Ah yes, you’ve told people you’re pregnant and so the questions begin, “how do you feel?”, “are you tired?”, “do you have morning sickness?” , “are you hungry?”, etc.
Symptoms like fatigue, nausea, back and joint pain, constant peeing, constant hunger and being “emotional” (both good and bad) are all considered par for the course when it comes to pregnancy, so no one is too surprised by them. However, there are many (many) more delights that can come along with a positive pregnancy test that people don’t talk about or show you in the movies.
Here are just 20 of the lesser known pregnancy side effects and symptoms to give you a bit of a heads up (or scare the crap out of you if you’re a teenager that wants to be on a reality show) so you know you’re not alone.
You may have all of them to which I can only say, “I’m sorry” and only assume that karma will reward you down the road because you hit a lottery of crap. Or you may have none, to which I say, “Lucky, duck” and seat you at the exquisite birth table that is currently occupied only by Gisele Bundchen – my patron saint of pregnancy (sorry, Saint Gerard Majella, you just don’t cut it with me as a pregnancy saint because you’re a virgin….and a man.)
So sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started in this uterus and quickly turned to shit. (Just kidding, but I love Gilligan’s Island).
Pregnancy side effects you might not know about:
1. You May Have Sore Boobs
One of the first pregnancy symptoms that many women experience is sore boobs. Essentially your body sends a memo upstairs saying, “the eagle has landed” and your breasts turn to each other and say, “This is what we’ve been training for! Not holding up tube tops. Not getting free drinks. It’s showtime!” Then they flip the switch and start getting ready for milk production. Extra blood flow, fat production (hello awesome rack) and hormones all make for tender tatas, especially in the first few weeks.
2. Your Nipples May Protrude and You Areolas May Darken
Ah yes, creepy guys around the world just said, “nice” to this little extra feature.
Once again, your breasts are gung ho about the baby news so they want to make sure everything is ready to roll – they are like an enthusiastic grandmother stocking up on toys – so they turn on the perma high beams and that can be uncomfortable.
Your areolas also tend to get darker, larger and jack up the little sweat gland bumps that will lube up the area when you’re breastfeeding.
While both have a bit of a ‘belch’ factor for some women, it’s completely normal so don’t sweat it too much.
3. You May Have Extra Spit
File this one under pregnancy side effects that we can’t fully explain.
We do know it seems to affect quite a few women during pregnancy. Hormones seem to be blamed for the cause because it’s the go-to reason for most things during pregnancy. Nausea also is a plausible reason as well because extra saliva is typically the body’s warning mechanism to tell you to get ready to barf.
Long and short of it is it doesn’t affect your pregnancy in any way so don’t worry about it because it’s perfectly normal.
Unless of course, you’re not actually pregnant in which case both rabies and dementia can cause excess saliva. So, you know, check that out.
4. You May Be Constipated
You have extra progesterone pumping through you right now and it’s pretty important – hence the name that means “pro gestating” – because it relaxes your uterus muscles so you don’t have early contractions (just to name one of its important jobs).
The downside is that it helps relax all your muscles so you get constipated easily.
“Wouldn’t relaxed muscles actually give me diarrhea?” you say. Oh contraire, my Petal. Your intestinal tract actually works very hard to move stuff through, so once they get a little lazy, shit stops moving. Literally. Shit stops moving.
Move more, drink water, eat small meals and increase your fiber intake seems to be the suggested course of action (and for more tips, check out our post on it here). You may as well commit this phrase to memory because it is pretty much the remedy suggested for EVERY. SINGLE. PREGNANCY AILMENT. ON THE PLANET.
Just don’t use laxatives (or at least talk to a medical provider before you do) because they can screw things up even more and there may be an easier fix before you go that route.
This is also a nice segue into our next delightful treat….
5. You Might Get Hemorrhoids
Congratulations, you’re slowly turning inside out! Weeee!
Although it may seem like your body is dropping out of your ass, hemorrhoids are actually veins in and around your rectum becoming swollen and can affect up to 50% of pregnant women. Lucky! Lucky! (More about these delightful gems, including pregnancy-safe tips and tricks for dealing with them can be found here.)
Your growing uterus and increased blood flow are usually the culprits, but both constipation and delivery can cause them as well. They can run the gamut from itching to downright painful, but thankfully they usually resolve themselves after pregnancy.
Lying down on your side also helps keep the pressure off that area, so cue up a good movie and put it in park for the sake of your butt.
And guess what? Drinking plenty of water and increasing your fiber intake helps. Who knew?!
(More about these delightful gems, including pregnancy-safe tips and tricks for dealing with them can be found here.)
