Most of us know to expect the morning sickness, potential stretch marks, and fatigue that come with being pregnant. But did you know there are about a million other “fun” symptoms that might plague your pregnancy? Read on for a list of my top fifteen unexpected pregnancy symptoms, so that you might be better prepared that I was!
Caused by your growing uterus placing pressure on your blood vessels and the surge in your hormones, you may experience dizziness starting quite early in your pregnancy. Your blood pressure also plays a role in contributing to dizziness, which is one reason it’s so important for your doctor to monitor your blood pressure at every prenatal visit.
For me, the dizziness peaked in the beginning of my second trimester, and it felt like my eyes were constantly vibrating. At times, I almost felt drunk because the room would continue to spin even if my eyes were closed!
Combat dizziness by staying well hydrated, eating regularly, and getting up slowly from sitting or laying down.
There are lots of reasons you may experience itchy skin during pregnancy. Your skin stretching to accommodate that growing baby is one big one, so be sure to keep your skin moisturized starting in early pregnancy!
Other causes of itching are new allergies that may arise during your pregnancy (more on this below), cholestasis, hormonal changes, and PUPPP rashes. As with any pregnancy symptom, talk with your doctor so they can run the necessary tests to determine if you have a condition that could be dangerous for you and your baby.
I have been fortunate in that I am not really allergic to anything, and never even had seasonal allergies until I moved to the East Coast. Lucky for me, pregnancy gave me the wonderful experience of ALL types of allergic reactions to all types of things!
First to hit me were intensely dry eyes. This can be exacerbated by dehydration, but your changing hormones are primarily responsible. My doctor also explained that with the overall increase in fluids in your body during pregnancy, your eyes are actually slightly more swollen than usual, making them more sensitive to the air. I rarely wore makeup throughout my pregnancy as my eyes were so uncomfortable and stung so badly!
Pregnancy hormones can also cause rhinitis, or congestion and sniffling, much like seasonal allergies do. This can come and go, but it can also make your existing seasonal allergies more intense than normal.
I also developed allergic reactions to many of my regular skincare products, causing my skin to turn red and burn! Even switching to plain, natural baby soap caused my skin to flare up as in the photo above. I finally got lucky and found my holy grail face wash, though, after MUCH trial and error. Silver linings…!
4. Growing Pains
Remember what it felt like during puberty when you could feel your muscles and bones stretching and growing, particularly in your legs? If you’re tall like me, you probably had it really bad, too! Turns out, you can experience similar “growing pains” during pregnancy that hurt just as bad as the first time and keep you up all night!
My doctor explained that, while I probably wasn’t actually growing any taller (which is a bummer – I just need another inch to get to 6’…), the changing levels of potassium in my body were likely the culprit behind these returned growing pains. Though there is probably potassium in your prenatal and you likely get it in your diet (thanks, bananas!), some days it’s just not enough for a growing baby and he will leech it right from your body!
The sciatic nerve is located in your lower back and extends down your legs, and your growing uterus can put immense pressure on this poor nerve especially during the third trimester. You may experience shooting pains that radiate from your lower back down through your butt and legs, especially if baby is in a head-down position and placing their skull right on the nerve!
Pressure on the sciatic nerve can also cause numbness or tingling in your legs and feet, loss of bladder control, and a burning sensation in your lower half. Make sure to talk to your doctor if your sciatica is overly painful and you need relief.
6. Groin Pain
Have you ever pulled a muscle in your body? How about the muscle right over your pubic bone and into your hip flexor? This uncomfortable feeling is another fun symptom you may experience especially in late pregnancy! Because of the hormone relaxin allowing your joints and ligaments to loosen in preparation for labor, you are more likely to over-stretch parts of your body and cause yourself pain – even if you haven’t been doing any extreme exercise.
Starting at about 33 weeks, I felt as though I had pulled a muscle under my belly, across my pubic bone, and into my right thigh. Some days it was barely noticeable, but on other days I could barely walk! My doctor recommended tylenol for the pain, as unfortunately there’s no way to combat the relaxin working its labor-prep magic, but as with any medication, make sure your doctor okays it before taking any!
7. Skin Discoloration
There are many different things that can happen to your skin during pregnancy – spider veins, stretch marks, and the “mask of pregnancy” or melasma. You can give another shout-out to those surging pregnancy hormones for this last type of skin discoloration, and it may appear in unexpected places!
Some women get what’s called a linea nigra, another type of hyperpigmentation caused by pregnancy hormones that creates a vertical dark line down the belly. I didn’t experience this during my pregnancy, but I did notice some slight skin discoloration around my belly button and on my arms. Every body and every pregnancy is different!
8. Joint Pain
Carrying all that extra weight during pregnancy really does a number on your joints! Your body has to adjust to gaining a significant amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time, commonly leading to pain in your hips, knees, and ankles. In addition, the relaxin hormone loosens up the ligaments throughout your body, leading your joints to be slightly more unstable than when you’re not pregnant. Listen to your body about your new limitations while pregnant, and try not to overdo it – you don’t want a dislocated or damaged joint while trying to care for a new baby!
