Ah, the joys of pregnancy. We’ve all heard the horror stories of that one friend who spent her first trimester bent over the toilet, or seen pictures of once-sleek celebrities with newly plumped post-baby bodies. While most women generally expect such common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, food cravings or weight gain, there are a whole host of lesser-known symptoms that a woman might experience.
Pregnancy can sometimes seem isolating for women who feel like they are going through things all on their own. It can be especially hard for women experiencing their first pregnancy to not call the doctor at the drop of a hat when strange new symptoms crop up. Unanticipated situations can arise, and it is always comforting to know others have faced similar challenges and survived just fine.
For some women, pregnancy can be a walk in the park with few hurdles or symptoms of note. For others, a rapidly changing body can cause spikes of anxiety and never ending questions. Rest assured, it is almost certain that there has been a woman that has previously gone through whatever symptom has cropped up and then gone on to carry a healthy baby to term.
Here we have compiled a list of some lesser known pregnancy symptoms, situations and facts. Use this guide to help navigate these uncharted waters and ease fears. Growing a human being is not for the faint of heart, but we wouldn’t want anyone to have go it alone.
15 Abdominal Muscles Can Separate
Anyone can see that as a pregnancy progresses, a woman’s belly gets rounder and rounder. What a lot of people may not realize is that this can occasionally push the large abdominal muscles so far apart that they separate in a condition called diastasis recti. The separation often isn't noticed until after delivery, but it can cause some uncomfortable symptoms for mom.
While not typically painful in and of itself, diastasis recti during a pregnancy creates a weaker support system for all of those already encumbered organs like the uterus, stomach and bowels. Without a strong core, several daily tasks that were once not given any thought can suddenly become a bit more daunting.
If diastasis recti does happen, take extra caution to not strain when doing activities like using the toilet, and moving or lifting things. The condition often resolves itself on its own after birth, and can be improved with physical therapy.
14 The Mother's DNA Will Change
This little side effect of pregnancy blew our minds the first time we heard about it. Recent studies have shed light on the bizarre finding that after having a baby, male cells can be found in women. The speculation supposes that due to the baby’s own blood and DNA circulating throughout a mother during pregnancy, some of the cells are left behind after the baby is born, thus altering Mom permanently.
The altered DNA typically has no side effects or visible evidence for mothers, although speculatively some moms may claim they’ve seen slight changes to their bodies or personalities. Through these studies, there has also been some evidence that a woman may retain a bit of DNA from her partner.
While this does not mean that moms will take on more male characteristics, this wild finding proves the notion that two really do become one when they create a child together.
13 Bleeding May Continue
Lots of people think that once someone is pregnant, there won’t be any blood to worry about for the next nine months. While it is true that a woman can’t get her period when she is pregnant, that does not mean she is guaranteed to not see any blood for the duration of gestation. There are several causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, some minor and some more serious and possibly requiring a call to the doctor.
About a fifth of women who get pregnant will experience something called implantation bleeding which almost always occurs in the first trimester. This generally looks like light spotting, is pink in color, and may be accompanied by mild cramping.
Heavier bleeding or severe cramping could be signs of miscarriage or other complications like placenta previa. Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta is located low in the uterus and is covering the cervix.
12 Blood Volume Doubles
During pregnancy, a woman’s body not only grows an entirely unique organ, the placenta, but also produces and circulates up to two times her regular amount of blood. Due to the increased needs of the placenta, the body starts to manufacture great volumes of blood which steadily increase until around the 35th week of pregnancy.
All that extra blood carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body to provide for the extra demands required of a woman’s system during pregnancy.
One might occasionally see outward evidence of all of this extra blood. Many pregnant women report an increase of symptoms like bloody noses or bloody gums. Sometimes routine things like flossing or a visit to the dentist become much more messy than normal due to all that extra blood volume. These symptoms all vanish after the birth of baby once the body’s regular blood volume is restored to its normal state.
11 Getting Sick More Frequently
No, we’re not talking about that kind of sick. Morning sickness is likely the best-known type of sickness during pregnancy, but some folks don’t realize that when pregnant, women are much more susceptible to catching viruses like the common cold or flu.
