Pregnancy is an exciting and special time for many women. Watching your body change as your child grows and develops can be fascinating but sometimes jarring. Some of the changes you go through are positive, but many of them aren’t very much fun.
The good news is that many things go back to normal sometime after you give birth or stop breastfeeding. But some don’t. So, while your focus is on the joy of having a baby on the way, you can also look forward to these weird (but normal!) things about pregnancy.
1. Feet Swelling
Swollen feet are a hallmark of pregnancy. Fluid retention and swelling while pregnant are unpleasant, but not uncommon. Your feet may go up in size, so make sure you wear shoes that accommodate for that change, even if that means buying a couple of pairs in a bigger size. And don’t be surprised if they don’t go back to their original size.
To help, avoid standing or being on your feet for extended periods or crossing your legs when seated. You can also prop your feet up when sitting and use maternity stockings to help. But remember, while mild swelling is normal and not cause for concern, watch out for extreme or sudden swelling, as it can be a sign of high blood pressure or preeclampsia.
2. Change in Skin Tone
The higher hormone levels in your pregnant body can stimulate melanin cells, which are responsible for skin pigmentation. Your freckles may become more pronounced, your areolas( the area around your nipples) might darken, and you can develop the linea nigra. The linea nigra, which means black line in Latin, is a dark line that runs vertically down the belly. Patchiness and blotching may also appear. Hyperpigmentation is most common among women who have darker skin tones and usually goes away or fades after the baby is born.
3. Bloody Noses
During pregnancy, your circulatory system has to expand to accommodate a developing baby. Your body creates more blood and increases circulation. This can cause the tiny blood vessels in your nose and gums to become prone to bursting more easily than before. Be gentle with blowing or wiping your nose while pregnant.
4. Bleeding Gums
Some women also experience bleeding gums, caused by both the increased blood flow and something called pregnancy gingivitis. Hormones (namely progesterone) make gums more sensitive to plaque which irritates the gums and makes them swell and bleed. Be sure to follow a good oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing, flossing, and maybe an alcohol-free mouthwash. You should also see the dentist, but make sure they know that you are pregnant.
5. Heightened Sense of Smell
Pregnant women can often smell things that non-pregnant people can’t. Or smells are way stronger to a pregnant woman than they are to anyone else. This is caused by estrogen. It might seem like a superpower, but olfactory sensitivity is often a burden because it can affect your gag reflex and make morning sickness worse. Even things that used to smell good can turn you off.
6. Pregnancy Brain
Many pregnant women complain of mental fog that includes forgetfulness and difficulty focusing. Commonly referred to as “pregnancy brain,” these cognitive changes could be caused by elevated levels of hormones, sleep loss, or stress. Some believe it’s a myth, but research has concluded that pregnant women do, in fact, experience brain changes that can affect certain cognitive abilities.
The increase in blood flow and metabolism during pregnancy can make you hot. The pregnancy “glow” of dewy skin and rosy complexion are actually signs of heat. And don’t be surprised if you surpass the pretty glow and get really sweaty sometimes.
8. Leaking While Sneezing or Laughing
Many people have heard of this pregnancy side effect, but it can still be disconcerting. Because your baby is developing in the uterus above the bladder, as he or she grows (and the uterus expands), more pressure is put on the bladder. Add to that the fact that pregnant women should pay close attention to hydration and you get a recipe for leaks. If this is a problem for you, panty liners might be a good option. And always make sure you go when you need to and don’t hold it.
9. Stuffy Nose
One weird thing about pregnancy is that you may often feel stuffed up. You aren’t sick, your nose isn’t running, and blowing your nose yields no results. During pregnancy, the increase in blood flow and hormones can make your mucous membranes swell and expand, causing that stuffy and clogged feeling.
Just as with the stuffy nose, swollen mucous membranes can force you to breathe through your mouth while asleep. This leads to snoring. You can try using a humidifier and a neti pot at bedtime as well as sleeping on your side.
11. Your Nipples Change
During pregnancy, a woman’s nipples change. The areolas may increase dramatically in size and grow darker in color. The increase in hormones is the cause of hyperpigmentation here, just as it is to blame for other skin tone changes mentioned earlier. You might also notice bumps developing around the nipple, which are glands to help keep your nipples from drying out. When you are done breastfeeding your baby, the areolas will shrink and lighten in color. However, they may stay darker than they were before.
12. Hair Changes
Your hair may become thicker, change texture, or seem like it’s growing faster. Pregnancy hormones do have an effect on the strength and appearance of hair and nails. While your pregnant hair falls out more slowly. However, there is a downside. Some women may experience hair growth in other places, like on their face, chest, back, and belly. And many new moms lose hair after they give birth.
Make an Appointment
At Triangle Physicians for Women, we offer comprehensive care for women at all stages of life. That includes providing education and support during pregnancy so you always have someone to ask about the changes your body goes through while carrying a baby. If you have questions or concerns about any obstetric or gynecological issue, call us at (919) 678-6900 or request an appointment online.