Sure, labor and delivery may involve some pain, but pregnant women won’t be in for too rough of a ride until then, right? Well, sorry to say, but… not so much.
Some may have heard of pregnant women having aching backs. And sure, it’s common for those with child to want to spend some time off of their sore feet, and to request a nightly foot rub. But have you heard of a little thing called “lightning crotch”? No, it’s not Paris Hilton’s latest insult for a fellow celebrity. It is, however, the fun little phrase some have given to the stabbing pain sometimes felt during pregnancy in the vagina.
How about pregnancy tumors? Have you heard of those? I could let you guess where they’re quite commonly experienced, but I’ll just tell you: on the gums! They’re not cancer — different type of tumors, here. But they do often swell and bleed. The mouth is one more place a pregnant woman may be sore.
Also add headaches, quite a variety of different stomach and abdominal pains, and, oh, even some eye problems.
Head to toe, there is probably a common — and painful — pregnancy complaint for most parts you can name.
Sure, you can develop strategies for coping with these unpleasant sensations. There’s staying off your aching feet as much as possible, massage and warm baths for sore muscles, and the number-one go-to of talking immediately with your doctor about whatever currently happens to be ailing you. But amid all that fun, I bet you’d also like to know what in the heck is going on.
Here, perhaps as a pleasant little diversion from your various pregnancy pains, are fifteen of the weirder ones explained.
A stabbing pain in the vagina might cause you to worry if you weren’t expecting it; that’s for sure. This sharp pain in the lady bits is actually quite common, though. There’s even an (unofficial) term for it out there: lightning crotch! Yikes.
Apparently, a lot of the nerves of the uterus are right nearby to the cervix. So if something (a baby, in any number of possible positions) is pressing on the cervix, those nerves will pick up on it. Youch! But, on the other hand, probably fairly quick, then it’s over.
Another possible cause for pain down there is varicose veins, those little delights of pregnancy that might pop up any number of places on a woman’s body.
As the baby grows and the body adjusts to prepare to open up for birth, there will be all sorts of new sensations, some of which may come as quite a surprise.
Everything is shifting. As the uterus grows along with the baby inside of it, a woman’s posture and center of gravity can make quite a big shift. What do you get when you combine one quickly growing baby with one mom frame that’s trying its best to compensate? Quite possibly an achin’ back.
Often experienced as dull, persistent pain in the lower area of the back, backaches during pregnancy are really very common. You are not powerless, however, against this uncomfortable annoyance.
I’ve read that wearing shoes with a very low heel will be better than higher heels or flat shoes with little support. My go-to, no doubt, was a really comfortable pair of high-end running shoes with great arch support. I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear these sneakers with everything, though, so my next favorite was always a pair of somewhat cushy slip-ons with a more feminine toe to go with all those flow-y dresses and skirts that were so comfortable in the later months of pregnancy.
The pregnant body tends to retain much more fluid. Blood volume can increase by something like 50 percent! This can cause swelling, especially in the lower extremities. Feet can appear and actually be quite a bit larger than they were before a woman got pregnant.
The other consideration here is that a woman is gaining weight at a fairly rapid pace. With a pound or so packed on each week during the second and third trimesters, there is certainly a lot more demand put on those two things down there that support all of growing you: your feet!
What can you do? Try to spend some time — at least for a while at the end of each day — off of them. Elevating the feet will help to relieve swelling, most likely, and give them a rest from all that pressure.
Soaks in warm baths or just foot baths, a good rubdown (perhaps from your partner or maybe from a licensed massage therapist), and very, very comfortable shoes are of course all things to be considered.
I am really quite surprised by how often I hear, these days, in new-mommy circles about women experiencing extreme, sometimes almost debilitating wrist pain both during and after pregnancy. It certainly doesn’t make it any easier for them to be constantly lifting, changing, and positioning a quickly growing infant!
It’s that extra fluid retention that’s to blame here, once again. Increased pressure is put on the carpal tunnel. It runs from the wrist to the palm of the hand. You’ve probably seen workers who perform many repetitive motions using the hands and wrists wearing braces to help treat this condition. They often Velcro on and have one hole where the thumb sticks out and a larger opening where the rest of the fingers exit the brace.
If some motion you’re carrying out is aggravating the pain, such as typing for may hours on a keyboard, it of course may help to alleviate the pain by doing less of this. Of course that won’t always be possible.
Consult with your doctor for treatment and tips, and know that such pain is quite normal. About 35 percent of pregnant women experience such wrist pain or weakness, and it’s usually during the third trimester.
Hormonal changes, a lack of sleep, increased swelling in the sinuses and throughout the body, stress, blood sugar changes… If you have experienced headaches regularly before at any time in your life, you may recognize one or many of these as triggers for this so-annoying condition that affects many a pregnant lass.
