During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes numerous changes, some of which may cause discomfort too. The side effects of pregnancy vary among women as each pregnancy is unique. While some women may experience bouts of nausea throughout the day, a few others may experience excessive salivation. There is a thin line of difference between the common, harmless side effects and abnormal warning signs. Hence, you should check with your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Read this post to learn about the common and weird side effects of pregnancy.
Common Side Effects Of Pregnancy
1. Morning sickness
Morning sickness is an unpleasant sensation characterized by nausea and vomiting that may affect everyday life during pregnancy. Although it is known as morning sickness, it may happen any time during the day, and some women may experience it throughout the day. It does not harm the baby, and most women will get better by 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy (1).
2. Frequent urination
The expanding uterus can put a lot of pressure on the urinary bladder, leading to frequent peeing in pregnancy. It is higher in the first trimester and may reduce by the end of the fourth month. However, as the baby descends into the pelvis at the end of pregnancy, the urge might increase again.
3. Vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge is normal in most cases. Healthy vaginal discharge is usually thin and milky white or clear and does not smell unpleasant. It helps in preventing any infections from traveling up to the womb.
4. Gas and bloating
The increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy cause gas buildup. Progesterone relaxes the intestinal muscles, leading to slower digestion. In addition, the growing uterus puts pressure on the abdominal cavity, slowing digestion further and causing gas buildup. However, increased gas production does not have any adverse effects on the developing baby.
Avoiding spicy food, fatty foods, and carbohydrate drinks and reducing the intake of artificial sweeteners can help reduce gas production. In addition, mild exercises, chewing food slowly, drinking ample water, and smaller meals throughout the day may help in reducing gas and bloating (4).
5. Bleeding gums
The hormonal changes during pregnancy could make your gums more susceptible to plaque accumulation, causing inflammation and bleeding of the gums. It is also called pregnancy gingivitis or gum disease.
About half of all women experience constipation at some point in pregnancy. Constipation is characterized by infrequent bowel movements, difficulty in passing stool, abdominal pain, discomfort, and passing of hard stools.
Relaxed intestinal muscles due to progesterone release cause waste to move slowly through the body. Additionally, iron supplements may also cause constipation. However, a high fiber diet, hydration, routine exercises, and medicines may help relieve constipation (6).
Straining for bowel movement may cause hemorrhoids. Hence, if you notice any rectal bleeding, contact your healthcare provider.
7. Hemorrhoids or piles
Hemorrhoids or piles are swollen varicose veins of the rectum that cause pain. They are common in the third trimester of pregnancy but may occur earlier for some women. Constipation, increased pressure of the womb on the rectum, and prolonged standing may cause hemorrhoids during pregnancy.
Taking steps to prevent constipation, such as eating a high fiber diet, consuming ample fluids and prune juice, and avoiding stool withholding, might help (7).
8. Yeast infections
Most women experience yeast infections, also called vaginal thrush, during pregnancy than at any other time. These infections are more common in the second trimester. White, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge; green-yellow discharge; discharge smelling like yeast or bread; increased discharge; redness, itching, irritation of the vagina; or burning sensation during peeing or intercourse are common symptoms of vaginal yeast infection.
Hormonal changes, several chemical changes in the vagina, and increased sugar content in the vaginal discharge are responsible for yeast infections. Vaginal creams and suppositories are recommended treatments, and it may take 10 to 14 days for the infection to clear up completely (8).
9. Acne breakouts
Increased levels of estrogen are responsible for acne in pregnancy. The severity of acne can improve or worsen during pregnancy, and it is common to experience more acne in early pregnancy and see some improvement as the pregnancy progresses. Some women experience severe acne flare-ups throughout the pregnancy. However, acne does not harm the developing baby (9).
10. Breast appearance
The hormonal changes in pregnancy can increase blood flow and fluid retention, causing the breasts to swell and feel sore and sensitive to touch. Such breast tenderness is an early sign of pregnancy.
The breast size might increase by six to eight weeks, and the bra size may increase by one or two cup sizes by the end of the pregnancy. In addition, the nipples and areolas may begin to darken and grow in size. The veins also darken, and little bumps may appear on the areolas (10). You can read more about breast appearance in pregnancy here.
