We all know to expect lots of changes to our body during pregnancy.
Yes, you anticipated the growing belly, some weight gain, and those swollen ankles and stretch marks that everyone talks (and asks) about.
But what about the other stuff?
Many women find things happening to their body that they couldn’t have possibly imagined or been prepared for.
Here’s the lowdown on some common body “issues” experienced by pregnant women, some that barely get a mention in your standard pregnancy guidebook.
10 Outside Body Changes
1 – All That Discharge
If you’re pregnant and have an internet connection, chances are that search engines and forums have already become your best friends. One of the most common yet varied complaints, and cause for lots of googling, during pregnancy is all that darn discharge.
First it’s discharge from ovulation and then from conception, then maybe some spotting and the usual increase in mucous throughout pregnancy; then later there are pee leaks, amniotic fluid, mucous plugs, and more!
There are so many “normal” types of discharge that it’s hard to keep track. Then there’s all the stuff that shouldn’t be there because, yippee, pregnancy makes us more prone to a whole host of lovely infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs), bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections and the list goes on.
Put it this way, most pregnant women find that regular purchases of panty liners and frequently checking their discharge is “normal” just become part and parcel of pregnancy.
2 – Painful Boobs
One thing lots of people get excited over in pregnancy is the prospect of bigger boobs. Some grow a lot; some don’t grow at all. If they do grow, growth might be slow and steady, intermittent, or all at once.
There’s no solid explanation as to why this is the case and like so many of the crazy and varied symptoms of pregnancy it is normally attributed to those lovely hormones that just generally like to wreck havoc on our bodies.
Whether they grow or not, one less exciting aspect of pregnancy is how painful those boobs can be. Some women suffer from slightly tender breasts; others have breasts so sore they can’t even hug their partner without excruciating pain.
And then there are the nipples; they might be just a little more sensitive to touch or they may be so sore that towel drying after a shower is way too much.
3 – Leaky Nipples
Most books will tell you that in the third trimester you may start to leak a thick yellowish substance called colostrum; it could be just a tiny amount or enough to warrant the daily use of breast pads.
Not to worry, as the books will also tell you, this liquid is in fact the precursor to breast milk and is another sign that your body is preparing for breastfeeding.
There are a couple of things, however, that most books don’t mention. The substance does indeed come out as a thick yellow liquid, but it can dry in the form of scabs on your nipples.
As if that isn’t a scary enough sight, it can also act as glue that sticks your nipples to your bra or breast pad. One horrified friend described it as akin to tearing a Band-Aid off her nipple when she removed her bra, yikes.
Another less commonly known fact is that colostrum may start leaking way, way, before the third trimester, as early as the end of the first trimester.
So if you haven’t got to that part of the book yet, there is the potential for a major freak-out the first time you notice you have crusty yellow nipples.
4 – Leaking Urine
Who would have thought that sneezing, coughing, laughing or even just going about your daily activities would be cause for concern in the pee department? Many lucky people never experience any loss of bladder control while pregnant.
In case you’re not one of those people, it might be best to stock up on more of the aforementioned panty liners, or something even more absorbent; you never know when a little leakage might strike.
Many women can vividly recall noticing the first “dribble” and hoping that it was a one-off.
But for so many it becomes an all-too-common occurrence and can often worsen as pregnancy continues and the baby grows and shifts. It can even lead to full-on incontinence and puddles on the floor; oh, what we go through.
5 – Varicose Veins
Yes, we all know about varicose veins on the legs.
We’ve seen plenty and read about them lots. But did you know you can get varicose veins in other places than just your legs?
Yes, as if your vagina doesn’t suffer enough during labour and delivery, for many women it doesn’t escape the wrath of pregnancy either.
In fact one in ten women suffer from vulvar varicosities during pregnancy, usually beginning around the fifth month. It seems strange that such a common symptom is talked about so little but let’s face it, the fact that you had to google “black lumpy vagina” last night is hardly water cooler fodder.
Well, here it is, ladies, it happens.
For some women they become painful especially after standing for long periods or after sex, but rejoice in the fact that there are treatments, including some rather attractive support garments.
However, bear in mind that they are usually harmless and many cases are so mild that women don’t even notice that they have them. Plus this is one of those symptoms that will usually go away by itself soon after delivery; here’s hoping!
6 – Swelling Everywhere
We’ve all heard of swollen ankles but what lots of women don’t expect is the swelling all over their body. And I’m not just talking normal weight gain here; I mean full on water retention all over or in random parts of one’s body.
Have you ever seen a pregnant women’s face puff up like the Michelin Man?
Blame good old water retention. While this normally happens towards the end of pregnancy it can begin very early on and can often be difficult to reduce.