Where some women get a lovely pregnancy glow, some of us are lucky to break out in terrible hormonal acne! This started for me very early in the first trimester and lasted all the way through to the end (though it did lessen in severity in the third trimester). And unfortunately, because it’s caused by hormones, no amount of face wash, masks, or special treatments can get rid of it! Just make sure to keep your skin clean and moisturized – the acne will clear up eventually.
10. Bleeding Gums
Even if youre great about brushing and flossing, your pregnancy hormones can wreak havoc on your poor gums. Rising levels of progesterone allow bacterial plaque to grow more easily in your mouth, causing sensitivity, bleeding, and even gingivitis! Some women even experience their teeth loosening. It’s important to stay on top of your regular biannual dentist visits during pregnancy to ensure you have the healthiest mouth possible.
To best take care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy, be sure to brush twice a day and floss often. Additionally, you can use an alcohol-free mouthwash to provide your teeth with extra protection and freshness.
11. Nipple Pain
Breast tenderness and nipple pain were some of the very first symptoms I noticed before I even took my first pregnancy test. That wonderful and powerful hormone, progesterone, is again behind these changes to your breasts, which you may start to notice very early in your pregnancy!
Your nipples may become hard seemingly at random, and your areolas are likely to get bigger as your pregnancy progresses. If you’re like me, you will also experience painful stinging sensations in your nipples that are almost unbearable (especially in the shower)! I applied coconut oil to my breasts once or twice a day starting in my first trimester, as it helped to sooth my painful nipples and potentially reduced the risk of stretch marks forming.
If your breasts are swollen and tender, you can also apply warm compresses to them to ease the discomfort or take a warm bath. I wouldn’t recommend showers if your breast pain is bad, though, as the pressure of the water can cause even more irritation.
Hello again, progesterone, and thank you for contributing to this frustrating and painful pregnancy symptom!!
Progesterone causes your muscles to relax slightly while pregnant – including your bowel system. This makes your digestion slow down, as well as the production of waste.
I was also prescribed Zofran for my hyperemesis gravidarum during my first trimester, which severely worsened the constipation – make sure to read the labels for any medications you’re prescribed, and determine if the side effects are worth suffering through!
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to avoid or cure your constipation during pregnancy. Colace, a stool softener, is often safe, as well as milk of magnesium and Miralax. You should also stay well-hydrated and eat a fiber-rich diet as soon as you discover you’re pregnant to prevent constipation.
13. Frequent Urination
You will never visit the bathroom as often as when you are pregnant, and it gets real frustrating, real fast!
Starting in your first trimester, as your pregnancy hormones rise, you may be running off to the bathroom a little more frequently than normal. This is obviously worsened by the increased amount of water you should be drinking while pregnant (but that’s no reason to cut back on your fluid intake!). If you think it’s annoying now, just wait until the third trimester…
When baby (and your uterus) is much larger and constantly pressing on your bladder, you might find yourself peeing two, three, or four times an hour!! Some women even experience incontinence, occasionally caused by the baby kicking their bladder and starting an involuntary leak (luckily, this never happened to me). Luckily, once your baby is born and your uterus begins shrinking back down to its regular size, your frequent need to urinate will decrease, too.
14. Yeast Infections
There might not be any sensation more annoying and uncomfortable than severe itching – especially when it’s on your swollen, sensitive vagina! Unfortunately, yeast infections are super common during pregnancy, caused mainly by the increased estrogen in your body. Estrogen can disrupt your vagina’s natural pH levels, causing the normal candida yeast in your vagina to flourish. This excess of candida bacteria is what causes the yeast infection.
Yeast infections can also be caused by…
- Wearing synthetic, non-cotton materials
- Wearing tight clothing
- Eating an excess of carbs and sugars
- Keeping your pubic area moist
Did I primarily wear spandex and other non-breathable tight leggings throughout my whole pregnancy? Yes. Did I give in to my cravings for carbs and sugars regularly? Definitely yes. So really, when I got the worst yeast infection of my life around 36 weeks, I had no one to blame but myself (well, I could honestly blame the baby…).
Luckily, there are a number of safe medications and creams available to you during pregnancy. I immediately called my doctor once the intense itching kept me up for two nights in a row, and was able to get a prescription the same day. There’s no need to suffer at home – call your doctor ASAP!
“Make sure you get your sleep now, you’ll never sleep again once the baby’s here!”
You’re going to hear this line from friends and family and it is going to make you want to rip your hair out, especially in late pregnancy when the insomnia is unreal. There are a number of factors that contribute to pregnancy insomnia, which affects more than 3/4 of pregnant women in their third trimester:
- Frequent urination (hard to fall asleep when you have to pee every ten minutes)
- Joint and muscle pain
- Inability to get comfortable (thanks to your huge belly)
- Sleeping position restrictions
- Hot flashes
- Restless leg syndrome
You can try limiting caffeine and getting a little exercise during the day (even just stretching) to combat the pregnancy insomnia. Unfortunately for me, no matter how exhausted I was by the end of the day, sleep just would not come for about the last 8 weeks of pregnancy. I would also wake up at ungodly hours of the morning just ravenous and would have to get up for a snack, which made it even harder to get back to sleep!
There are a number of sleep aids available that your doctor can prescribe if they deem it safe, so talk to your physician if you are interested in sleeping while you still can!