The thing is, many pain relievers are considered unsafe for use while pregnant. Always, always, always talk to your doctor, not only before you take anything to try to treat a headache or other pain but also if you are experiencing regular headaches. Dangerous conditions such as preeclampsia may be involved that require special treatment and care.
Sometimes, though, they’re just regular old, awfully annoying headaches. A dull, persistent pain that just doesn’t want to go away. Blech. I found that eating a bit of super-dark chocolate did the trick for me. I had pretty frequent, though not very bad, headaches during my first pregnancy. The second time around, though, I didn’t have many at all. So there’s that! What bothers you one time might not bother you the next.
What signals a real or “true” contraction? The painful cramping sensations in the abdomen will get longer, stronger, and closer together. They will often also be felt radiating from back to front or front to back if they are the real deal. Of course do not hesitate to consult with a doctor if you are experiencing abdominal cramping — or any other disconcerting pain — while pregnant.
Quite commonly, though, women experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. They’re sometimes referred to as “warm-up” contractions, sort of like your uterus is hitting the gym to prepare for the big game. Another popular moniker for these is “practice” contractions.
I don’t think I had many with my first, but with my second, I felt them often in the night while in bed during the third trimester. (I think, that is… That was like five months ago, now, and it’s honestly kind of hard to remember. See, I’ve spent those last five months not exactly getting eight hours of sleep at night with a baby and toddler in my house, and things can tend to be a little foggy.)
So we’ve talked about Braxton-Hicks (or “practice”) contractions, and that’s one possible source of — quite distinct — abdominal pain. Then there are also multiple possible causes for various types of pain involving the stomach.
One that really freaked me out before I realized what was going on is something that would happen to me after I took my prenatal vitamins. I was very good about taking one of these each day, at the same time. Sometimes, though, even if I had food with them, early on in pregnancy, I would feel an intense pain high up in my stomach. Sometimes I’d get nauseous and throw up, and sometimes I wouldn’t. I eventually realized that it was the iron in the vitamins doing a number on my tummy. Still didn’t kick ’em, though! I just switched for a short time to a supplement not containing any iron.
A second cause of weird stomach pain in pregnancy? Round ligament pain, a very common one, indeed. It is what it sounds like. The ligaments in that area of the body need to really stretch out to accommodate all that crazy growth inside as the fetus packs on the pounds and the uterus grows and grows and grows.
A third source of stomach pain? Good old-fashioned gas, which many preggos experience due to changes in the speed of digestion.
I had never experienced heartburn before in my life, not even during my first pregnancy. But with number two, toward the very end, boy did I ever. It’s hard to understand how gross and yucky and awful this is to experience until it’s happened to you. The main reason I didn’t quite care for it is that it would happen just as I was drifting off to sleep at night. It would sort of feel like throwing up a little minus the gagging, and a burning, acidic substance would rise up in my throat. Again, yuck.
Tums were the over-the-counter remedy okayed by the doctor that did the trick to get heartburn to stop so I could get some rest. I’m told avoiding certain foods that a woman has noticed seem to trigger it can of course also help. Acidic or spicy foods, eating large meals rather than small meals spaced out throughout the day, and drinking a lot of liquid during meals may all aggravate it.
But what causes it? The placenta, during pregnancy, produces a hormone called progesterone. This relaxes the muscles of the uterus. What else does it relax? The valve in the body that’s located between the stomach and the esophagus. Gastric acid can therefore come right up to play.
Fairly early on in my first pregnancy, I stopped wearing contacts altogether. I already tended to wear glasses instead of lenses when I knew I would be sitting and staring at a computer or something for a long time, but I switched to wearing glasses most of the rest of the time, as well. Why? My eyes suddenly felt really dry.
This common pregnancy complaint is, once again, related to hormonal changes the body undergoes. It is suspected to be related to, specifically, the drop in “male” hormones, also known as androgens, that occurs.
Some pregnant women experience the eyes feeling drier and drier as the day goes on, and some also even experience a somewhat gritty sensation. The name given to this condition is “dry eye syndrome.”
When my eyes are feeling dry, they also tend to get achy more easily, especially if they’re tired, such as toward the end of a long day.
So there you have it. The windows to the soul are yet one more part of the body affected by pregnancy! Temporary vision changes are also common.
Even from very early on in pregnancy but perhaps especially noticeable toward the end as the body gets ready for giving birth, the joints can start to feel less rigid and more like, well, Jello.
When joints feel loosey-goosey, they may also be more prone to injury and soreness.