It might be good to know that this, like so many symptoms, usually goes away soon after delivery; but this doesn’t really help when you can’t bend your knees to ties your shoes because your legs have swollen to the size of tree trunks; fun times.
7 – Itching and Scratching
Another unexpected and often annoying symptom of pregnancy is itching. While some extreme bouts of itching, especially when accompanied by a rash, may be cause for concern, itching during pregnancy is often harmless.
It’s quite common for the palms of your hands and soles of your feet to itch intensely and this is thought to be hormonally driven.
Another cause for itching, especially in the belly area, is dryness, especially in the colder months or in the third trimester when the skin is stretched to its max. Lots of women say they get relief by keeping the area well moisturized during these times.
8 – Stuffy Nose
It would be easy to think you have a permanent sinus problem during pregnancy.
One somewhat obscure symptom is a constantly stuffy nose. This might start at any time during pregnancy and might not go away until delivery. It’s attributed to hormones which swell mucous membranes and increase mucous production.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to get rid of it and many women find that it worsens as pregnancy progresses and even prompts regular nosebleeds.
However, you can try to manage the symptoms the way you would normally manage a stuffy nose associated with a cold, such as using saline drops and a humidifier.
9 – Strange Taste
Many pregnant women have a bad taste in their mouth simply from throwing up all the time, but even those who don’t experience any sickness might have to deal with some odd tastes in their mouth.
Most commonly it’s a metallic taste, like when you taste blood or accidently lick a penny or something; I’m sure you know what I mean.
It can also come in the form of a bitter taste, altered taste or lack of taste in certain cases. This surprisingly common symptom often known as “metal mouth” has a real name: dysgeusia.
It sounds pretty harmless but it can become really uncomfortable especially if it lasts for long periods. The good news is you might be able to diminish this symptom by eating more acidic foods; just go easy if you have heartburn.
Apparently gargling warm water with baking soda helps too!
10 – Limited Movements
One friend refers to this third trimester infliction as beached whale syndrome. This is something few women can truly prepare themselves for, even if they’ve been through it before.
Beached whale syndrome is (not officially) defined as the struggle to move or sometimes even complete inability to move during the last few weeks, or even months, of pregnancy. Getting in and out of bed or the car or even rolling on and off the couch can be a huge struggle for some women.
It just sometimes gets to that point where you’re simply too big/achy/weak/exhausted to move your body where you want to.
It’s one of those times where you might just have to enlist the help of your partner to give you a little push to get out of bed to pee, or give you a little nudge to help you off the couch.
It sucks, really, but the one good thing about beached whale syndrome is that it probably means delivery day is not too far away!
Inside Body Changes
So we’ve talked about your body on the outside. But what about everything that is going on inside?
After all, we are growing a baby in there. It would make things a whole lot easier if we could see exactly what was going on inside our bodies, but of course we can’t. Instead we feel lots of weird and wonderful symptoms and guess at what’s happening.
Here’s a little insight into some of the most prominent but often less expected internal symptoms experienced during pregnancy.
11 – “Morning” Sickness
With all the nausea, coupled with tiredness, pregnancy can often just feel like one big hangover, without all of the fun of the night before.
Morning sickness, as you’ve probably heard, is a pretty misleading term. It makes us think, okay, we might feel a little sick when we wake up, but that’s not so bad; it should clear by the afternoon and then we can just get on with our day. Plus it’s only for the first three months anyway, right?
Lies, they are lies.
Nausea and vomiting can last all day, every day, for entire pregnancies.
Okay, that’s not typical, but it happens way more often than we think, and surely it’s better to be prepared for it than just assume it will go away quickly. It’s also important to note that if you don’t actually throw up it doesn’t make it any less significant and nausea alone is still considered morning sickness.
People often think that if you don’t vomit then it can’t be that bad, but for many women the nausea itself can be the cause of most suffering, and they’d be happy to throw up for some relief. It’s also so surprising how many women think they just have to just struggle through these symptoms without help.
There are things you can do to try to mitigate the nausea and vomiting including more rest, changing your diet, regulating portion size and fluid intake or changing your prenatal vitamin.
There are also prescriptions available for morning sickness so it is always worth talking to your doctor. Even with all that, many women still don’t find relief, but it’s important to know you have options to try.
12 – Food Cravings
Yes, we’ve all heard the pickle and ice cream scenario and sure, weird cravings happen for many people and are a hot topic for discussion.
But what those discussions seem to miss is the nature of cravings. Most cravings during pregnancy are for perfectly normal everyday foods and drinks.
What makes the cravings abnormal for most people is the strength of those cravings: I have to have it now, this second, in my stomach or I might puke or pass out or explode or something!
