Some Rather ODD Pregnancy Symptoms!
Some women experience some, none, or all of these strange pregnancy side effects or symptoms. Even more oddly, your second (or third, or fourth) pregnancy can be different too. What you experience in one pregnancy, you may not experience in another pregnancy. It’s important to remember though, that these symptoms are all part of the process of growing another human being, and they will pass. In the meantime, enjoy the journey and always speak to your caregiver if you are at all concerned about your pregnancy side effects.
We’ve all heard of the common symptoms: morning sickness, heartburn, swollen feet, tender breasts, etc. So how about looking at some of the more uncommon ones? The funny thing is that when you ask around, you’ll probably find out that they’re more common than you thought!
Sciatic nerves run down each side of the body. They start in the lower back and go down the back of the legs towards the ankles. Sciatic pain or sciatica is caused when these nerves become compressed and cause tingling or a pain sensation in the lower back and legs. When sciatica occurs during pregnancy, it can be caused by a range of factors, such as when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed by either weight gain and/or increased fluid retention where it passes through the pelvis; or when the expanding uterus may press down on the sciatic nerve in the lower part of the spine. Another possibility causing sciatic pain could be the shift in the centre of gravity due to the growing belly and breasts. This can cause glute and pelvic muscles to contract and subsequently pinch the sciatic nerve. When baby shifts into the proper birth position, the head can rest directly on the nerve and cause a major pain in the buttocks which can be quite debilitating.
What to do
- Use a warm compress where you feel the pain
- Sleep on the side where there’s no pain
- Try chiropractic adjustments, prenatal massage or see a physiotherapist
- Try going for a swim – the buoyancy of water may relieve some of the pressure
While not particularly common, gout during pregnancy does happen and it can be extremely painful. Gout is an arthritic condition caused by a build-up of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is formed after the breakdown of purine, a chemical substance found in many foods. This acid is normal and necessary in our bodies, and is ordinarily eliminated in urine. But sometimes our kidneys are not as efficient as they should be and an excess of uric acid can build up and form crystals. These crystals become lodged in joints, very often in the feet, which is what causes the pain.
What to do
- Drink plenty of water to help the kidneys efficiently process uric acid
- Avoid foods high in purine, such as red meats and organs: liver, kidneys, etc.
- Certain vitamins like vitamin C can reduce uric acid. Make sure your vitamin intake is sufficient
- Daily exercise can help
Pica describes the craving to ingest substances with little or no nutritional value. These cravings include dirt, chalk, clay, laundry starch, burnt matches, stones, charcoal, ice, coffee grounds, cigarette ashes, soap, toothpaste and even mothballs! Though there is no confirmed medical reasoning for these cravings, pica may arise due to a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, especially iron. Sadly, eating non-foods can be quite dangerous to both mom and baby, not only because some of them may actually be poisonous, but some may interfere with the absorption of beneficial nutrients. Don’t panic if you experience these odd cravings, it’s not all that uncommon.
What to do
- Discuss this with your primary caregiver
- Monitor your vitamin and mineral intake
- Tell those around you to help you avoid these non-food items
One would assume that leaky breasts would be normal towards the end of pregnancy, but some women experience leaky breasts from as early as 16 weeks into their pregnancy. What’s leaking is the first thick, creamy milk called colostrum. It’s high in protein and antibodies and is being produced in preparation for breastfeeding baby. Some women experience leaky breasts early on, some experience it much later on, and some don’t experience it at all. As with most pregnancy symptoms, it’s all very normal.
What to do
- There is not much that can be done, except wearing nursing pads if the leaking is excessive and causing embarrassing ‘booby spots’.
- If you notice blood-stained leaking, contact your primary caregiver. Though it may be nothing to be concerned about, it’s best to get it checked out.
