Pregnancy is worrying business, from getting worked up about not having enough space for a nursery, all the way to stressing about the diaper stockpile and worrying about labor.
In the middle of wondering if you will make a good mom and what sort of life you will be able to give your baby, weird stuff begins to happen to your body as well. You are then presented with your very first taste of the overwhelming worry that will dominate your life for the next 18 years. "Is this normal? Should I call the doctor about this?"
You don’t have an ultrasound to check the health of every cell, neither do you have a crystal ball to tell you if a symptom indicates something major. Now begins the process of endlessly worrying for two.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things that happen during pregnancy that are essentially false alarms. They look terrifying but mean nothing. Pregnancy hormones and having a growing body inside you cause weird side effects that often doesn’t hurt anything and subside once the baby is born. The upside of these type of symptoms is that, after you finish reading this list, you will have a host of things that you can ignore while fretting about more pressing issues, such as whether you should start a college fund for the baby.
15 Was That A Cramp?
When I was first pregnant, I cramped up. I freaked out and hustled to the pharmacist at the store where I was working to ask if I was miscarrying. I had made the mistake of reading What To Expect When You Are Expecting, and they had a whole section on cramping. I reread it three times every morning and made myself a nervous wreck.
The source of those cramps is 12 years old now and just trotted off to school. According to Fit Pregnancy,
random menstrual-cycle like cramps are normal for many women in the first trimester. The increased flow of fluids to the uterus and other pelvic organs causes them to feel achy.
So cramps in the first trimester are really a sign that all is going along as it should and that you will soon be able to hold your own little bundle of joy in your arms. You should start worrying if the cramps seem to consistently occur on one side or if you bleed when it happens. In those cases, see your obstetrician or midwife to rule out ectopic pregnancy or ovarian cysts. Serious cramping later in the pregnancy could also indicate early labor. If the cramping doesn’t meet any of those criteria, pop some ibuprofen and relax.
14 Skin Gone Berserk
The last couple of weeks of my pregnancy with Baby Yongewa my stomach was so itchy I literally wanted to scrape my skin off. I’m not alone. According to BabyCenter UK, a lot of women find that their skin becomes more sensitive and itchy. Some of this comes from the fact that your skin is being stretched out. This can lead you to react badly to skincare products that had been fine for you to use before. This sensitivity isn’t a big deal and will fade once your skin returns to normal.
It also is common to develop an itchy red rash around the creases in your skin, such on your elbow. This rash will look like eczema and may appear in the 1st trimester. It is called atopic eruption of pregnancy (AEP,) and is more common in women who had eczema, asthma, or allergies. It is a harmless condition. It will drive you crazy with the itching though. Your doctor might give you a steroid cream or an antihistamine if it gets too bad. The only time you should worry about the itching is if it is severe and all over your body, as that could be obstetric cholestasis, which is more serious.
13 Flaming Chest And Throat
A lot of pregnant women report having heartburn. In fact, WebMD reports that 50% of pregnant women get heartburn every day. Despite what you might have heard, this has nothing to do with your baby’s hair. The hair is inside your womb and can’t reach your throat or chest. The heartburn is due to the baby, though.
Heartburn happens when the valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter, between your stomach and your throat opens too often or doesn’t close completely after it allows food into your stomach. Then stomach acid percolates back up your esophagus and burns like a lit match in your chest and throat, making you burp and leaving a sour taste.
Your expanding uterus is pushing your stomach up, which puts pressure on the valve and prevents it from closing completely. This is why it’s such a common complaint in the third trimester.
If you were already part of the 10% of Americans chronically suffering from heartburn, then you know if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease and what to do about it. For most pregnant sufferers, it will go away once they give birth. The uterus will shrink down and take the pressure off your stomach. Just don’t expect to give birth to Rapunzel.
