There are some pregnancy symptoms you hear about constantly, like the morning sickness, back pain, weird cravings, and constant urination. While pregnancy is different for every woman, there are a lot of not-so-pretty side effects that no one likes to talk about. Pregnancy isn’t about being clean or pretty—if it was, none of us would make it. So here’s what to really expect!
Almost immediately after you become pregnant, your body sends a message to your breasts that it’s time to do what they were made to do! Increased blood flow, fat production, and increased hormones will make them tender within the first few weeks as they prepare for milk production.
In addition to the tenderness, you may notice that your nipples start poking out all the time, not just when you’re cold. Your areolas may darken as well, so be wary of white t-shirts or going braless!
One of the most important hormones during pregnancy is progesterone. It’s main function, among many others, is to relax the muscles in your uterus to prevent early contractions. Essentially, this is the hormone that keeps your baby inside you until it’s time! The unfortunate side effect is that it relaxes all of your muscles. You may be thinking that this would result in diarrhea instead—but your intestinal tract works really hard to move things along, so when those muscles are relaxed, things don’t move as smoothly.
Exercising, drinking lots of water, and eating smaller meals that are high in fiber can all help prevent this problem and aid a lot of other pregnancy ailments. But avoid using laxatives unless you’ve talked to your doctor.
Unfortunately, these affect about half of all pregnant women, and they aren’t fun. A hemorrhoid occurs when the veins in and around your rectum become swollen. Your body’s increased blood flow is usually to blame, but hemorrhoids can also occur during delivery or due to constipation. They can range anywhere from just itchy and annoying to downright painful. They usually resolve themselves after pregnancy, but you can always talk to your doctor about treatments. Lying on your side to relieve pressure can help, along with drinking lots of water and eating plenty of fiber-rich foods.
While people talk about swollen feet and hands, there are plenty of other things that swell during pregnancy. Increased estrogen levels cause the mucous membranes in your nose to swell up, which can cause congestion, snoring, and even nosebleeds. At the very least you might feel like you have a cold for a while.
While progesterone relaxes your uterine muscles and your intestinal tract, it also relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter. This can cause stomach acid to back up into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn. While not pleasant, this will return to normal after you’ve had your baby.
While there’s no proven cause for these, it’s believed that compressed blood vessels, or the pressure of carrying around extra weight may be the culprits. You’ll experience these mainly at night, or whenever you aren’t using your leg muscles for an extended period of time. The quickest way to get a leg cramp to stop is to flex your foot upwards, and straighten your leg out as if you’re trying to touch your shin with your toes.
Restless Leg Syndrome
In addition to leg cramps, you may also experience restless leg syndrome. This also occurs typically at night and affects your lower legs. It can, however, affect your feet and arms too. Stretching, taking a warm bath, acupuncture, or massage can all help—but talk to your doctor first, because you may have an iron deficiency. For a lot of pregnancy ailments, including this one, keeping a food journal can help determine if anything you’re eating late in the day is worsening your restless leg syndrome.
That pregnant “glow” everyone talks about? It’s sweat. And a little bit of vomit. As soon as you become pregnant, your body kicks up the heat and increases blood flow, essentially going into production mode. You can enjoy the rosy cheeks and the dewy complexion that accompanies the glow, but know that you’ll be super sweaty at the same time.
The hormone relaxin does what it sounds like—it relaxes all the ligaments in your body, including in your feet. Not to mention, your body is retaining fluids like crazy, and these fluids tend to pool to the bottom of your feet after being up and about all day. Some women even go up a shoe size permanently, so don’t worry if your feet don’t immediately go back to their regular size. This is completely normal, but if your hands or feet swell suddenly, call your doctor, because this could be a sign of preeclampsia.
It’s no secret that pregnant women pee a lot. Their growing uterus is constantly pressing on their bladder, but it doesn’t stop with frequency. It’s perfectly normal to actually pee whenever you sneeze, cough, exercise or exert, etc. While drinking plenty of water is the remedy for most ailments, not so much with this one. The best thing you can do is practice kegel exercises to strengthen your muscles down there! You can also wear panty liners or pads if you’re worried about leaking.
Many women notice an increase in saliva during pregnancy, and there’s no real explanation for it. Most people attribute it to hormones, since during this time, your body produces a lot of extra stuff. It could also be a result of nausea, because saliva is your body’s way of telling you you’re about to throw up. It’s no cause for concern—just something strange you may experience.
Progesterone is at it again with this side effect, but it isn’t any cause for concern. The best way to prevent sensitive or bleeding gums is to avoid sweets (to the best of your pregnant ability), always rinse your mouth out after you’ve been sick, and visit your dentist while you’re pregnant. Just make sure to tell your dentist that you’re pregnant.
Sense of Smell
Speaking of harsh fragrances, many women find that their sense of smell is significantly heightened during pregnancy. Cool, right? Like a super power! Except when the smells are gross. This strange side effect can wreak havoc on your gag reflexes, so do your best to avoid bad smells. Chewing gum has been known to help, so try carrying a few sticks with you.
When we said the extra estrogen in your system stimulates all of your mucous membranes, we meant all of them—you should expect a lot of leukorrhea, or milky, white vaginal discharge. Stay away from douches and vaginal wipes, as these can throw off your PH balance and make things worse. A clean, dry panty liner is the best line of defense.
Your increase in hormones will stimulate your sebaceous glands, the same bodily process that caused acne when you were a teenager. The worst part? Most things that treat severe acne are off limits to you while you’re pregnant. Things like Accutane, Retin-A, Tetracycline, etc. will cause major birth defects. A lot of companies are trying to fill that gap, so talk to your doctor about safe treatments for you!
Because of all the growing and stretching your skin is doing, accompanied by increased levels of estrogen, you might find your skin feeling dry and irritated. It’s always worth mentioning to your doctor, as itching in the hands and feet could be a sign of a liver problem, but otherwise, it’s completely normal. Treat your itching skin like you would dry skin in the winter—lower your shower temperature, moisturize well and often, and avoid soaps or body washes with harsh chemicals or fragrances.
Pregnancy hormones jumpstart your melanin cells, which will produce more pigment as a result. If you have freckles, they’ll darken along with your areolas and the linea nigra (that dark line that runs down your belly). This can also cause random blotches on the skin called Chloasma. Hyperpigmentation is more noticeable in women with darker complexions, but regardless of your skin tone, it will typically fade after you’ve given birth.
Skin tags are little skin growths that usually pop up in high friction areas, like under your arms, around your neck, or under your breasts. Your body is in full-on production mode, which leads to the production of a lot of extra stuff, including skin. These skin tags are completely benign, and usually go away on their own. If they don’t, you can leave them alone or have them removed if you want.
Pregnancy comes with a lot of unexpected, and sometimes unpleasant, symptoms—but everything will be worth it when you meet your little one! For more information, support, and advice, contact Regional Medical Center today!