, your belly button may become less hollow and will likely flatten out completely as your stomach grows. Later in your pregnancy, you may begin to notice stretch marks appearing, some of which can be severe and develop deep red and purple colors. Others may not notice any changes to their belly at all!

Because of these factors, it will be nearly impossible, especially in the early stages, to feel your stomach to see if you are pregnant. However, as you venture on in your pregnancy journey (if you are indeed pregnant) you’ll likely notice your stomach taking on a firm, smooth, and round shape; but again, everyone is different! 

Is Pregnant Belly Hard or Soft?

Bloated Belly vs Pregnant Belly

A pregnant belly can be either hard or soft. It will depend on your body type and on where you are in your pregnancy. 

As mentioned, those who carry a little extra weight may notice that their pregnancy bellies are softer. This can be due to the layer of fat over the stomach that makes uterine growth less noticeable and less able to feel. Still others, especially those with a lower percentage of body fat, may have bellies that appear tight and round…almost like it’s ready to pop!

It is important to note that some people that are very slim may have softer pregnancy bumps and some that are overweight may have pregnancy bumps that are taut. It really does depend on genetics and your body type. Therefore, there isn’t any definitive answer as to whether or not a pregnant belly will be hard or soft; but traditionally, especially as one inches closer to delivery, your pregnant belly may feel quite firm and round. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong! 

baby couple 2

Am I Fat or Pregnant?

Now that you know that there isn’t really a standard one-size-fits all answer to knowing whether or not you are pregnant by looking at your belly shape and size, it is now time to dive into the real, more accurate ways to tell you are pregnant.

If you suspect that you are pregnant but aren’t quite sure, consider looking for the following symptoms to confirm your suspicions:

  • Bloating: Okay, okay, we know we just briefed you on how you shouldn’t judge whether or not you are pregnant by the shape, size, and feel of your stomach. But honestly, bloating can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy you can spot. Assuming you are early on in your pregnancy, you may notice your stomach becoming much bigger than usual. This is not because your uterus has expanded, but because the hormones in your body may be slowing your digestive tract and causing your bloat and discomfort. The tricky thing is that this can also happen just before your period. So be sure to only take this bloating symptom with a grain of salt. 
  • A Missed Period (or Periods): A missed period, or multiple missed periods, is probably the obvious sign of pregnancy. Though even this isn’t fail-proof. Some people naturally miss their periods every once in a while. This makes it even harder for women to determine whether or not they are indeed pregnant. If you typically are regular but have been missing your period, you may wish to take a pregnancy test to see what you discover. 
  • Nausea and/or Vomiting: Gaining extra weight and feeling a little nauseous? Heavy nausea without vomiting is often experienced during the early stages of pregnancy. It is commonly referred to as “morning sickness”. But make no mistake. Pregnancy nausea can rear its ugly head any time of the day. If you’ve been feeling uncommonly nauseous it may be time to talk to your doctor or take a test to see what’s up.
  • Cramping: Feeling extra crampy lately? You may or may not be pregnant. Oftentimes, cramping can signal either pregnancy or your period coming on. The best way to determine whether it is pregnancy cramping or period cramping is to compare it to what you normally experience. Don’t normally have period-like cramps 2-3 days after ovulation but do this cycle? It could be that you’re pregnant! Take a test a day or two before your period to find out–if you can wait that long!
  • Sore Breasts/Tender Nipples: Some women experience sore breasts and tender nipples during every cycle. If, however, you notice that your breasts are particularly painful and also some of the other symptoms we’ve talked about, it’s possible that you may be pregnant. 
  • Light Bleeding: Yep, that’s right. You can have a slight amount of bleeding during a phase of your pregnancy known as implantation. Implantation will generally happen only a few days or even a week prior to your period. So if you get a bit of blood earlier than when your period is due, then you may be pregnant. Note: Not every woman experiences implantation bleeding. Whether or not you bleed is not a predictor of the health of your pregnancy.
  • Fatigue: Feeling run down, tired, and heavy? Could be that pregnancy is to blame. Pair this with other symptoms and you could indeed be having a baby soon!
  • Positive Pregnancy Test or Blood Draw: Last but certainly not least, you can (and should) test to see if you are pregnant. There are various ways to do this,. One of the most common ways is to grab a few at-home pregnancy tests to see if what you suspect is true. These can be found for minimal cost online and can even be found at your local dollar store. Many report having success with even the cheapest varieties. Your next option? Get bloodwork done at the hospital. This will show whether or not you are pregnant at the earliest stages. But it is often a more expensive option. 
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FAQs

Do pregnant bellies have rolls?

They can! If you had rolls before becoming pregnant, you likely will continue to have them while pregnant although you may notice some of the rolls on your actual stomach begin to smooth out as your uterus grows bigger.

What happens to existing belly fat when pregnant?

Usually, belly fat remains and will be stretched out over your baby bump evenly so that you may see a smooth round bump there instead of the former shape of your stomach. 

silhouette of pregnant woman

Pregnant Belly vs Fat Belly Difference: Depends on Your Body Type!

All in all, what your baby bump will look like will depend heavily upon genetics, your weight, and how you are shaped. Instead of relying on your stomach to tell you whether or not you are pregnant, it is far better to look for symptoms related to pregnancy. Then follow up at home or with your doctor with a pregnancy test.

Good luck!

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Maria Wilcox

Former instructor with an M.A. in Education turned grateful stay-at-home mama to one, I look to share helpful insights related to babies, toddlers, kids, and families for the benefit of real people just like you.

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