11. Swollen extremities (edema)
In pregnancy, the body holds more water than usual, leading to swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, and fingers, which might worsen by the end of the day. Gradual swelling is not harmful, but sudden swelling could be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which requires immediate attention.
Avoid standing for long hours, wear comfortable shoes and socks, take ample rest with feet raised, drink plenty of fluids, and engage in regular mild to moderate exercise to reduce the swelling (11).
12. Leg cramps
Almost half of all women experience leg cramps and muscle spasms during pregnancy, more often in the third trimester. Weight gain due to pregnancy, altered blood circulation, and pressure from the growing womb are common reasons for leg cramps.
Regular exercise, time off the feet, supportive stockings, calf and foot massage, and local heat application can help relieve leg cramps during pregnancy (12).
13. Acid reflux and heartburn
Heartburn and acid reflux are common pregnancy symptoms characterized by a burning sensation in the center of the heart. This occurs because the hormones produced in pregnancy relax the valve between the stomach and esophagus, and as a result, the acid from the stomach moves back into the esophagus.
Acid reflux is more common in the third trimester of pregnancy. Small, frequent meals, avoiding spicy, fatty, and greasy foods, mild exercises, and waiting for an hour after eating to lie down can help avoid heartburn and acid reflux in pregnancy (13).
14. Heightened sense of smell
Several women have reported a heightened sense of smell, also called hyperosmia, during pregnancy. Hormonal changes are responsible for this heightened sense of smell, which may result in nausea and vomiting (14).
15. Skin pigmentation
Some women experience dark patches on their faces in pregnancy, also known as chloasma, melasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Dark, irregular patches are common on the upper cheeks, nose, lips, and forehead. Broad-spectrum sunscreen lotions may help prevent skin pigmentation (15).
16. Varicose veins
Increased blood volume puts pressure on the veins of the legs, possibly leading to the development of varicose veins. Although common in the legs, varicose veins may also occur on the buttocks or vaginal areas.
While generally harmless, varicose veins may become itchy and uncomfortable and can be prevented by exercising regularly, refraining from wearing heels, and wearing compression stockings. Varicose veins usually disappear in three months to a year after childbirth (16).
17. Round ligament pain
Round ligament pain is characterized by a sharp pain in the abdomen or hip area that may extend to the groin but only lasts for a few seconds. It is common in the second trimester of pregnancy and can be unilateral or bilateral.
Ample rest, changing positions slowly, bending or flexing hips while sneezing, coughing, or laughing, and mild exercises can help manage round ligament pain (17).
Back pain is one of the most common side effects of pregnancy. The expanding uterus shifts the body’s center of gravity and weakens the abdominal muscles. Laxity of the ligaments and joints due to hormonal changes also contributes to back pain in pregnancy.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience severe back pain that lasts for more than one week (18).
19. Pelvic girdle pain (PGP)
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is the pain felt in the pelvic joints, lower back, hips, and thighs during pregnancy. About one in four pregnant women experience PGP. The pain ranges from mild to severe, and the symptoms can vary among women.
PGP can cause difficulty walking, climbing stairs, dressing, parting the legs, turning sides on the bed, and lying on the back or side. Ligament laxity due to hormones, pressure from the growing uterus, and the baby’s position are some causes of PGP (19). Exercising and pacing your daily activities to accommodate rest can relieve PGP.
Weird Side Effects Of Pregnancy
20. Excessive salivation
Also known as ptyalism, excessive salivation is one of the unusual symptoms of pregnancy. It might develop in the first trimester, and for most women, it resolves by the end of the first trimester.
Pregnancy hormones mostly cause excessive saliva production. The risk factors include hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness), heartburn, irritants such as smoke or toxins, and other medical conditions. Small meals throughout the day, regular brushing, sucking on sugarless gums or hard candies, and taking small sips of water frequently can help manage the condition (20).
21. Itchy skin
The increased levels of chemicals circulating in the blood during pregnancy may cause itching. Additionally, as the baby bump grows, the abdominal skin also stretches and may feel itchy.