12 Practice Pains
Contractions feel different from cramps. They are sharper and tend to ebb and flow, a bit like tidal pools. They are also centered on the scene of all the action: your uterus. According to Fit Pregnancy, many women start getting these contractions at random intervals around week 24 in their pregnancy. These are the infamous Braxton-Hicks contractions that are Mother Nature’s way of messing with a pregnant woman’s head. If they are irregular and aren’t noticeable during exercise, they don’t mean anything and is possibly your uterus practicing for the big event. There aren’t any other reasons given for these contractions, although dehydration or a full bladder may trigger them.
Fun fact: These types of contractions are named after an English doctor, John Braxton Hicks, who identified them in 1872. This was one of 133 papers he eventually wrote on pregnancy and midwifery, much of it coming from his experiences as head obstetrics physician at Guy’s Hospital and a love of research.
If these practice contractions bother you, you can try rhythmic breathing, relieving your bladder or changing your position. Lying down on your left side might also relieve them. If they are coming at regular 10-minute intervals, however, then they are the real deal and you should alert the midwife or obstetrician.
11 Head In A Vice
The good news is that if you are chronic migraine sufferer, pregnancy may reduce your suffering. Granted, some women will only get a migraine while pregnant, but at least some people are getting good news. The bad news is that everyone else will get more headaches. According to BabyCenter, tension headaches are a normal part of pregnancy, generally during the first 3 months. No one is really sure why these headaches are so common. They generally blame hormones, which seems safe under the circumstances.
You also have a lot more blood sloshing around your veins, which might put pressure on the nerves.
If you are a big coffee drinker who quits caffeine for the duration of your pregnancy, the caffeine withdrawal might hurt your head for a little bit.
You can take acetaminophen for the headaches, and generally keeping hydrated, rested and fed will help you avoid some of the misery of tension headaches.
A severe headache accompanied by dizziness or crops up in the 2nd and 3rd trimester is a different matter altogether. This type of a headache could indicate preeclampsia. There are other times when headaches are more than painful. Normal pregnancy headaches are manageable and cease after the first trimester. If your headaches are waking you up or feel different to you, call the doctor.
10 Cheeks Aflame
People talk about the ‘pregnancy glow’ and how your hair might grow in extra thick while you have a bun in the oven. They are particularly fast to tell you how blooming you are. They are not wrong: pregnancy hormones can cause your skin to retain moisture and extra hair to sprout.
What these folk fail to talk about is the dark side of pregnancy skin: spider veins, sometimes called naevi, can show up on your cheeks. According to BabyCenter UK, these are tiny blood vessels that break. You have extra blood circulating through you, and this puts pressure on your capillaries that can cause them to burst. In addition to the extra pressure, estrogen can make your vessel more prone to popping. If you were already fighting spider veins, pregnancy will make it worse.
You can do a little bit to prevent them. Avoid getting your face extremely hot or cold as wild temperatures can make them worse. Otherwise, you might have to wait them out. The veins on your face will fade a few months after you give birth when your hormones quit fluctuating and things settle down. Of course, if you always had this problem, the veins will go back to their old prominence. These red veins are annoying, but shouldn’t cause any alarm.
9 Puffing Up Like A Puffer Fish
Pregnancy causes swelling, and not just in the abdomen. Your feet and limbs can swell and you’re likely to get all puffy and bloated-looking. Why? According to a quote that Fit Pregnancy got from OB-GYN Richard Frieder, “This puffiness has little to do with how much or how little water or salt you ingest.” Basically, you get to blame it on everyone’s favorite scapegoat, hormones. The change in your normal hormonal balance causes your tissues to hold on to excess fluid that you would normally pee away. It can look alarming and make your shoes feel tight, but it isn’t normally a sign of a problem.
You can prevent it by exercising daily and avoiding standing for long stretches. Otherwise, invest in loose clothing.
There is an exception to the benignity of this generally annoying and inconvenient symptom. If your swelling is sudden (especially in the feet, legs or hands) and you get a headache at the same time, you want to call the doctor. This could be the first signs of preeclampsia if the swelling is all over your body and after week 28. If the sudden swelling is in the ankles or legs, it might be a blood clot. Your obstetrician will want to get to work on either of those conditions immediately.