During pregnancy, the immune system is somewhat compromised due to changes in the body caused by the placenta and developing baby. To add insult to injury, common cold and flu medicines are generally not safe nor recommended for use during pregnancy.
Not to despair, there are several measures that can be taken in order to boost the immune system and guard against disease. Make sure to wash hands frequently, and especially after activities like shaking hands or pushing around a grocery cart.
Also, most pregnant women can’t avoid this anyway, but make sure to get plenty of sleep as well as eat immune-boosting foods. Particularly immune-boosting foods include yogurt, garlic and berries.
10 That Brown Stripe
For someone that has already had a child, or has a close friend who has been through a pregnancy this may be old news. Many first time moms though, have never heard of the linea nigra. This is a dark line that develops on the skin during pregnancy that runs vertically along the length of the baby bump.
The linea nigra usually starts making an appearance about halfway through a pregnancy, or around the time the baby’s gender can be determined.
No one really seems to know why the linea nigra appears when a woman is pregnant, although it may have something to do with the body’s increased production of melanin. The increase in melanin can also cause a condition called melasma which causes dark patches of skin to appear on the face.
Melasma occurs more frequently in women with darker as opposed to lighter skin. Both the linea nigra and melasma disappear after birth, and using proper sun protection can help reduce their appearance during pregnancy.
9 Everyone Has An Opinion
Ask just about any woman who has ever been pregnant, and she will likely have a story (or three) to share of someone offering up unsolicited advice. Much like strangers feeling entitled to touch a belly bump, plenty of people feel obliged to share their opinions of anything and everything related to pregnancy, babies and child-rearing with pregnant moms.
This advice may come from unexpected sources including not only strangers, but also coworkers, parents, well-meaning acquaintances and even friends who’ve never had children but clearly have expert opinions.
The best advice we can offer on this one is just to let people share, smile and nod. Whether the advice is asked for, agreed with or not, many folks are just plain excited to share in a pregnancy and often times don’t stop to think if their advice is truly wanted. Be patient and keep one ear open because every now and then some true gems just might be dropped.
8 People Will Touch The Bump Without Permission
Once the bump starts showing, all sorts of people will reach out to touch it without bothering to ask first. Plenty of pregnant women have had the awkward experience of having a complete stranger walk up and start rubbing their baby bump. For some reason, seeing a pregnant woman seems to make the average sane person lose all sense of boundaries, and people will suddenly feel entitled to a belly rub.
While some women enjoy the extra attention and don’t mind being touched by every Tom, Dick and Harry they run across, others detest the unsolicited contact which can be made exponentially uncomfortable by overprotective pregnancy hormones. Fear not.
For those who would prefer everyone keep their hands to themselves, women can employ a variety of tactics to deter handsy strangers from removal of the offending appendage to snarky retorts. Some even go so far as to don special "hands off the bump" t-shirts with the words printed across the belly.
7 Vivid Dreams
Many women experience bizarre, vivid and just downright weird dreams during pregnancy. No one is entirely sure why this happens, although some attribute it to those crazy hormones running amok.
A more logical explanation is that because pregnant women wake so frequently during the night, be it due to increased need to use the bathroom or general discomfort, they are more likely to wake up during a dreaming sleep cycle. When this happens, dreams tend to be fresher in the mind and easier to recall which can in turn make them seem more vivid.
Some women swear that their dream imagery reflects which trimester of pregnancy they are currently journeying through. This theory proposes first trimester dreams include water imagery mirroring the growing placenta and amniotic fluid, while second trimester dreams help to process changes going through the body.
Third trimester dreams oftentimes can highlight fears surrounding labor and delivery.
Ah, the dreaded hemorrhoids. This is a symptom many don’t like to talk about, but is nevertheless still common. Hemorrhoids are pesky veins in the nether regions that can swell and sometimes protrude out of the body.
A growing fetus’ ever growing size and weight taking up room in the body can cause extra pressure on Mom, thus sometimes causing hemorrhoids to develop as a pregnancy progresses. Sometimes, a woman will experience a hemorrhoid-free pregnancy, only to have them appear at childbirth.
Luckily, hemorrhoids are not a symptom every woman experiences. Also, a large number of women report that they disappear in the months after giving birth as the body returns to normal. If they do develop, several measures can be taken to help ease their discomfort.
