Before you become pregnant, it seems like the only pregnancy symptom you ever hear anything about is nausea.
Girl, you haven’t heard anything yet.
Yes, the nausea can be pretty bad (even Kate Middleton is said to have struggled with the hyperemesis gravidarum, the most severe type of morning sickness, when she was pregnant with Prince George). But all the body changes that come with preparing to give birth to a child can lead to a whole slew of other symptoms that – girlfriend to girlfriend – you really, really ought to know about.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of pregnancy.
Think of it as the seven-month itch
Pregnancy and your skin. Oh, where to start? You’re either struggling with major breakouts or joyous over the best skin you’ve ever had in your life. Then there’s the itching.
One goes by the cute name of PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy). The rash often begins within stretch marks on the belly and can spread from your trunk to your arms, legs and even your face.
“The itching can drive you crazy, but the good news is that it’s not harmful to your or your baby,” said Allen, who prescribes hydrocortisone or Benadryl to help soothe the itch.
Another condition that also causes intense itching is a cause for concern, however.
“Cholestasis of pregnancy is a rare but serious liver disorder that manifests itself as a severe itch on your hand and feet,” said Allen. “It can cause complications, so if you do have any kind of itch, talk it out with your doctor.”
It’s an ear thing
You know when you’re on an airplane and your ears feel full? In pregnancy, that sensation can happen in up to 30 percent of women, even when your feet are firmly planted on the ground.
It’s called Eustachian tube dysfunction, and unlike on an airplane, chewing gum or yawning won’t fix it. Lying down or putting your head down often will – but just try doing that while you’re in a meeting.
The condition is mildly annoying, especially since it muffles your hearing and can be slightly uncomfortable. Your OBGYN may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist to take a closer look, but the condition isn’t harmful and typically will go away once you deliver.
Not for the faint
Ask your mom friends about feeling faint during pregnancy, and don’t be surprised to find out that most of them will say, “Oh yeah, that did happen to me.”
Your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, which means your heart is working harder to pump all that blood around your body – and that’s what can lead to feeling faint and dizzy.
Coupled with that is the sometimes crippling fatigue associated with your body working hard to make a baby – plus carrying all that extra weight around.
“I didn’t understand fatigue until my first trimester with my daughter,” Allen said. “I’d been through medical school, residency and work, and had been sleep-deprived, but the fatigue was unmatched with anything I’d had before. Before pregnancy, you’re used to functioning at a high level, doing work, working out, being able to take care of things at home in the evening, but I literally would get home and crash and feel like I couldn’t possibly move another inch.”
The best treatment? Take advantage of the fact that people will forgive all if you’re pregnant.
“Rest as much as possible, put your feet up to help reduce swelling due to increased blood volume, and make sure to get adequate hydration, at least eight cups of water every day,” said Allen.
Just a little icky
All that extra blood volume can have another side effect: nosebleeds. In most cases, you just need to lean forward and pinch the bridge of your nose until the bleeding stops, then go about your day. But still, talk to your doctor just in case you’re anemic or have a platelet problem, advised Allen.
And speaking of slightly icky body issues, it’s time to turn our attention down there. You probably know that you’re going to be peeing a lot more, thanks to all the extra pressure in your abdomen – but you may also be peeing even when you don’t want to. Hello, urinary incontinence. Sneezing, coughing, even laughing can literally make you pee your pants. Kegel exercises can help, as can wearing a pad in anticipation of any leaks.
Almost daily vaginal discharge is another reason you may want to keep those pads handy. Oh, yes, it happens, and it’s totally normal if the discharge is a thick white or yellow. If there’s blood, if it’s itchy or if there’s so much that it soaks a pad, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away.
And about that nausea again
Nausea is probably the most talked-about symptom, because it’s pretty tough when you can’t eat – but you know you need to eat to help build and grow this little living thing inside you.
Think of it this way: “There’s not a lot of science behind this, but anecdotally, many sources say that what your body craves and what it’s turned off by is your body’s way of telling you what you need to be eating for you and your baby to be healthy,” said Allen.
And as weird as that may be, it’s also a very good thing.
Need an OBGYN?
To find a doctor or schedule an appointment at Augusta University Women’s Health, visit augustahealth.org/women, or call 706-721-4959.