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5 Weird Health Concerns That Can Pop Up During Pregnancy


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Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, can be extra common among pregnant woman, as levels of progesterone and other hormones increase, says Benjamin Stein, D.D.S., a general and cosmetic dentist in the Chicago area. (BTW, here are 11 things your mouth can tell you about your health.) Why, exactly? Higher progesterone levels can mess with blood supply to gum tissues and interfere with your body's natural response to toxins and bacteria. When response is impaired, it can lead to plaque buildup and, sometimes, gingivitis.

Talk to your doc if you think you're suffering, he says. Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol (such as Spry) and chlorhexidine mouth rinse can be helpful in halting the spread of decay and lowering bacteria count, he says.

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Body Discoloration

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If you start to see purple or dark spots below the belt, don't panic. Discoloration of the vagina—also called "Chadwick's sign"—can occur thanks to increased blood flow during pregnancy, explains Caroline Messer, M.D., an endocrinologist at Fifth Avenue Endocrinology in New York City.

Another discoloration you might notice: spider angiomas—red, spiderlike branches that extend across your body. You might find them around your eyes, but more often, they'll be on your neck, face, upper chest, and arms. Blame an uptick in estrogen and progesterones (key sex hormones in women), which can cause blood vessels to swell. Elevated pregnancy hormones can also stimulate melanocytes (skin cells that produce skin-darkening pigments), which can impact skin pigmentation, says Dr. Messer.

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You've heard of swelling during pregnancy, but your legs can be achy and crampy too, says Stephanie Zobel, M.D., an ob-gyn at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, FL.

Cramping occurs mostly during the first trimester, as the uterus widens, causing muscles and ligaments to stretch. But once you hit the second trimester? Something called round ligament pain (sharp pain in the lower belly and groin area) can take hold due to abdominal expansion, and unfortunately it can last for the remainder of pregnancy, as ligaments continue to lengthen, says Dr. Zobel. These pains might resemble sharp knifelike stabbing pains in your lower pelvis, she adds. Each bout lasts just a few seconds, but they can be frequent. Warm compresses and belly bands, which warm sensitive areas, can help alleviate the pain, she says.

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Headache with Sharp Abdominal Pain

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Headaches are common in pregnancy. However, if your headache doesn't subside with Tylenol and rest, or if it's associated with other symptoms (think: numbness, slurred speech, blurry vision, and right upper abdominal pain), contact your doc. These may be signs of preeclampsia, the most common complication associated with pregnancy, which is marked by high blood pressure, says Nita Landry, M.D., an ob-gyn in Los Angeles, and cohost of the show The Doctors. (Another common consequence of pregnancy? Postpartum depression—and some women may be more biologically susceptible to it.)

If preeclampsia occurs earlier in the pregnancy, limiting your sodium intake, upping your protein, and drinking lots of fluids (in order to reduce pain and cramps and keep your blood pressure down) can help. You can also lie on your left side to prevent the baby weight from putting added pressure on your blood vessels. But ultimately, your best bet in finding a treatment plan is to see your doc (who will have access to your medical history and specific case).

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Gestational Diabetes

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Diabetes during pregnancy is termed gestational diabetes—and the issue pops up in about 6 to 7 percent of pregnancies, says Dr. Messer.

If you're suffering, you might notice blurred vision, feel like you have to pee all the time, and be super thirsty. But symptoms don't *always* appear, says Dr. Landry—so check in with your doc regularly. Keeping tabs on your blood sugar, by way of regular urine tests (where you'll look for a rise in blood glucose levels), can help spot any swings. (Workouts—like these bodyweight exercises for pregnant women of all fitness levels—can also help keep your blood sugar in check.) Luckily, most doctors screen for gestational diabetes regularly too, she says.

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