Pregnancy. A time of witnessing the true power and magnificence of your body—and just how weird it can be.
The truth is that while your body is doing the hard work of growing a baby, it's also doing some pretty strange things in the process. While it can feel odd to be in a body that's changing so much, trust that much of it is normal, and you are not alone in what you're feeling.
Here are 10 pregnancy symptoms you may have never heard of:
1. “Lightning vagina"
What it is: Sharp pains in your vagina, especially toward the end of pregnancy.
Why it happens: As baby's head is getting lower and bigger, it's putting more pressure on your pelvis and all the nerves in it.
What can help: Staying active (especially doing activities where your hips move around) can help because it opens up your pelvis giving the baby a little more room. Yoga, dancing and swimming are great!
*If you get this pain over five times in an hour and you are earlier than 37 weeks pregnant, call your doctor or midwife to make sure it's not preterm labor.
2. Unusual cravings
What it is: This is called pica—craving things with little or no nutritional value. Specific cravings can include (but are not limited to) ice, dirt, mothballs, toothpaste, cigarette ashes, wall plaster, paper towels and charcoal.
Why it happens: We don't know for certain, but many experts suspect that pica develops when a woman is lacking certain minerals or vitamins in her diet.
What can help: Eating the above mentioned substances can be harmful to you and your baby, so it's important to seek help if you find yourself craving or eating them. Speak to your provider right away. They may prescribe you extra iron supplement. In the meantime, when a craving strikes, try chewing a piece of gum instead.
3. Stuffy nose
What it is: Otherwise know as pregnancy rhinitis, it's basically feeling like you have allergies or a cold—all the time. You may have a stuffy/runny nose and sneezing.
Why it happens: During pregnancy, more blood flows to your mucus membranes (areas like your vagina, mouth and nose). This can trigger your nose to run.
What can help: Talk to your provider to make sure it's not something more serious first. If you're having difficulty breathing because of it, get medical treatment right away. Otherwise, nose strips can help open up the nasal passageways, while saline nose sprays and cool mist humidifiers can help moisturize things so it feel less irritating.
4. Leaking breasts
What it is: Breastmilk that leaks from your nipples while you are pregnant.
Why is happens: As your breasts prepare to make milk for your new baby, you may find that they start to leak, while you are still pregnant. This doesn't happen to everyone, and it doesn't seem to have much significance in terms of breastfeeding ability—if you are not leaking now, it does not mean that you won't have enough milk when your baby is born.
What can help: As long as it's not bloody, there's usually nothing to worry about it (and no way to prevent it). Just make sure to carry breast pads with you, in case it starts to happen in the middle of a meeting.
5. Changed sex drive
What it is: Suddenly wanting to have sex way more than usual, or much less than usual.
Why it happens: Fluctuating hormones can have a real impact on your libido, as can your level of exhaustions, nausea and back pain—all this can of course put a damper on feeling romantic.
The good news is that hormones can also increase your sexual desires. And, all that increased blood flow to your pelvis can make you feel extra in-the-mood, can increase vaginal lubrication and can make sex feel better.
What can help: Listen to your body. If it's telling you it needs a break, sleep. If it's telling you it needs sex... well... have fun! As long as you've gotten the green light from your medical provider to have sex, enjoy this time of feeling extra connected to your partner—you just may need to get a little creative as your belly grows.
6. Bleeding gums
What it is: Called pregnancy gingivitis, it's when your gums bleed easily, especially when brushing your teeth.
Why it happens: Can be caused by increased blood flow to your gums, or changes in your body that make your gums more sensitive to bacteria.
What can help: Take great care of your teeth and gums, and get to a dentist. Dental hygiene is always important. and in pregnancy it's even more so. Routine dental care is safe, and can contribute to many health benefits for you and your baby (including improving those pesky bleeding gums). Just make sure to tell your dentist if you are (or could be) pregnant.
Psst: You may also get bloody noses. When you do, apply firm pressure to the outside of the bridge of your nose, and lean forward so you don't swallow too much blood. If it's bleeding heavily or does not stop, seek emergency medical care.
7. Morning sickness is really all-day sickness
What it is: Many women, especially before week 14, feel nauseous all day long, not just in the morning.
Why it happens: Pregnancy-induced nausea is caused by the high levels of a hormone called HCG in your body (the same hormone that pregnancy tests detect). In addition, when you're pregnant, your body is more sensitive to the changes levels of glucose (sugar) in your body—women often find that when they are hungry, they get nauseous (a totally unfair combo, we know).
What can help: Eat. One of the best ways to curtail nausea in pregnancy is constantly eating small amounts of food. Keep crackers with you at all times and pop a few every hour. Keep crackers in the bathroom and have a few every time you get up in the middle of the night to pee. Make sure to sip on water or juice as well.
(Psst: check out this list of snack ideas too.)
If you spend 24 or more hours without eating or drinking, or throwing up, head to an emergency room—it's easy to get dehydrated so they'll likely give you IV fluid (and some medicine to make you feel better).
8. Extreme emotions
What it is: Waves of emotions that are stronger than you're used to—happy, sad, crying, happy...
Why it happens: Hormones again, for the win. Also, your body is working extra hard growing your baby, and you are anticipating a huge change in your life, all things that can contribute to your emotional state.
What can help: Be gentle on yourself, and allow yourself to feel the emotions you have. Explain to your partner, friends and co-workers what's going on and let them know how to best support you.
Also, it's important to know that prenatal (not just postpartum) depression and anxiety exist—if you're feeling very sad or worries, let your doctor or midwife know, or consult a therapist. And if you feel like hurting yourself or others, get to an emergency room right away. Remember, it's not your fault and you are not alone.
What it is: Difficulty having a bowel movement (pooping), hard bowel movements, or infrequent bowel movements.
Why it happens: Hormones that relax the muscles and tissues in your body during pregnancy can also s-l-o-w everything down in you digestive tract. Sometime this can also be caused by the iron in your prenatal vitamins, or by not eating enough fiber.
What can help: Water, water, water. Make sure you're staying very well hydrated—about 10-12 cups of fluid per day. And eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as prunes, bran. and high fiber cereals.
Exercise can also help you get things moving again.
What is is: Ptyalism, or hypersalivation is an increase in saliva production.
Why it happens: Sometimes it can be in response to all the nausea and vomiting. The hormones of pregnancy can also increase the amount your saliva glands produce.
What can help: If it's caused by nausea, see # 7 above. Make sure you're getting regular dental care too. Beyond that, you can try chewing sugarless gum or sucking on candy. Take heart, this often resolves by the end of your first trimester.
Hang in there, mama. We know it's hard, but you are already rocking it. You've got this.