The cause of all this is something called “relaxin.” Note that this is not as in “relaxin’ on the beach.” It does cause some things to relax, though, in a sense. This hormone is secreted by the placenta during pregnancy, and it plays an important role, indeed, in enabling the female body to birth a baby. It causes the cervix to dilate. It also plays a role in preparing the uterus for labor.
The thing is, it can cause other parts of the body to loosen up as well. Particularly as labor approaches, the knees, hips and other joints may feel just sort of looser than usual. I really noticed this sensation in my hips during the last maybe three weeks of my second pregnancy, and it really helped me to sense that my body truly was preparing for labor to occur soon.
Women get little subtle — or sometimes not so subtle — hints form their bodies when they have become pregnant. These small changes may make them pause and say, hmmm, that’s not usually quite like that.
Perhaps it’s skin that’s a bit oilier than usual or some unusual acne. Maybe it’s that old standby nausea. Likely, if they pause to think about it, or sometimes even if they don’t, women will notice that their breasts feel sore. This may be accompanied by a fullness and heaviness.
It’s just the way it is. Makes sense, though, right? The breasts, like the rest of the body, are being affected by the hormones of pregnancy and preparing to — about 38 weeks down the road — do an important job, indeed: breastfeed!
What’s to be done about it? Well, aside from telling or showing your partner to please steer clear of the region when things get intimate if it’s just not comfortable any more (don’t worry; doesn’t last forever), investing in some really comfy, really supportive bras is probably a great step to take.
What’s swollen and sensitive and sometimes even bloody? A pregnant lady’s gum!
Well, some pregnant ladies’ gums, that is. Yep, all those hormones flowing through the body as it grows the baby inside and prepares for birth can even affect the mouth. My hygienist even told me about this delightful little thing some women experience called “pregnancy tumors.” They’re swollen and can look raw and bleed easily. These overgrowths of tissue may be related to excess plaque in the mouth. They tend to pop up during the second trimester.
Well, I’m kind of a stickler for oral hygiene, and I never experienced anything quite like that. During my first pregnancy, I think my gums did bleed a bit more easily. During my second pregnancy, not so much. Everything looked and felt pretty normal, I think.
For some, though, the hormones of breastfeeding can also cause dental-hygiene-related changes. The best you can do is see your dentist regularly, and keep up a healthy flossing and brushing routine.
Long before the pain of contractions that will aid a woman in actually birthing a baby, long before the Braxton-Hicks (or sort of “practice”) contractions she may experience during pregnancy as the body prepares for labor, and quite a while, in all likelihood, before she even realizes that she is pregnant, she may have some cramping of a different sort.
This cramping pain may actually occur as the embryo is embedding within the uterus. It’s hard to imagine a woman accurately attributing the cause of this sensation at the time. Apparently it can very closely replicate the cramping some women experience before their period starts.
But if you’ve been “trying” and experience a feeling such as this, it could be the sign that your pregnancy has begun! Now just 10 months of growing (and hopefully not too many annoying aches and pains…) to go until you meet your new addition!
Oh, I got this one bad during my second pregnancy. I was in a wedding party (fun!). I got to have my hair and makeup done and wear a pretty dress as I celebrated the union of two good friends in a lovely outdoor ceremony. I also got to carry my toddler, who was the flower girl, down the aisle for half a dozen rehearsal walk-throughs and of course also the real ceremony. I also got to hold her for the entirety of the ceremony. Did I mention that I was almost eight months pregnant for all of this?
The night after the rehearsal and the following night after the wedding itself, I lay tossing and turning in bed as my calves underwent terrible, intense cramping. I’d just be drifting off and then there was that cringe-inducing sensation again.
These leg cramps, also known as charley horses, are common during pregnancy. Not enough calcium in the diet, too much phosphorous, and potassium deficiency may all contribute. But, as you can see from my lovely little story above, they can be brought on by the muscle just being really, really tired.
Well, well, aren’t you being accommodating. Your uterus, that is, and to a quickly growing fetus, that is.
Accommodation pain is cramping or a hurting sensation experienced as the uterus stretches to make room for Junior. This pain is usually dull and throbbing, and it probably will not go away when the expectant mom changes positions. It can be different than the earlier discussed (and rather common) round ligament pain in this way.
With all the different types of abdominal pain that can possibly be experienced during pregnancy, it may be hard to tell what’s what. It sure is normal to experience a variety of aches and pains throughout the body as it hosts another little one within and prepares to birth it out into the world.
Checking with a doctor whenever in doubt is the way to go, for sure.
So godspeed, preggos, and here’s hoping that some time off your feet while reading this has helped some of those weird pains to go away.
Sources: Self.com, HuffingtonPost.co.UK, Parents.com, WebMD.com, BabyCenter.com, Google.com, BabyCentre.co.UK, MouthHealthy.org