8 Dripping Down There
The very first sign of pregnancy is the cessation of menstruation. Naturally, any return of bleeding from that area causes alarm in pregnant women, and they are not completely wrong to worry. It can be a sign of a miscarriage, especially if it is accompanied by cramps. But it often isn’t a sign of anything to worry about, and it might be just a side effect of getting pregnant. According to Fit Pregnancy, roughly 25% of all women bleed a bit during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy and over half of those women have nothing to worry about. As often as not, it is just the egg getting comfortable in the lining of your uterus. It’s got a long stay ahead of it, after all. Sometimes, it is the tissues down there being particularly tender and tearing a bit while you are getting frisky with the significant other. Polyps, which are pretty common at any time, might cause bleeding, too. When you first go into labor you might start bleeding a bit because the mucus plug on your cervix has popped off. (Of course, if that happens, you will probably be too absorbed in other things, like giving birth. Still, it could happen.)
If you have spotting, you can tell call your obstetrician. Your doctor can tell you if it something to worry about. In the meantime, you can rest assured that more than half the time, it means nothing.
7 Leaking Liquids
Everyone who is pregnant is looking for the first sign that birth is imminent, so they are really sensitive to anything that could be their water breaking. If they detect wetness down below early in the pregnancy, they might get worried that they are entering labor too early and this could jeopardize their kid’s chances. You’re not going to be one of those people because Fit Pregnancy has revealed that it is often just pee.
Your uterus is pressing on your bladder as it grows and that pushes urine out when you least want it to.
Plus, pelvic muscles are loosening up from pregnancy hormones and the pressure from a growing uterus. The result is the occasional wet spot on your underwear or sheets. Your pelvic floor and muscles will be loose for a little bit after giving birth, too, so you might find yourself leaking for a few weeks after the baby is born. In either situation, it is more embarrassing than dangerous.
If the wetness feels excessive to you, you might want to talk to your doctor. The obstetrician will want to check that you aren’t leaking amniotic fluid, as that could make you go into labor early or leave you open to an infection.
6 Goop On Your Underwear
There is a lot going on in your nether regions when you are pregnant, and it can be worrisome to even think about. Your kid is going to pass head first right by an area normally reserved for eliminating waste, and it is logical to be concerned about the cleanliness of his entrance to the world. This is why a lot of women find it disconcerting when they start discharging mucus. It doesn’t seem right. Don’t worry if you should see this though. According to Fit Pregnancy, all the changes that your cervix is going through in preparation for giving birth, such as softening, can cause a lot of mucus to build up in the region. It sometimes can get excessive, at which point you will see the mucus appear on your underwear.
The only time that this should worry you is if it stinks or it goes hand in hand with burning and itching in your nether regions. These are signs of infections such as bacterial vaginosis, which is when normal bacteria grow out of control. The discharge, in that case, will be grey or whitish. While bacterial vaginosis has been linked to preterm birth and low birth weight in infants, it is easy to deal with. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, and it will clear up without further ado.
5 Soreness To The Previously Fun Bits
It’s a trope in literature and TV that a woman instantly starts throwing up when she gets pregnant. What is weird is that while that happens to some women, what is way more common is that your nipples get sore. (I guess it is more dramatic to throw up, but I wish Hollywood writers would change it up a bit.) According to Women's Health Advice, the darker areas around your nipples are almost guaranteed to grow darker and grow more prominent early in your pregnancy.
This is often accompanied by nipples growing tender to the touch. What is happening is that your milk ducts are growing, and more blood is hustling to the areas of growth. All this expanding and blood can leave breast tissues reeling at the slightest pressure. Long before your stomach starts expanding, you might need a bigger and more supportive bra.
You might even want to consider a specialized maternity or nursing bra just for the comfort.
You will also want these new bras to fully cover you so you don’t risk nipples rubbing against your shirt, which may hurt now. On the plus side, this extra side can give some variety to make out sessions with the baby’s dad.
And if anyone reading this is a scriptwriter, could you work this into your soap opera script somehow?
