Pregnancy is one intense experience. It's a wild ride: a jarring tangle of spills and thrills. This is no surprise to anyone who has ever had the joy of carrying another human life inside of her. A pregnant woman's body is burdened with the responsibility of growing a human. That's no small feat. Sometimes, the symptoms that result are intense and terrifying. Being pregnant is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing and scary-as-hell experience. The process by which a baby is formed, and arrives into the world, is miraculous to say the least.
So how is a mom-to-be supposed to know when to worry, and when to brush a strange symptom off as just part of the process? There are many symptoms that seem concerning, but are actually completely normal. It's helpful for an expecting mom to know what freaky things are to be expected, and which ones are a cause for concern.
Keeping open communication with a chosen health care professional or midwife is crucial during pregnancy. When in doubt, it's always best to err on the side of caution, and seek medical attention if something feels off. Tragedies are often avoided when symptoms of serious complications are spotted early enough to be dealt with before its too late.
So, when should a woman seek help, and when should she classify the often-freaky things that are happening to her body as just part of the whole pregnancy gig? The list below contains 15 pregnancy symptoms that may seem totally scary, but are usually completely harmless to Mom and Baby.
Pregnancy causes women to swell and expand in ways they may have never expected. Sometimes, a lump may appear out of the blue that causes a woman concern. If a strange and unexplained lump is discovered, anywhere on the body, it's natural to freak out just a little. It may be difficult not to jump to the conclusion that the growth is cancerous.
More often than not, lumps are benign fatty tumors known as lipomas, sebaceous cysts or some other non-cancerous growth. Women nearing the end of their pregnancies may also find lumps in their breasts that are actually plugged milk ducts.
Bring any strange lumps or bumps to the attention of a medical professional the next time a visit is scheduled, but don't panic unnecessarily until things have been checked out by someone who knows what is and isn't concerning. Stress isn't good for an expecting mom or her impending arrival.
14 Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations may feel like a butterfly is loose inside of the chest. The heart may feel like it's beating too hard, too fast or skipping beats. Palpitations may be felt in the chest, the throat or the neck. Most of the time, palpitations of the heart are nothing to worry about.
They can be brought on by stress, anxiety too much caffeine and even pregnancy itself. Blood volume increases in the body when a woman becomes pregnant. This can cause the heart to beat up to 25 percent faster, which can sometimes result in heart palpitations.
If palpitations are accompanied by dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting or intense chest pain, seek medical attention. Otherwise, turn on Netflix and take it easy. Maybe find a kind soul to administer a foot-rub. The heart should go back to a normal cadence soon enough. Hang in there, ladies. Pregnancy can be rough.
13 Chest Pain
Chest pain is one of the main signs of a heart attack, but may also be caused by side-effects of pregnancy. Heartburn and anxiety have both been known to cause pain in the chest; these pains may sometimes be intense enough to lead a pregnant woman to wonder if she is in fact experiencing a heart attack.
The best way to know whether to call 9-1-1, or just take some deep breaths and lie down, is to assess all of the symptoms present before assuming the worst is happening. One heart attack symptom is "referred pain," or pain in areas of the body other than the chest. This pain is often present in the left arm, left shoulder or jaw. If pain in one of these areas is present in conjunction with chest pain, it may be time to head to the hospital.
Otherwise, even intense pain in the chest could be the result of too many chili cheese fries or the stress that results from growing a baby. If the pain does not subside after taking it easy, or gets worse over time, it may be time to seek medical assistance.
12 Weight Loss
Anyone out there who has ever had a bout with morning sickness--nausea and vomiting caused by the bun in the oven--will attest to the fact that keeping food down can be a challenge. The result? Women battling this dreaded pregnancy side-effect may actually lose weight as their baby grows inside of them.
Most medical professionals recommend that a woman gains between 20 and 30 pounds in the course of her pregnancy, depending on her BMI before getting pregnant. If a woman hasn't gained any weight by the end of the first trimester, anti-nausea medication may be prescribed. Sometimes, it's necessary for a woman to get an IV in order to replace the fluids and nutrients lost due to nausea and vomiting.
A pregnant woman may be struggling to keep even a bite of food down, but doesn't need to worry that her baby is starving as a result. While puking frequently is unpleasant for Mom, Baby is most likely oblivious, and content as can be, in his warm little spot inside the womb. He takes what he needs from his mama, and isn't lacking anything.
