Wacky, embarrassing and truly gross pregnancy side effects that your doctor may forget to mention.
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 with your body when you're pregnant — weird symptoms your friends may be embarrassed to tell you about or 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," Booth says.
Let us give you the straight dish.
"What just came out of me?!"
Symptoms: Sticky white or pale yellow discharge can appear constantly during pregnancy, leaving you in frequent need of new undies. Talk to your doctor if it develops a foul odor, itches, burns or becomes greenish-yellow, 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 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, 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.
"I'm so gassy!"
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 or gets worse, 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 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, which usually takes about five minutes. Put ice over the bridge of your nose and pinch it 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 and prop yourself up on some extra pillows, which will relieve nighttime heartburn as well.
"I sweat like a pig!"
Symptoms: Sweat 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 and avoid heat-trapping synthetic fabrics. Drink plenty of fluids, and use underarm antiperspirants and talc-free powder liberally.
"I'm drooling like a baby."
Symptoms: Some pregnant women produce up to three or four quarts of excess saliva a day!
Cause: No one's quite sure what prompts the excessive saliva, but hormones are usually to blame for everything else while you're pregnant, so why not saliva, too?
How to deal: 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: You always heard your skin would be glowing, but growing? You may notice dark patches on your face; a dark line on your belly; spider veins on your arms, chest, neck and face; or bits of skin hanging from your breasts, armpits or neck.
Cause: Your body is producing extra melanin, which causes the dark spots. Increased blood production is to blame for the spider veins. The skin tags are due to friction and hormones.
How to deal: The splotches and spider veins usually fade postpartum, although 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 when you're finished nursing.
"My legs look like a road map."
Symptoms: Enlarged, bulging purple or black veins occur most commonly in the legs but also show up in the labia. And those pesky 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 of time, prop your legs up when you can and avoid crossing them. Swap regular hose for support hose. Regular sitz baths can help soothe hemorrhoids.
"My shoes don't fit!"
Symptoms: That's right, your beautiful pre-pregnancy shoe collection might be out of commission for a few months. You might notice that your shoes aren't fitting quite the same or that you're uncomfortable in your favorite pair of sneakers.
Cause: Fluid retention is common during pregnancy, and your feet can swell up to a size bigger. There is a chance that your feet will not go back to their "original" size after Baby arrives.
How to deal: Comfort is key, so don't try to squeeze into your old shoes. If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. Try grabbing a pair of slip-on shoes, and don't be afraid to buy a size larger.
"My toothbrush is bloody!"
Symptoms: Bleeding gums are common in pregnancy, and if it gets too bad, pregnancy periodontitis can cause teeth shifting and other major dental concerns. You may even notice nodules called "pregnancy tumors" on your gums, but they're harmless and will disappear postpartum.
Cause: Hormonal changes cause extra blood flow to your gums and oral cavitiy. With all of that extra blood, your gums can swell and become more sensitive.
How to deal: Keep brushing twice a day, but switch to a soft toothbrush and brush gently. Pregnant gums can attract more plaque, so schedule regular dental appointments for cleanings and check-ups.
"Whose voice is this?"
Symptoms: If your voice is sounding a bit raspy or even a few octaves lower, don't worry; you're just experiencing another weird pregnancy symptom. You might even notice changes in your singing voice and range.
Cause: Your voice changes are due to—you guessed it—hormones. The changes in estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can cause swelling in your vocal cords, which can cause you to sound different when speaking or singing.
How to deal: Wait it out, and your voice should go back to normal after Baby arrives, but it may take a few months. If you're a singer or use your voice professionally, talk to your OB/GYN if it is causing problems. You may need a referral to a specialist who can help.
"Pass the Kleenex…again"
Symptoms: You have a runny nose that just won't stop running. If it lasts more than 6 weeks, you might have a case of pregnancy rhinitis.
Cause: An increase in hormones can cause the inside of your nose to swell and the mucus there to thicken. These two things together can cause you to feel the constant urge to sniff. If your nose constantly drips, you can thank hormones again. The same hormone that helps relax and prepare your body for birth can also relax your sinuses, causing you to reach for the tissues again and again.
How to deal: Rhinitis usually goes away a few weeks after Baby arrives, but it can be uncomfortable until then. Try increasing your fluid intake and sleeping with your head propped up a bit. You can also ask your doctor if you can use a neti pot or take antihistimines to make yourself more comfortable.
"My heart is racing!"
Symptoms: If you are feel your heart skip a beat or two (that isn't attributed to being excited for Baby), you might feel startled or anxious. Having a racing heart is a common pregnancy symptom, especially in the first trimester.
Cause: Your increased blood volume and how your heart pumps all that extra blood throughout your body changes drastically during your first trimester. Your heartbeat can increase 10 to 15 beats per minute, which adds up to a racing heart that you aren't used to. You might even notice your blood pressure dip.
How to deal: Keep an open dialogue with your doctor about any of your heart concerns. If you faint, become lightheaded, experience shortness of breath or chest pain, tell your OB/GYN.
"Oh, my hips!"
Symptoms: Is hip pain keeping you up at night or preventing you from walking more than a few steps without pain? Yep, this is another common side effect of pregnancy that your girlfriends didn't warn you about.
Cause: More common in the third trimester, hip pain is caused by relaxin, a hormone that prepares your body for delivery. Relaxin softens your joints and widens your hips in order to help Baby exit during delivery.
How to deal: Your hip pain will not go away until Baby arrives, so make yourself as comfortable as possible until then. Sleep with pillows propped between your legs, and avoid crossing your legs when you're snoozing. Yoga, stretching and swimming can also limber you up. And don't forget to treat yourself to a nice prenatal massage.