It’s a feeling most people have never experienced and probably won’t experience again, but it can be all consuming when you’re going through it. The worst is when it’s something you can’t have because you can’t get to it or have it prepared it in time.
Yes, there is often a time limit for these cravings before you have completely gone off the idea, have moved onto something else, or the worst case when you have gone into a state of total nausea and can’t stomach the thought of anything at all.
Or maybe you can’t have it because it’s an off-limit food that you’ve pledged not to eat; one friend intensely craved white wine throughout her entire pregnancy; short straw or what? And no, that imitation stuff just isn’t the same!
13 – Food Aversions
Although far less talked about, food and smell aversions as well as lack of appetite, are just as common during pregnancy as cravings and increased appetite. The sight, smell or taste of even the most seemingly generic foods could turn a pregnant stomach.
Everything from meat to coffee to gum could bring on feelings of nausea and lack of appetite. In these situations it doesn’t help that pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell often adding to the torture.
14 – Diet Limitations
Okay, so we all know alcohol isn’t recommended and most doctors warn against eating raw fish during pregnancy, but most women aren’t prepared for the giant list of foods to avoid or cut down on
Cold cuts, some cheeses, certain fish, the list goes on.
There we were thinking pregnancy would give us free rein to eat whatever we like and all of a sudden there are all these rules.
Okay, it’s only nine months, but if one of your cravings is on that list, those nine months can be tough! And we haven’t even got to the pregnancy diet part yet; eat this many orange fruits and this many green fruits and all your servings of grains but not too many of these ones.
Jeez, it’s like taking a degree in pregnancy nutrition, the mind boggles, and those brain cells are getting more precious by the day.
Of course, everyone should do their own research and eat what they feel is right for them and baby (or whatever they can stomach), but just know beforehand that there is a LOT to read up on. Just try not to stress over it too much, as that definitely isn’t good for baby!
15 – Feeling the Burn
This surprises lots of women but heartburn is all too common during pregnancy even if you’ve never experienced it before; it’s attributed to hormones (again!) and also due to pressure from the growing baby.
For lots of people it’s mild and intermittent and can be treated easily. But for some women it is brutal; constant day and night with no relief for months on end. It can stop women from sleeping, turn them off food and make them generally miserable.
Hopefully it won’t happen to you, but if it does, there is hope of some relief. There are the regular treatments for heartburn, such as avoiding certain foods, eating smaller portions and limiting fluid intake during meals.
Additionally some over-the-counter antacids are safe for pregnancy. There is also the hope that as the baby changes position and eventually drops that the pressure will be relieved and the heartburn will subside somewhat.
Unfortunately if none of these things work it might just be one of those you have to suffer until after delivery.
16 – Constipation Curse
People don’t like to talk about poop, not to their partner, their friends or even their doctor. That’s why this is one issue that definitely needs to get a little more airing, especially since ignoring it can make it worse.
If there’s one good thing to be said for having constipation and hemorrhoid issues prior to pregnancy it’s that at least you’re likely to have already tried ways to combat the symptoms. If so, be prepared to break out the big guns during pregnancy!
Most women complain at least of constipation during pregnancy and this very often leads to hemorrhoids or worsening of existing hemorrhoids. There are many treatments for both and different things work for different people.
Some people find preventative treatments are best such as a fiber-rich diet, but that’s often simply not enough. Prevention tactics and treatments for constipation include prune juice, lemon water, natural laxatives, probiotics, and many more.
Do some research, talk to your doctor and try to find what works for you.
Anyone who has had hemorrhoids knows that prevention is way better than cure, but if you do find yourself with the dreaded sores, there are over-the-counter and prescription creams and suppositories available.
Definitely don’t suffer out of embarrassment. Pain, itching and bloody stools don’t need to go untreated and symptoms are more likely to worsen if ignored.
17 – Crampiness
So many pregnant women I talk to are surprised at the amount of cramping they experience at different stages during their pregnancy. They describe worrying profusely over every little pain or cramp, thinking that it can’t be normal and that there must be something wrong with the baby.
If only it were talked about more it would likely save many women a lot of fear and anxiety about what is happening to their body and their baby. It’s good to know that not every little twinge or pain means that there is something wrong.
Early in pregnancy uterus expansion is a common and normal cause of cramping, while the second trimester brings round ligament pain and in the third trimester Braxton Hicks contractions are common. And these are just a few causes of cramping.
Add gas, bloating, constipation, pain after sex and more and you can start to see that, although it may be uncomfortable, there are many innocent and harmless reasons for cramping during pregnancy.
That being said, there are certain cases where a doctor should be consulted including if the cramps are severe and don’t go away or if they are accompanied by contractions, bleeding or shoulder and neck pain.
