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Any pregnant woman knows swollen ankles, nausea and backaches are part of the package, but what about the constant saliva pooling in your mouth or the overwhelming urge to clean? Here are some of the weird (and wonderfully common) symptoms that can arise before your baby arrives.
During the first trimester, many women find that saliva builds up in their mouths—sometimes to the point of interfering with talking. Although it’s more of a nuisance than a health concern, excess saliva is often associated with morning sickness and should end by the second trimester. In the meantime, try chewing sugarless gum or using mouthwash to help keep both saliva and nausea under control.
Changing hormone levels—the culprit behind most pregnancy symptoms—can increase blood flow to your nostrils and leave your gums feeling swollen and sensitive, especially during the second trimester. In a recent study, Dutch researchers found that bleeding gums are one of the most common oral changes pregnant women face.
If, at some point in the third trimester, you feel like tearing down the house and rebuilding it, you're not alone. The instinct to clean and reorganize—called nesting—is also common in birds, cats and dogs. “Women just want to do so many things, it’s almost like a time-clock where your body is telling you, ‘You need to get everything ready for the baby,’” says Darine El-Chaâr, an obstetrician in Ottawa. “It’s a protective mode, but you might find it makes you incredibly productive because you’re committed to getting it all done.”
By week 20, many women notice their hair and nails seem to be growing faster than usual. (Your hair might even feel thicker because not as much is falling out every day.) Higher estrogen levels and increased blood circulation are the root of this symptom because they provide extra nutrients to the hair and nails. A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in April 2016 looked at more than 300 pregnant women and found that more than half noticed their nails had changed since they became pregnant. (Enjoy it while it lasts!)
You may find the skin on your growing belly gets itchy as it’s stretched—the same can also happen to your hands and feet. An increased blood supply to the skin and higher levels of estrogen are the most likely reason for red palms and itchy skin. However, it’s important to bring up any itchiness with a doctor as it can sometimes be related to a medical condition. “In certain cases, it could be related to a liver problem called cholestasis, which we take seriously and need to treat," says El-Chaâr. “But it’s usually completely normal.”
“Some women get horribly painful leg cramps at night,” says El-Chaâr. “They wake up and have a charley horse sensation in their legs.” It was previously thought to be an underlying deficiency in calcium and vitamin D, but taking supplements hasn’t proven to be effective. “I’ve found that recommending drinking tonic water at night works for some women,” says El-Chaâr. “Otherwise, you can always just walk it off.”