Most pregnant women can expect some weight gain and aches and pains, but what about the symptoms that no one talks about? Here's what you could expect while you're expecting.
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Pregnancy heartburn might make you feel like a fire-breathing dragon, says Dr. Sherry A. Ross, ob-gyn and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period, who has been pregnant herself three times. "I had debilitating heartburn as a result of the hormonal influence of progesterone, which delays your stomach from emptying," she says. Ross adds that heartburn can cause pain and even bleeding of the esophagus if left untreated. But she says that antacids are a safe and effective treatment during pregnancy.
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You know you can expect your breasts to get bigger and fuller during pregnancy, but Ross says it doesn't end there. "Pregnancy changes everything about your breasts," she says. This includes darkening of the nipples and areola, small raised bumps on the areola (for additional milk outlets), and purple veins throughout the skin of the breasts because of increased size, blood flow, and milk production. All of this is to help prepare the body to feed your baby, and there's no cause for concern. Breast size and tenderness tend to reduce after birth, particularly if you're breastfeeding.
Hair Texture and Fullness
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Increased blood volume and your new, heightened levels of estrogen are responsible for your fast-growing hair and nails or a decrease in regular hair loss. While your now longer hair may be less dry and brittle thanks to additional blood bringing more nutrients to hair follicles, this could also mean you experience flatter hair due to more oil production. These changes are likely temporary and won't cause you or baby any harm.
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"The majority of pregnant women will experience pregnancy-related acne," says Ross. If you're prone to breakouts, there's a chance you might enjoy clear skin for the first time in your post-adolescent life, but if you're lucky enough to have great skin on the reg, you might start to see a zit pop up here and there. Ross says this happens because "progesterone can act as a male hormone, causing more secretions from the skin glands, which causes more oily skin and acne." But, no, that extra progesterone doesn't mean you're having a boy. Bad skin can show up on moms expecting boys or girls.
Skin Pigment Changes
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The kind of skin darkening that can occur during pregnancy doesn't resemble a nice, even tan. Instead, you might find dark patches of skin in various areas such as around the belly button, as a line down the middle of your belly (called linea nigra), or on the face (called melasma). Sometimes these pigment changes are permanent, but they usually lighten after delivery, and they shouldn't be cause for concern (beyond cosmetic, that is). (Good news: Doctors Found a New Melasma Treatment That Could Change Your Skin Forever)
Photo: Kristina Irbe/EyeEm/Getty Images
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Yep, more skin woes. Most of the weird side effects of pregnancy trace back to some type of benefit for your baby, but this one doesn't have a greater (or any) good. As if acne and blotchy skin weren't enough, many pregnant women develop skin tags. They are most common in areas of the body that chafe (under the arms and under the breasts) but they "can show up anywhere on your body including your breasts, nipples, neck, chest, vagina, and under your arms," says Ross. "The good news is they are not harmful. But if the location of the skin tag bothers you, you can have them removed with topical creams or incision once you've delivered."
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Whether you develop varicose veins depends on several factors, few of which you have any control over. Ross says that "weight gain, the pressure in the lower limbs due to the heavy and growing uterus, and any genetic influence" can all contribute to whether these veins appear. The good news is that varicose veins will go away or become less noticeable once you give birth, she adds, and if they don't disappear or if they cause discomfort after pregnancy, there are several outpatient procedures to reduce or remove these veins, or similar, but smaller spider veins.
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Many women experience their first bloody nose in years when they become pregnant. "With an increase in estrogen production during pregnancy, there is a nasal stuffiness that occurs, and increased blood flow to the nasal sinuses can also cause a bloody nose," says Ross. "But these symptoms are more of a nuisance than a major health concern." To prevent bloody noses, she recommends using a saline nasal spray or a humidifier. If your doctor recommends cauterizing the blood vessels responsible for the bleeding, don't worry. The procedure is safe for pregnant women.
Photo: Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Getty Images
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No, you didn't forget about that asparagus you ate. Yet another side effect of your body's new concoction of hormones is a new or different smell to your pee, says Ross. This might be alarming at first, but it isn't a health concern. On the other hand, if you notice any significant changes in the appearance of your urine, especially if you see blood, you'll want to contact your doctor immediately.
Leaking Breast Milk
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Regardless of whether you plan to nurse, you can expect some milk to show up in your breasts after delivery. What you probably didn't realize is that you might discover a few drops on your clothes or even secrete milk when you become aroused during sex. While not technically milk (your milk comes in a few days after delivery), Ross says these "pre-milk" or colostrum secretions can show up as early as the second trimester to prepare your body to breastfeed, and so that you'll be able to feed your baby, even in most cases of premature delivery.
Fast Heart Beat
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Ross says that because the heart is pumping 40 percent more blood volume during pregnancy, you could notice your heart pounding or racing, particularly during the second trimester. The feeling can be exacerbated during exercise but it usually isn't a problem unless a faster heart rate is accompanied by breathing problems, chest pains, or any other symptoms of cardiac distress. In any of these cases, seek immediate medical attention.