4 Getting Ready For Feeding
Pregnancy doesn’t just cause nipples to get more sensitive to touch. It can also cause nipples to bleed. I know that sounds worrisome, but it is just another sign of your body hard at work, making ready for baby and breastfeeding. That it incidentally can freak you out is something that we are all going to have to get used to.
According to Women's Health Advice, while your breasts are expanding in preparation for breastfeeding, they are also sprouting new blood vessels. They are like the roots of your favorite rose bush, poking out into new territory, only they are spreading nutrients instead of sucking them up. These extra blood vessels feed blood to your nipples.
In the meantime, some women start leaking the pre-milk called colostrum from their nipples. This is because the milk ducts can get going early and overload. Colostrum is sticky and it can glue nipples to the cloth of your bra when it dries. When you move the cloth, a bit of the skin of the nipple can come off, causing bleeding. Nursing pads are your best bet in this case. It will soak up the colostrum so nothing gets stuck. Otherwise, it is more uncomfortable than worrisome.
3 Production Times Vary
If you are planning on breastfeeding, your milk supply will be a prime concern of yours. It would be nice to have a storehouse full and ready to go right when your kid first cries in hunger. This is why you can feel relieved if you are one of the few women whose milk ducts start leaking colostrum during the 2nd trimester. Hey, you have proof positive that you are one productive mom! Clearly, all the pipes are in good working order and the factory is in overdrive. Of course, that means that you have to use nursing pads before you have someone to nurse, but it is reassuring.
Most women don’t have this reassurance. This may raise concerns about your milk supply, but it has zero predictive power. According to Women's Health Advice,
most women start producing milk 3 days after they give birth, and the amount that comes out has nothing to do with anything that happened during pregnancy.
You can ignore such factors as breast size, too. This is an area of surprise for everyone. You make your milk fresh every day and that amount depends entirely on what is going during the day that it is being produced. Basically, don’t sweat breastfeeding until the baby appears.
2 Those Itchy Red Blotches
Pregnancy does a number on your skin. Many women who suffer from eczema have more flare-ups during their pregnancy and others have fewer flare-ups. Is it the stress? Is it good old hormones? Is it your skin going crazy from the extra blood and stretching? No one is really sure what the cause is, but they can tell you that pregnancy eczema is a thing.
According to Everyday Health, about 80% of women with pregnancy eczema first developed it during the pregnancy. Since herbal remedies and many conventional eczema treatments may be off limits to you, you will have to talk to your doctor about how to treat the condition while you are pregnant.
Especially ask before using antihistamines, cortisone, and calcineurin inhibitors. It may actually be safe, but it is good to ask first. In the meantime, remember to moisturize, go gently with the skin scrubs, keep your showers warm and short, and avoid anything you know causes a flare-up. Dressing in layers and avoiding sweating can help limit the suffering, too. The good news is that you can always try cool compresses for the itchiness and that it will go away once the kid is here.
1 Is The Room Rolling?
Dizziness is always worrisome. There is nothing more disorienting than to feel like the room is swimming and you’re about to fall. Unfortunately, the likelihood that you will get dizzy increases when you are pregnant. Your heart is working overtime to get extra blood around your enlarged circumference and you are dragging an unaccustomed amount of weight around. All of this makes you more prone to dizzy spells. BabyCenter says
exercising too much, getting too hot or standing up suddenly could all trigger fainting spells and light-headedness. The best way to avoid this is to avoid overheating, eat regularly, keep hydrated and take your time when standing up.
Most types of dizziness is occasional and nothing to worry about. Having anemia or a condition called vasovagal syncope can cause dizziness, too. Vasovagal syncope is when straining to cough or excrete causes you to faint. Your doctor can help you with that. You should really only worry about fainting or dizziness spells if they are frequent or come with palpitations, blurred vision, numbness, severe headaches or shortness of breath. If you are early in your pregnancy and have dizziness with stomach pain and a racing pulse, you should call your doctor immediately because it could be a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.