18 – Aches and Pains
From hip pain and round ligament pain to joint pain and back pain including sciatica, the list goes on.
There are so many ways our bodies are being stretched and strained it’s no wonder that women often suffer from a whole list of aches and pains. Many women expect that things can get achy during the third trimester simply from the sheer weight of the baby and surrounding belly.
However, unfortunately, some aches and pains can start a lot earlier. One surprising pain that can occur throughout pregnancy is increased frequency and severity of leg cramps.
Although no one really knows why this happens some research suggests that magnesium supplements might help. Another one that is less talked about is pelvic girdle pain which can be caused by many things including swelling between your pelvic bones.
One friend described this pain as feeling as though someone was stabbing knives in her pelvis after she stood for too long, ouch.
Luckily there are often therapies and/or support garments to help relieve many of the body pains experienced during pregnancy. For others, however, you may just have to rest as much as possible and ride it out.
Notes: if you’re still having back pain after giving birth, then having a postpartum girdle is one of the best ways to lower back pain relief.
19 – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Here’s one reason, although hopefully you don’t need it, to get your boss to go a little easier on you during pregnancy.
Unfortunately many women don’t know about this issue until it’s too late.
Pregnancy can greatly increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to increased fluid retention and pressure on the nerves. Symptoms are tingling, numbness and pain in the hand and wrist area.
Luckily the symptoms can often be eased by rest, altering the way you perform common tasks, or using a brace. Thankfully pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome often eases after delivery, but it may continue or worsen, and in the worst cases may require cortisone injections or surgery.
20 – Delightful Kicks
The baby kicks are for many hands down the best part about pregnancy. Some women describe feeling the baby’s first kicks and how it all of a sudden made the pregnancy seem even more real.
Yes, they are amazing and are an incredible way to share the experience with your partner but what people talk about a little less is that the kicks can be a constant source of worry.
Whether you’re worried because you’re at a certain point and you’ve never felt a kick or if you usually feel a lot and haven’t in a while, most mothers will attest to having lost at least a little sleep over baby kicks.
While it is recommended that you keep an eye on your baby’s kicking patterns as they may signal problems, most of the time the worries are unnecessary. Another thing less talked about is that although they’re incredible, especially at the beginning, those little baby kicks can often be a cause of annoyance, especially if baby likes to get active at 4am.
Oh, and they can be painful too. A tiny little elbow in the ribcage while you’re in the middle of a sales presentation can cause quite the awkward squeal.
21 – Sleeping Positions
Why do pregnant people hardly talk about sleeping positions? This is a third of our day; surely we should be warned about the new complexities surrounding sleep.
Of course there comes a point where belly sleeping would become a physical impossibility, but back sleepers are also disappointed to find that they shouldn’t sleep on their back past the fourth month as it could mess with their circulation. So side sleeping it is; it sounds simple enough.
Hmm, maybe not.
Now you have your knees together all night; that doesn’t feel good. And where do you put your arm so it doesn’t fall asleep. Not to mention how do you support your growing belly; it can’t just hang there all night.
Some women go all out and get a giant body-encasing pillow that takes up most of the bed, but it can be a little intimidating for some, especially for their partners who have to try to fit in the bed too!
Lots of women I talked to said that a simple body pillow was a godsend and I have to agree. It goes between the knees, under the belly and over the arm; problems solved!
22 – Sexy Time
Of course there’s lots of talk about sex while pregnant; it’s how it happens in the first place anyway, right. From sex drive to insecurities to positions to bringing on labour, it’s often a hot topic.
It’s just important to remember that sex during pregnancy, like most other things, is so different for everyone. So when girlfriends or a magazine or a blog tells you “x will happen at this point” and “y will happen at this point”, you may want to take it with a grain of salt.
Some women are the horniest of their lives, some lack libido throughout, some have orgasms like never before, others can’t climax. Some are simply mentally or physically unable to have sex for various reasons.
For many couples their sex life hardly alters during pregnancy but for others it inevitably brings a whole new, sometimes stressful, dimension.
What’s most important here is your relationship between you and your partner. Together you will figure things out as you go so there’s no need to pile on more pressure by wondering why you’re not conforming to some standard.
23 – No Symptoms
Many women read about the long lists of potential symptoms of pregnancy and wonder what all of the fuss is about. Some have only a few symptoms, some have very mild symptoms and some have none at all.
How lucky they are some might say. But of course, lack of symptoms brings on a whole new bout of worry.
- Is it normal that I’m not going through this?
- Is there something wrong with me?
- Or with my baby?
It’s important to remember that while all of the weird and wonderful pregnancy symptoms are normal, most people don’t experience all of them, and it is also common to experience just a few mild ones or none at all.
Just keep your doctor informed and they can check on things to put your mind at ease.