6. You May Be Congested
Some women suffer from nasal congestion during their pregnancy and it can be a huge drag. Estrogen causes the mucous membranes in your nose to swell along with everything else, so it can cause congestion and even nosebleeds.
So pretty. Nothing quite like a pregnant woman walking around looking like she stepped out of a UFC Octagon.
Oh, I should also mention that this also may cause snoring when you sleep as well.
“Oh snap, is that a Victoria's Secret model sleeping next to me?” is without question what your partner will be asking themselves on a nightly basis… if they're smart.
7. You May Have Heartburn
Remember that awesome hormone, progesterone that relaxes your uterus so it doesn’t eject your baby like a 007 car? Well, it’s also relaxing a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. This loosening can cause stomach acid to back up into your esophagus.
Whether it’s called acid indigestion, acid reflux, or heartburn, it can feel like you’re gargling battery acid and it’s awful.
Thankfully this throat valve goes back to keeping the fires at bay once you’ve given birth. In the meantime, here are some remedies and meds that may help.
8. You Might Suffer From Leg Cramps
“Arrrgh, leg cramp!” is something you may utter when you’re pregnant. Most likely it will be when you finally get to sleep after your heartburn subsides and your nose clears.
No one knows what causes this delightful pregnancy side effect.* The possible culprits are compressed blood vessels or just the pressure of carrying around more weight. Either way, they are painful and wrench you out of a glorious sleep like an air horn. The quickest trick to relieve them is to flex your foot upwards and straighten your leg like you’re going to touch your shin with your big toe.
* Yet there was a study to see if rats could tell the difference between Japanese and Dutch. Spoiler alert: they can but not when spoken backward. Thanks, Science, you suck today.
9. You Might Get Restless Leg Syndrome:
Restless leg syndrome is not dangerous or a sign that anything is wrong, but it can be uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep.
No one really knows what causes the Jimmy legs (see rat study above), but it’s one of the more common pregnancy side effects. It tends to happen at night affecting the lower legs between the knee and ankle, although, it can also occur in your feet and arms.
Stretching, warms baths, acupuncture and massage seem to be the suggested remedies, but also mention it to your healthcare provider because they may want to check your iron levels to make sure you aren’t sporting a deficiency.
Some women keep a food journal to see if something they eat (typically later in the day) is triggering the jumpy legs at night. It’s certainly worth a shot. I suppose you could take up clogging or Celtic dance too. Here are some more ideas and suggestions.
10. You Might Get Sweaty
“Fire up the engines, we have a baby to make!” is what your body is telling your metabolism and hormones, which kicks up your blood flow, which makes you sweat like a toilet tank in Tampa.
Pregnancy “glow” is often caused by this internal furnace overdrive so hopefully, your rosy cheeks and dewy complexion will distract from your wet pits and cleavage steam.
11. You Might Break Out in Acne
Not so fast, my glowing Angel. This can also turn ugly with acne because hormones can stimulate your sebaceous glands, which can then cause zits. The best part?! You can’t use a lot of the stuff that we use to treat them like Accutane, Retin-A, tetracycline, etc. because they can cause nasty birth defects. Thankfully, companies are starting to fill this gap and are creating pregnancy safe acne treatments so you don’t have to walk around like a teenager full of angst in a John Hughes film – “I love you, Jake!”
12. Your Feet Might Get Bigger
Do your shoes feel tight? Do you have Fred Flinstone feet like I did during my pregnancies?
Well, it’s from a couple of things, relaxin is one because it’s relaxing the ligaments in your body – including your feet – so they spread out. Your body is also retaining fluids and, to oversimplify it, those fluids tend to pool at the bottom of your body (namely your feet) so they puff up. Add a bunch of baby weight onto that and you’re sporting two loaves of bread baking out of your ballet flats.
Your feet make actually go up a size permanently because they may not snap back to their original shape after the baby comes. Okay, there are a couple of things that may not snap back to their original shape after the baby comes but we’re talking feet right now.
If you find your feet, hands and face swell suddenly though, go see your doctor because it can be a sign of preeclampsia and you don’t want that.
13. You Might Wet Your Pants
Tee hee she has to pee! It’s fairly common knowledge that women have to pee a lot when they are pregnant. What they don’t always mention is that the control around peeing may be a little compromised as well.
Your bladder sits right under your uterus so as your baby grows, your bladder can’t always take the pressure. The dam usually leaks from abdomen pressure, such as sneezing, coughing, or exercising. Reason 4,357 not to do jumping jacks during allergy season I suppose.
This is one of the rare cases where “plenty of water” is not recommended as a remedy. Kegels are. They are the smug I-told-so exercises of pregnancy so get used to hearing about them.