Itching may also occur due to a rare liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which affects less than 1% of pregnant women in the US (21). Itchiness caused by ICP may worsen at night, is severe in the hands and feet, and requiring medical attention (22).
Nosebleeds in pregnancy are caused by hormonal changes. During a nosebleed, blood may flow from one or both the nostrils, and it may also occur while asleep. However, as long as you do not lose a lot of blood or develop other symptoms, you can manage it at home.
After an episode of nosebleed, avoid nose blowing, bending down, and strenuous activities for at least 24 hours. If the bleeding does not stop in around ten minutes, contact your doctor (23).
23. Nasal congestion
Hormonal changes cause increased blood flow to the nasal passages, leading to nasal congestion, also called pregnancy rhinitis. The congestion worsens while lying down, causing disturbances while sleeping and resulting in lethargy during the day.
Avoid using OTC decongestant sprays to relieve nasal congestion. Instead, drink plenty of water, use a humidifier, avoid firsthand and secondhand smoke, do mild exercises, and elevate the head while sleeping. Talk to your doctor if the condition bothers you too much and nothing seems to help (24).
24. Changes in the feet
Some women experience an increase in the size of their feet as pregnancy progresses. This happens due to fluid accumulation in the lower extremities. Further, hormonal changes cause laxity of joints and ligaments, resulting in increased foot length, decreased arch height, and a flatter arch.
Changes in the feet are observed in the first trimester of pregnancy and may alter the gait of the pregnant woman (25).
25. Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is characterized by itching, tingling, burning, or a creepy-crawly sensation in the legs with a constant urge to move the legs. It affects about 20% of all pregnant women and is experienced in the third trimester of pregnancy.
For most women, these symptoms disappear after childbirth (26). You can read more about the causes and management of restless legs syndrome here.
Hormonal changes and increased blood supply to the skin can cause increased sweating in pregnancy. Wearing loose clothing made of breathable fabric, maintaining a comfortable room temperature, and bathing frequently can help you feel cool and fresh (27).
27. Breathing difficulties
Many pregnant women experience shortness of breath in early and late pregnancy. Early on, breathing issues are caused by increased progesterone. Later in pregnancy, shortness of breath is caused by the growing uterus, which takes up more room in the belly.
Sitting or standing upright, moving slowly, lifting the arms overhead, and sleeping propped up can help breathe comfortably (28).
28. Tingling and numbness
Swelling in the body may cause nerve compression and lead to tingling and numbness in the legs, arms, or hands. The abdominal skin may also feel numb as it gets stretched in pregnancy. In addition, tingling and numbness in the hands can occur due to carpal tunnel syndrome (29). You can learn more about the causes of tingling and numbness in pregnancy here.
Pregnancy can take a toll on a woman’s body. While not all pregnancy complications need medical attention, it may help to know the expected side effects and red flags. Since each pregnancy is unique, talk to your healthcare provider to learn about the symptoms you may expect at each stage.
- Vomiting and morning sickness.
- What causes frequent urination during pregnancy?
- Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
- Pregnancy Gas.
- Bleeding gums.
- Constipation in Pregnancy.
- Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy.
- Yeast Infections During Pregnancy.
- Acne in pregnancy.
- Breast Changes During Pregnancy.
- Swollen ankles
- Leg cramps during pregnancy.
- Heartburn During Pregnancy.
- E. Leslie Cameron; (2014); Pregnancy and olfaction: a review.
- Changes to your skin during pregnancy.
- Treat Varicose Veins Naturally During Pregnancy.
- Round Ligament Pain During Pregnancy.
- Back Pain During Pregnancy.
- What is pelvic girdle pain?
- Excessive saliva in pregnancy.
- Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.
- Itching and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.
- Nosebleeds in pregnancy.
- Pregnancy Rhinitis: Relief for Ongoing Nasal Congestion Is Possible.
- Pregnancy and feet.
- What can I do about restless legs syndrome during pregnancy?
- Common health problems in pregnancy.
- Shortness of breath.
- Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy: Third Trimester.