11 Muscle Twitches
Suddenly developing an eye twitch, arm twitch or a twitch in another part of the body can be alarming. Some moms-to-be may panic, thinking it's a sign of ALS. While muscle twitching is a symptom of this condition, the twitching it causes is constant, and doesn't come and go. A twitch that starts and stops is most likely a sign of stress or anxiety. Muscles getting jiggy with it all on their own could also be a sign of dehydration or overexertion.
The best medicine for an annoying twitch is to take it easy, drink some water and take a few deep breaths. If a twitch is constant and doesn't go away after a few days, it might be worth bringing up at your next visit to the doctor, but is still most likely not a sign of something horrific.
Almost everyone will experience twitching muscles at one point in their life or another. Pregnancy magnifies every sensation, including that of anxiety and stress. Remember, take it easy, don't worry too much and everything should quiet down in no time.
10 Phantom Smells
Pregnancy is notorious for many unsavory side effects, one of which is a seemingly superhuman sense of smell. This power of scent detection may have a woman gagging 'round the clock, or obsessively cleaning out the refrigerator, frantically searching for what smells like something crawled up and died in there.
Smelling things that aren't really there is also a possible sign of a stroke, but the chances of this being the cause for smelling strange things while pregnant are few and far between. The room may smell like stinky feet to the pregnant gal, because a teenaged boy took his shoes off somewhere in the house, and smell like freshly baked cookies or newly cut flowers to everyone else.
If a strange smell no one else seems able to detect is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, like a droopy face or blurred vision, a stroke may be the cause. It's much more likely a woman is just smelling for two, for better or worse. The best cure for this ailment is to invest in a noseplug, or avoid stinky situations until baby arrives.
Pregnancy brain may not be a diagnosable condition, but many moms-to-be will attest to the fact that it's a real thing many struggle with while expecting. Pregnant women who can't find their car keys, or for the life of them can't remember what they went to the grocery store to purchase, are in the majority.
There is no need to worry about early-onset Alzheimer's disease or a brain tumor. It's more likely that an expecting woman's forgetfulness is tied to the fact that she's got a lot on her mind right now. Along with this, pregnancy can make sleep difficult to achieve, adding to the foggy mind of a pregnant gal.
Make lists, check them twice and don't sweat the rate at which things are being forgotten. Feeling confused or can't remember your own name? It may be time to worry. Otherwise, don't fret. Forgetting everything is just part of the pregnancy experience.
Splitting headaches are one of the unpleasant side-effects that often accompany pregnancy. While every once in awhile, a pounding head may be a cause for concern, as it may be a sign of serious conditions such as preeclampsia or a brain tumor, the majority of pains in the head are simply annoying.
Less than 1 percent of all headaches are caused by brain tumors, and preeclampsia effects less than 200,000 pregnant women every year. It's more likely a painful noggin is the result of dehydration, lack of sleep, stress or poor diet. Headaches are unpleasant and exhausting, but not often a cause for major concern.
Unfortunately, few headache medications are safe to take while pregnant. Most health care professionals recommend resting, drinking water and reducing stress to combat a hurting head. If a headache doesn't go away, keeps getting worse or is associated with other concerning symptoms like swelling, nausea or vomiting, contact a medical professional.
7 Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton-Hicks contractions are "practice" contractions that occur to help get a pregnant woman's body ready for the real thing. They may be alarming, and even cause an expectant mother to be sure she's ready to deliver, only to be disappointed when told these contractions may last for days or even weeks before the real thing occurs.
According to PopSugar.com, "That tightening that you feel from time to time in your uterus may feel like real labor, but it is actually a Braxton-Hicks contraction. These contractions happen when your brain sends messages to your body to prepare for labor. In response, your body contracts the muscles in your uterus to help get ready for your baby's eventual arrival."
While it may be alarming to experience contractions, unless they are getting stronger and closer together, it's likely Baby isn't ready to arrive quite yet, and the body just warming up for an infant's eventual journey through the birth canal.
6 Light Spotting
No pregnant woman likes seeing blood in the toilet, or in her underwear. It's a tell-tale sign that's something is amiss, and may cause a woman to fear a miscarriage or other complication is imminent. Despite what women may think, light spotting is often quite normal and not a cause for major concern. 1 out of every 4 women will experience spotting or light bleeding during the first trimester.
Implantation bleeding is a very common occurrence a week or two after conception that many women mistake for a period. No one is sure why it happens, but it's assumed by many medical professionals that it is caused by the embryo settling into the uterine wall. Slight bleeding is also common after sex or pelvic exams.