Cold compresses can help, as can making sure to eat plenty of fiber which also has the added benefit of easing other another possible pregnancy symptom like constipation.
5 Hair Grows Everywhere
It’s common knowledge that during pregnancy a woman’s hair tends to grow lush and thick. For some women, their hair has never looked better than it does during pregnancy. This is caused by all that extra estrogen coursing through the body. The hair isn’t technically growing thicker, but rather the hormones cause it to be shed less, leading to lusher, fuller locks.
Sorry ladies, but all the extra estrogen as well as another hormone called androgen can also effect hair growth on other parts of the body, whether wanted or not. During pregnancy, hair can crop up in all sorts of undesirable places ranging from the belly to the face.
Tweezing or waxing these interlopers is fine, but depilatories should be avoided due to their chemical content. Thankfully, all of those surplus hairs will miraculously disappear after childbirth, and the body will happily return to its normal un-fuzzy state.
4 Regular Tasks Become Challenging
As the baby bump grows ever larger, day to day tasks that were once given no thought can suddenly become insurmountable obstacles. For example, typically no one gives much thought to tying their shoes in the morning, but as a pregnancy progresses, it becomes harder and harder to reach shoelaces around that baby bump.
We have heard of women employing a variety of tactics to handle this challenge, ranging from enlisting a partner to tie those out of reach laces, to only wearing slip on type shoes in the later months of pregnancy.
Another routine task that many pregnant women find impossible is shaving. Between the ever growing bump and balance issues in late pregnancy, some women find they can no longer reach their legs to shave. Even such mundane tasks as getting out of bed in the morning become difficult in those last few months.
As the baby grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to use the core muscles, and it becomes common to use a combination of rolling and other maneuvers to safely rise out of bed.
3 Lengthy List Of No-Nos
Everyone probably already knows to shelf that nightly glass of wine for the next 9 months, but if this is a first time pregnancy, they may not have heard about other pregnancy no-nos. Once a woman starts growing that human, her obstetrician is likely to warn her off a whole host of other things that can effect a fetus.
It is generally recommended to avoid not only alcohol and excessive caffeine, but also raw fish sushi, deli meat and fresh sprouts. Some food items can harbor harmful bacteria like listeria and botulism that will not only make Mom sick, but can also harm a growing baby.
Other things to avoid during pregnancy are most medications, even seemingly innocuous ones like aspirin or cold medicine. Historically, Tylenol was on the approved list for pain relief during pregnancy, although a recent study out of JAMA Pediatrics suggests use during pregnancy could contribute to a child’s likelihood of later developing ADHD.
Due to the potential of chemicals entering the body, some women choose to forgo dying their hair during pregnancy, and others go so far as to eliminate their weekly mani/pedi and even diet sodas.
2 Everything Swells
While it may be common knowledge that women can get swollen ankles when pregnant, not every knows just how much the entire body expands. Pregnant women are carrying all sorts of extra fluid from the amniotic sac, an increased blood volume and extra weight and pressure on all their other organs.
In addition, during pregnancy the body has a tendency to retain fluid, all of which has to go somewhere.
All that extra pressure can inhibit blood flow throughout the body, which in turn can lead to swelling. Ankles and feet may swell, and some women swear their feet grow an entire size during pregnancy. Swelling may also appear in the hands, as evidenced by many a wedding ring being exiled to the jewelry box for the duration of the pregnancy.
Most women also see an increase in cup size due to the breasts enlarging and preparing for milk production.
1 Everything Leaks
Pretty much all pregnant women can tell tales of at least one part of their body leaking against their will. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell when and where the body will strike as many pregnant women can attest. Growing babies places extra weight and pressure on bowels and bladder, which can in turn cause urine leakage or gas to pass without permission.
This frequently happens at inopportune times such as when one sneezes, coughs or suddenly laughs.
The fun doesn’t stop there though. Pregnant women also tend to sweat a lot more due to a number of reasons such as hormonal changes, higher body temperatures and carrying that extra weight. Near the end of pregnancy, breasts may also leak milk in preparation for the arrival of the baby. Also, some women report noses that run more than usual.
These symptoms can be combated by wearing nursing pads inside the bra, and carrying plenty of extra tissues.