Approved by the What’s Up Moms Medical Advisory Board
You don’t need a medical degree to know that pregnant women often deal with some unpleasant crap in the form of heartburn, hemorrhoids, and swollen ankles. But wait – there’s more! Thanks to the hormones involved in growing a human inside another human’s body, women deal with all sorts of strange and surprising symptoms, some of which you can see and others you definitely don’t want to. Consider this your heads up:
(Of course, I am in no way a medical professional — just a lady who’s been around this block and has a kind of sick obsession with bodily functions — so always be sure to mention these or any other symptoms to your doctor.)
1. Round-the-Clock Sickness
Oh, you thought morning sickness happened just in the morning? Thanks to those rapidly changing hormones in the first trimester, about 70% of all women experience some nausea or vomiting, and it can strike at any time of day or night. Sometimes it’s mild and goes away if you eat a small meal every two or three hours (which is probably where the term “morning sickness” came from since you don’t eat while you sleep at night). For others, it’s much more severe and can even result in unwanted weight loss or require medication.
2. Food Aversions
I don’t know a single woman who craved ice cream and pickles while pregnant, yet that old cliché refuses to die. Much more common, it seems, is being disgusted by foods you once enjoyed. For me it was eggs and meat — especially smoked meat. Both were unfortunate and inconvenient, considering we had backyard chickens at the time and my husband is a four-seasons griller. Luckily, it’s easy to throw veggies on the grill, and my appetite for all things protein came back immediately after my son was born.
One symptom that always seems to surprise pregnant women (myself included) is the itchiness. In addition to hormonal changes and the skin stretching to accommodate a growing belly and breasts, a woman’s blood volume can nearly double during pregnancy. While some itchiness is normal, in rare circumstances, in the third trimester can be a symptom of a more serious liver condition called cholestasis, so definitely tell your doctor if you feel especially itchy.
4. Yeast Infections
Of course, the most annoying itch of all is a yeast infection, and unfortunately, for an otherwise healthy woman, it’s most likely to occur during pregnancy. Yes, it’s those damn hormones at work again, this time affecting the pH balance of the vagina. My advice: If you suspect you have a yeast infection, save yourself a lot of suffering, and don’t wait to call your doctor until you’re “sure.” My nurse caught one before I noticed any symptoms, and by the time the itching started, I had a pregnancy-safe prescription ready to go, so it never got too bad.
5. Skin Changes
Yes, some women literally glow when they’re pregnant. I sincerely hope you’re one of them. Unfortunately, others seem to age overnight thanks to dry skin and dark under-eye circles. Of course, either of those conditions is generally preferable to the alternatives, like full-on acne or even melasma, which causes dark gray or brown spots on the face. The silver lining here? Depending on what happens, you might have an excuse to buy some fancy new skincare products (just make sure they’re safe for pregnancy!).
6. Poop Problems
Whether you like it or not, once you have a baby, poop will become a big topic of conversation in your life. Luckily, pregnancy gives you a fabulous opportunity to practice your poopversation skills, because most women experience digestion issues at some point in pregnancy. Constipation seems to be the most common, but for me it was pretty much nine months of diarrhea. I’ll talk to anyone about it, any time.
7. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As if a protruding belly, exhaustion, and cankles aren’t enough, some pregnant women experience swelling and numbness in their hands and wrists, making it painful to complete everyday tasks like writing, typing, and cooking. Carpal Tunnel usually presents in the second half of pregnancy as your body retains more and more fluid, and unfortunately, this one doesn’t always go away after delivery.
8. Lightning Crotch
What? No one told you the Miracle of Life also includes random shooting pains in your vagina? Usually, this can be attributed to changes in the cervix as the body prepares for delivery and, like lightning, it comes and goes in a flash. However, if you’re having serious, prolonged pain in that region, it could be Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, a condition in which the pelvis loosens too much, too soon to prepare for birth (thanks to relaxin, a hormone).
9. Restless Leg Syndrome
As if getting a good night’s sleep in the third trimester wasn’t already hard enough — what with the forced side-sleeping and constant need to pee — like many women, I developed a temporary case of Restless Leg Syndrome around month 7 or 8. While scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact reason, everyone can agree that an uncontrollable urge to move or kick your leg while trying to sleep is a huge pain your pregnant ass.
10. Fabulous Hair
It turns out those pesky pregnancy hormones are good for a few things – in addition to supporting that baby, of course. Thanks to increased estrogen, your hair will grow faster and be less fall-y out-y than normal over the course of your pregnancy, resulting in longer, thicker hair. Keep in mind, however, the same thing goes for the hair all over your body, so you should probably go ahead and stock up on some nice razors (even though you’ll likely give up on shaving your legs once your belly gets too big). And don’t get too attached to your luxurious locks — because starting around three to six months postpartum, all that extra hair will start to fall out. Luckily, this too, shall pass.