If bleeding becomes heavy, classified as soaking through a pad in an hour less, head to the hospital. Otherwise, take it easy and keep an eye out for any changes. Any time bleeding occurs during pregnancy, it's good to let the doctor or midwife know. Most of the time, however, pelvic rest (no sex or exercise) is recommended until the bleeding stops. While unsettling, the sight of blood is more-often-than-not nothing to be concerned about.
Cramps are defined as the involuntary tightening of a muscle, and are often painful. They are common parts of many pregnancies, and, while no fun at all, are not usually anything more than a cause for the utterance of a few choice words.
The legs are one of the most common parts of a pregnant woman's body to cramp up. How does a mom-to-be combat these excruciating little buggers? Dehydration is often the cause of muscle cramps, as is low potassium. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and noshing on bananas and raisins may help combat this painful occurrence threatening to cramp a pregnant lady's style.
Slight cramps in the stomach or back are also common. The uterus is growing and stretching to make room for Baby, and cramping may be the result. They are usually nothing to be concerned about. However, if cramps in these areas of the body become frequent, or are increasing in intensity, contact a health care professional to rule out the possibility that Baby is on the way.
4 Back Pain
Back discomfort can be a real pain, especially during the third trimester. As Baby gets bigger and bigger, ligaments stretch out, and Baby's movements may put pressure on sensitive areas in the spine and lower back.
An expecting mom, Lisa B., shared her struggle with back pain during pregnancy, and what she has done to find relief, with PopSugar.com. She says, "I am so sore through my back and pelvis it hurts to lay in bed, it hurts to sit for too long, it hurts to lay in bed for too long and it hurts to walk around too much." What's an ailing mom to do? Lisa continues, "One thing that I really like to do is to get down on my hands and knees and just let my belly hang and take all that pressure off my back."
Back pain may be extremely uncomfortable, but isn't a major cause for concern unless the pain is in the form of consistent and intense contractions: a sign of a baby's imminent arrival.
3 Dizzy Spells
Feeling dizzy or shaky is a common side effect when a baby is nestled inside a woman's womb. While this symptom may be scary and inconvenient, there are usually things a mother-to-be can do to combat dizzy spells. Often, the body gets a bit unsteady when it's missing valuable nutrients. A mom with a case of vertigo may be deficient in important vitamins and minerals such as iodine, vitamin B12, or iron.
Making sure to take a prenatal vitamin daily, loading up on leafy greens and fortifying fruits, and drinking plenty of water, are all ways to make dizziness go away. It may also be a good idea to get tested to see if an iron deficiency, a common problem during pregnancy, is to blame for feeling a bit unsteady.
If efforts to end this affliction aren't helping, it may be time to turn to a doctor or midwife for advice on what to do. If dizziness is interfering with daily life, the problem may be greater than lacking certain nutrients.
Blood pressure decreases and blood vessels dilate during pregnancy, often resulting in dizziness and possible fainting. In addition, the ever-growing baby in Mom's uterus puts pressure on a major vein, known as the vena cava, that is responsible for carrying blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. When a pregnant woman lies on her back any time after the first trimester, pressure is put on this vein, increasing the likelihood of dizziness or fainting upon standing.
Fainting can be dangerous, as losing consciousness and falling can result in head or other bodily injuries. If feeling faint, rest with the head between the legs, eat a snack or drink some water before continuing activity.
While occasionally blacking out may be part of pregnancy, fainting that is occurring often, and interfering with the ability to participate in daily activities, isn't normal, even during pregnancy, and may put both Mom and Baby at risk. If an expecting mom is losing consciousness frequently, it's time to contact a medical professional for help.
1 Swollen Lymph Nodes
What doesn't swell during pregnancy? Swollen lymph nodes are actually very common, and lymph nodes may swell any time the body is fighting an infection. Something as small as an insect bite or the common cold may cause lymph nodes to increase in size. In rare cases, swollen lymph nodes are a sign of lymphoma, a type of cancer, but the odds of this being the reason for bigger-than-normal lymph nodes are extremely slim.
If concerned, bring it up at your next visit with a health care professional. In the meantime, try not to stress. Remember that relaxing and reducing worries is the best thing an expecting mom can do for herself and her growing baby.
Pregnancy carries with it a wide variety of side effects and symptoms, many of which are concerning for mothers who just want their babies to be safe and sound inside of their bellies until delivery. The good news is, most of the strange goings-on that accompany a rapidly developing baby are completely normal, even if they are totally annoying.