Sure, some moms-to-be exude a certain pregnant loveliness... until they fart in an elevator or snore like a foghorn in the night. The fact is, a lot of nasty stuff happens to your body when you're pregnant -- weird pregnancy symptoms your friends may be embarrassed to tell you about, and your doctor may gloss over because they're not big health concerns, says Trish Booth, author of Pregnancy Q&A: Authoritative and Reassuring Answers to the Questions on Your Mind. "Pregnant women have questions about what's happening, yet they're just told, 'Oh, that's normal.' But when you've got excessive gas or find strange things on your skin, the last thing you feel is normal," adds Booth. Let us be the first to give you the straight dish.
"What just came out of me?!"
Symptoms: Sticky white or pale yellow discharge can be constant during pregnancy, leaving you feeling in frequent need of new undies. Talk to your doctor if it develops a foul odor, itches or burns, or becomes greenish-yellow or very thick or watery; you may have an infection.
Cause: Increased hormones and vaginal blood flow.
How to deal: Wear a lightweight sanitary pad, and use personal wipes for a quick cleansing. Don't douche or use vaginal deodorants; they can be irritating.
"I leak when I laugh"
Symptoms: You laugh, you sneeze...you leak.
Cause: Well, let's see. You're instructed to drink something like 64 ounces of liquid a day, and you've got an extra 10 or so pounds of baby and uterus sitting on your bladder. It seems pretty obvious.
How to deal: Give yourself permission to pee -- a lot. The more you hold in, the more there is to leak. Use mini-pads (or thin maxis), and keep a spare pair of underwear with you. Finally, try Super Kegels to improve muscle tone: Empty your bladder, then tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold (like you're holding your pee). When the muscles begin to naturally release, squeeze and tighten again, until you feel a tingling sensation. Hold and count to 20. Do about five Super Kegels a day, but not all at once.
Symptoms: Bloating and sometimes painful cramping in your belly, and the urge to break wind often.
Cause: The intestines are sluggish during pregnancy, thanks to all that progesterone circulating in your body.
How to deal: Theoretically, treating constipation should minimize your gas and bloating too. It's not always that simple, however. Watch your intake of the usual suspects, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, onions, and carbonated beverages. If the problem persists, talk to your health care provider.
"I'm stuffed up but I'm not sick"
Symptoms: You may feel like you have a perpetual cold, and blowing your nose gets downright gross.
Cause: Your increased hormones and blood production cause the mucous membranes to swell, dry, and bleed.
How to deal: Use saline nose drops, drink plenty of liquids, and run a humidifier. If you have a nosebleed, don't tilt your head back. Keep your head straight and pinch the nostrils closed until the bleeding stops, usually about five minutes. Put ice over the bridge of your nose and pinch again, if necessary. If the bleeding persists, call your doctor.
"I sound like a chain saw at night"
Symptoms: You know how your grandfather sounds at night? Double the decibel level.
Cause: Blame those swollen mucous membranes again -- your congested nose forces you to breathe through your mouth and snore.
How to deal: Use saline nose drops before you go to sleep, and during the night, if necessary. Sleep on your side and invest in a body pillow to keep you from rolling over. Run a humidifier. Finally, prop yourself up on some extra pillows, which will relieve nighttime heartburn as well.
"I sweat like a pig!"
Symptoms: Water, water everywhere: under your arms, between your legs, on your belly, and running down your face and neck.
Cause: Your metabolism is in overdrive, and extra blood pumping through your body warms the skin. Perspiring is your body's way of cooling off.
How to deal: Dress in layers, avoiding heat-trapping synthetic fabrics. Drink plenty of fluids, and use underarm antiperspirants and talc-free powder liberally.
Drooling, skin quirks, and breast changes
"I'm drooling like a baby"
Symptoms: Some pregnant women produce excess saliva -- up to three or four quarts a day! Bleeding gums are also common, especially after brushing, and you may even notice nodules called "pregnancy tumors" on your gums. Relax -- they're harmless and will disappear postpartum.
Cause: Hormones are behind the bleeding gums, but no one's quite sure what prompts the excessive saliva.
How to deal: Keep brushing -- but switch to a soft toothbrush. As for the saliva, spitting it out may be the only option, but you can try limiting starch in your diet or drinking water with lemon juice.
"Stuff is growing on my skin!"
Symptoms: Dark patches on your face; a dark line on your belly; spider veins on your arms, chest, neck, and face; bits of skin hanging from your breasts, armpits, or neck.
Cause: Your body is producing extra melanin, causing the dark spots; increased blood production is to blame for the spider veins; and the skin tags are due to friction, as well as hormones.
How to deal: The splotches and spider veins usually fade postpartum, though they may not disappear entirely. Slather on sunblock to minimize darkening, and cover the veins with makeup. A dermatologist can remove the skin tags if they're uncomfortable.
"My nipples are the size of dinner plates"
Symptoms: The areola grows darker and begins to overtake your breasts. Meanwhile, tiny little bumps sprout around the nipple itself, and may even excrete fluid.
Cause: The darkening is another example of hyperpigmentation from hormones, and some say this is nature's way of helping your newborn find your breast. The little bumps are glands that can help keep the stretched-out skin around your nipple lubricated.
How to deal: Refrain from topless sunbathing: Exposure to the sun can make the hyperpigmentation permanent. And while your areolas will probably always be slightly darker than they once were, they will shrink in size when you're finished nursing.
"My legs look like a road map"
Symptoms: Enlarged, bulging purple or black veins, most commonly in the legs but also occurring in the labia. And hemorrhoids are actually varicose veins of the anus.
Cause: An accumulation of blood in the veins, usually due to pressure from the uterus.
How to deal: Don't stand for extended periods, prop your legs up when you can, and avoid crossing them. Swap regular hose for support hose. Regular sitz baths can help soothe hemorrhoids.