Change in Libido
During pregnancy, your libido can go one of three ways. It can stay the same, it can decrease dramatically, or to the delight of many husbands, it may increase significantly. It may also vary throughout the different trimesters. The first trimester is very often a no-go zone, not only because of hormone fluctuations, but other pregnancy symptoms like exhaustion, queasiness and breast sensitivity, which may leave you far from amorous. Towards the second trimester, these less-than-fun first trimester symptoms may taper off, leaving you feeling back to your old self. An increase in energy levels and a newfound freedom of not having to worry about contraception can certainly go a long way in bringing back the romance. With pregnancy comes an increase in blood flow, which brings with it an increase in arousal and sensitivity. This is completely normal and will result in a more pleasurable sexual experience. On the flip side, sex may be the furthest thing from your mind no matter how fantastic you may be feeling. And even more surprising, your man may lose interest too. So many factors come into play at this point: emotions, perceptions, hormones, and beliefs all have a role to play. Regardless of where your libido may be sitting, it’s all normal.
What to do
- Keep your communication lines open with your partner
- Express your needs and desires
- Remember, intimacy doesn’t have to equal intercourse
Skin tags are flesh-coloured growths of skin that are attached to the body by a thin stalk. Skin tags are caused by the extra growth of cells in the superficial layers of skin, usually in areas where skin or clothing is rubbing against skin. The tags usually fall off after the pregnancy by themselves and the great news is that they are completely benign.
What to do
- There’s not much one can do, but wait
- If they do not disappear after your baby’s birth, do not remove them yourself as they can bleed excessively. Rather see a doctor to have them removed.
Although annoying, itching is a very common thing in pregnancy. Stretching skin and hormonal fluctuations are to blame for this one. Itching can be predominant over your growing bump and expanding breasts; as the skin stretches it can cause an intense itch. Itching can also be brought about by other factors including skin conditions like eczema, fungal infections and sometimes even scabies. Though itching is very rarely any reason for concern, apart from feeling like you’re going out of your mind, there are instances where it could be a sign of an underlying problem, such as a rare liver problem in pregnancy called obstetric cholestasis. If you have excessively itchy skin, speak to your caregiver.
What to do
- Cut back on hot baths and showers as this increases blood flow to the skin and can make the itching worse
- Avoid using lotions and soaps with strong perfumes or detergents, as this will aggravate the itch
- Use mild, pH-balanced body washes to clean your skin
- Always check with your caregiver before using any medicated creams, as they are absorbed into your system, and can affect your baby
Dreams in pregnancy can often be extremely vivid and sometimes downright scary. While this is completely normal, no one has been able to pinpoint the exact cause for these vivid images, but there are a couple of theories. Scary and/or hyper-realistic dreaming may be an opportunity for your subconscious to work through fears and anxieties related to the monumental changes that are about to happen with your baby’s arrival. Or they may just be sleep disturbances as a result of hormonal fluctuations, indigestion, aches and pains, or general exhaustion. These dreams can be disturbing, insightful, and even funny. You may want to try and interpret them, but sometimes they can be so bizarre, that it’s probably best to not take them seriously. Whatever they may be, try not to read into them in a literal way.
What to do
- If they are disturbing, take time to discuss them with your partner or a friend. If it is a subconscious concern being brought to the surface, talking about it will help to process the underlying issues.
- If you feel anxiety may be the cause, consider drinking some warm milk or taking a natural stress reliever like Rescue Remedy before bed.
- Use them as a springboard to discuss fears and anxieties you and your partner may be facing.
- Do not take them seriously. If nothing else, have a good chuckle at them.
Dysgeusia is the medical name for that persistent rancid or metallic taste that’s present even when you’re eating. It’s thought that these taste distortions are caused by pregnancy hormones in the first trimester, so fortunately you can expect this symptom to subside from the second trimester onwards.
What to do
- If your tummy can handle it, eat acidic foods like citrus and pickled items. These sour, acidic foods may overpower the metallic taste and also stimulate your salivary glands to produce saliva which will help to wash the taste away.
- Your prenatal vitamin may be a causative factor, so talk to your caregiver about changing your supplements.
- Brush your tongue when you brush your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution (1 tsp salt in 250ml of water) or a bicarb solution (1/4 tsp of bicarb in 250ml of water) to neutralise your mouth’s pH levels.
Though the above list is by no means exhaustive, we can conclude that pregnancy does weird, amazing, and challenging things to the body. Fortunately these are also only temporary things and they will come to an end when your parenting journey begins.