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Being pregnant

15 weird pregnancy symptoms that are actually totally normal

Here are just a few of the many weird pregnancy symptoms you might experience before your little one arrives—and why you shouldn’t worry about them.

15 weird pregnancy symptoms that are actually totally normal

Photo: Stocksy United

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.

Excess saliva

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.

Young woman rinsing mouth, leaning over sink, close-up Christopher Robbins / Getty Images

Nosebleeds and bleeding gums

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.

pregnant women with nosebleed or bleeding from her nose. Illness that occurs during pregnancy comzeal / Getty Images

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An irresistible urge to nest

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.”

pregnant woman organising baby clothes AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

Thicker hair and nails

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!)

pregnant woman with luscious hair ilona titova / Getty Images

Red, itchy palms and feet

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.”

woman scratching hand Pheelings Media / Getty Images

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Leg cramps

“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.”

Mood swings

Pregnancy comes with massive changes in hormones, most notably a surge in estrogen and progesterone. One of estrogen's many duties is mood regulation, so the sudden shift in estrogen levels can lead to some pretty dramatic mood swings.

Meanwhile, high progesterone levels can cause fatigue and sadness. Add that on top of other aspects of pregnancy, like lack of sleep and general stress, and it's easy to see how an expectant parent's mood might change quickly.

woman being comforted by partner Liubomyr Vorona / Getty Images

Headaches and dizziness

Especially during early pregnancy, headaches frequently affect pregnant people. While the exact cause is not always clear, doctors believe that hormone changes and blood volume play key roles. For people with nasal congestion, sinus headaches may be more common.

Plus, many people cut out foods and drinks—such as caffeine—while pregnant, leading to withdrawal headaches. Individuals who are prone to migraines often find that their migraine headaches increase in frequency and severity.

Pregnant woman suffering headache AntonioGuillem / Getty Images

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Acne

Another of the many possible effects of changing hormones is skin changes, particularly acne. Breakouts can happen at any time, even if someone has never had a history of this frustrating skin condition. Non-pregnant people can often take prescription medications to manage their acne. However, doctors advise those who are pregnant or trying to conceive to avoid these drugs as they can cause birth defects.

Instead, opt for gentle face cleansers and use oil-free moisturizers. Never pop or squeeze the blemishes.

woman looking in the mirror worried about acne Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Stronger sense of smell and strange taste in the mouth

Many people have anecdotes about how their sense of smell became much sharper after being pregnant. For some, this boost in smell sensitivity comes with a strange taste in the mouth. Often, smells and tastes that never bothered a person before become revolting.

While there is little scientific evidence covering this topic, some studies note that it is not an overall increase in smell intensity but a greater sensitivity to specific odors. Researchers are not sure why these changes occur.

pregnant woman covering her noise as her partner eats popcorn Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Discharge

Vaginal discharge stems from the changing of hormones that naturally occurs throughout each month. While pregnant, the increase in pregnancy hormones can lead to dramatic changes in vaginal discharge. Usually, the fluid is thick and odorless, either clear or opaque white in color. Several changes are symptoms of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, indicating the need for medical attention:

  • Discharge leaks continuously
  • Fluid becomes jelly-like
  • A foul odor develops
  • Discharge becomes gray
  • Discharge becomes white and lumpy

Pink or brown discharge can point toward changes in blood flow or other minor changes. If there are clumps or mucousy streaks, the body is preparing for labor and delivery.

Young Woman In Bathroom Ashley Armitage / Refinery29 / Getty Images

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Cravings and aversions

Two other pregnancy symptoms that doctors do not fully understand are cravings and aversions. Though between 50% and 90% of pregnant Americans have some type of specific craving, studies are not able to confirm why the body suddenly desires certain textures, tastes, or flavor combinations.

Some experts believe the rapidly changing hormones are responsible, while others think the purpose is for the developing fetus to gain weight. Food aversions could originate from the greater smell sensitivity, nausea and vomiting that are so common during pregnancy.

pregnant woman eating sweets yacobchuk / Getty Images

Fatigue

Pregnancy can be tough on the body. Lack of sleep, constantly changing hormones, ongoing nausea, bodily aches and lower blood pressure and blood sugar often leave a person feeling absolutely exhausted. Fatigue in the early stages stems from pregnancy hormones altering nearly everything about the body.

As the pregnancy enters the second trimester, many people feel a massive boost in energy levels and a drop in tiredness. However, by week 28, the exhaustion returns, often worse than it was previously.

pregnant woman with pain standing franckreporter / Getty Images

Shortness of Breath and Congestion

Known medically as pregnancy rhinitis, many pregnant people develop a stuffy nose and congestion that can last for over six weeks. Often, shortness of breath accompanies these symptoms. Unlike other upper respiratory issues, this congestion does not originate from allergies or an infection.

Again, experts are not sure why this condition occurs, but the prevailing theory is that surging pregnancy hormones encourage inflammation in the nasal passages and other airways. If there are symptoms other than congestion, there is a greater chance of the condition being a cold, flu, or another similar issue.

Standing Pregnant Woman with shortness of breath RollingCamera / Getty Images

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Constipation

As early as the second or third month of the first trimester, pregnant people may struggle to have bowel movements. This early constipation occurs when the waste hardens in the bowels due to increased levels of progesterone, which relax the bowels and causes them to not work as hard. In the later stages of pregnancy, the fetus may become so heavy that it places pressure on the bowels, causing constipation.

Additionally, iron deficiency anemia is extremely common during pregnancy, so many people take an iron-rich prenatal vitamin. However, too much iron in the body can make it harder for bacteria to break food down into waste products. Dehydration is also typical during pregnancy and can contribute to constipation.

Young Asian woman sitting on the toilet bowl and suffering from constipation Pattarisara Suvichanarakul / Getty Images
This article was originally published on Oct 16, 2020

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