14. Your Gums May Bleed
Progesterone is the culprit again. Bleeding gums are a fairly common pregnancy side effect and aren’t cause for concern.
It is recommended that you avoid sweets (that's a no from me, dog), visit your dentist while you’re pregnant (tell them you’re pregnant so you don’t get an x-ray) and rinse your mouth with water after you throw up if you have morning sickness.
Why thank you! I would never have thought of ridding my mouth of the taste of vomit after I barfed. I wonder if they have any recommendations if I come upon hot garbage on the sidewalk? Do I eat it? Do I avoid it? What is a pregnant woman to do?
15. You Might Suffer From Itchy Skin
Stretching and estrogen are often to blame for itchy skin and it’s really common during pregnancy.
It looks like the best way to treat is the same way you’d treat winter skin – lower the temperature in your shower, moisturize, and try not to use harsh soaps, etc.
That said, it’s worth mentioning itching to your caregiver – especially if your palms and feet are itchy – because they’ll probably want to make sure your liver is happy. More on Cholestasis here.
16. You Might Have a Keener Sense of Smell
Can you smell fish? In the fridge? At your next door neighbor’s house?
A heightened sense of smell is a charming pregnancy symptom that many think is cute unless of course it’s you experiencing it and you’re sitting next to a co-worker that smells like B.O. doused in a cologne called “Repulsion”.
It’s caused by estrogen and can really wreak havoc on your gag reflex exacerbating morning sickness (a.k.a. all day sickness).
Suggestions range from chewing gum to avoiding strong smells.
(Again, I hope money wasn’t spent on a study to see if “avoiding strong smells helped a heightened olfactory system”. Put that in the money pile from the Dutch rat study along with the “Is water wet?” study, and we could dig a hundred wells in underserviced parts of the world.)
17. You Might Have Bad Gas
Er, remember how I said progesterone and relaxin slow everything down and loosen everything up? Mmmm, yeah. Well, that includes your gastrointestinal muscles, which slows down your digestion, which forms gas. Gas that could rival a basement full of college guys consuming beer and cabbage in burp form. And gas that could singe nose hair and kill canaries if it’s in fart form, making it arguably one of the most disturbing (or impressive?) pregnancy side effect.
Whether it’s escaping from the roof or the basement, gas usually comes along for the ride on the pregnancy train. Toot! Toooooooot!
18. Your Skin Pigment May Change
Hormones kick up your melanin cells and they produce more pigment which will darken your freckles, areolas and that line that runs down your belly called the linea nigra. It can also go a little nuts with the “tan dial” and cause random blotches on the skin called Chloasma.
This hyperpigmentation tends to be more noticeable in women with darker complexions but it typically fades after you give birth.
19. Your Vaginal Discharge May Change
I believe scientists thought long and hard to come up with the most disgusting sounding name for the milky white vaginal discharge that often comes along with pregnancy, and I think they did it with the term “leukorrhea”. It’s a combination of the Latin terms for “light” and “flow”, but sounds like the noise a cat makes before throwing up morphed with the word “diarrhea”.
You don’t have to worry about it though – no matter how gross it sounds – and you have the extra estrogen in your body to thank for stimulating all the mucous membranes in your body.
Stay away from douches and vaginal wipes because they can throw off your PH balance and that can unleash a whole lot of nasty. Most sites suggest “clean” and “dry” with a panty liner back up, is the best line of defense for this pregnancy side effect, but I like to think we’ve all figured out that universal crotch tip by now.
20. You Might Get Skin Tags
I was going to cover off stretch marks for the last symptoms, but most of us know those battle scars can strike with pregnancy so I went with skin tags.
These are the little handles that your body makes so angels can hang on them while they kiss your baby goodnight.
Haha, alas no, they are delightful little skin growths that pop up in high friction areas like your armpits, neck and under your boobs. It’s your body going nuts with the baby news and producing extra random skin. Thanks Body, you’re like a crazy, elderly aunt that places hummel figurines all over her apartment in case Elvis comes over.
They are completely benign and will usually go away on their own. If not, you can just leave them (who cares) or have them removed.
Don’t you feel stunning!?
Listen, human bodies are gross – just ask the old man cleaning out his ears with a paper clip at the mall – but rarely do they produce something as perfect and beautiful as a baby. And that’s the sickest part of all – it’s worth it.
So try to focus on the good parts of pregnancy and less on the crap, and if you’re feeling brave, you can check out the things that may happen after you give birth too.
After all, this too shall pass (gas). Brffpft!
What pregnancy side effects did I miss? What else would you add?
I'd love to hear them all in the comments!
Our next reco: Happily After Giving Birth – 10 Things They Don’t Tell You