Here is a list of 10 symptoms or side effects of pregnancy that are frequently missed out or played down when discussing pregnancy, probably because a) they are awful and b) some of them are gross! Really.
Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms but unfortunately I did, as do many other women. Leading me to seriously consider the possibility more than once that the amazing miracle growing inside of me was actually out to destroy me!
So here it goes, DISCLAIMER: if male and/or don’t want to know the gory details and would rather stay in denial please don’t read ahead… you have been warned…
1) Exhaustion, particularly first trimester
It is well known about being ‘tired’ in pregnancy in particular the first and last trimester. However ‘tired’ does not even come close to the feeling. It’s more like complete exhaustion, being zombie-like or half dead, especially during the first trimester. During my first pregnancy I was working shifts which may have made this symptom worse but even so both Mike and I were completely unprepared for the level of exhaustion/mental blankness I experienced. I would come home from work and just collapse/pass out on the sofa pretty much until the next morning. We used to joke and call the baby the “the Balien” as the first trimester period strongly resembled your body and mind being taken over by an alien and you were just the incubator!
2) Morning sickness–
If the sheer exhaustion and mental incapacity of the first trimester isn’t enough you then have to deal with bloody morning sickness! I’m sure most people these days know it’s not just the morning, because if it were you could accommodate and plan your day around it. No, it’s morning, noon and sodding night sickness! Really not fun and pretty inconvenient at work.
Quite how you are ever supposed to keep your pregnancy under wraps until the 12 week scan when you look the walking dead and are persistently vomiting is beyond me! The cat was well and truly out the bag at work for me the first time round as I managed to faint in the during a medical ward round in A&E. Luckily I was caught by one of the A&E doctors just before I went kersplat on ground! Super embarrassing ?. I suppose back in the day fewer women were out working and so it was easier to hide perhaps.
Anyway I digress, back to the sickness. Completely vile. I know there’s lots of advice re eating little and often, particularly having plain biscuits by your bedside to nibble on as soon as you wake up, eating things with ginger in them etc. To be honest I didn’t really find anything that worked until it just inevitably got better around 14-15 weeks (longer than I had hoped but I counted myself lucky it didn’t continue throughout the whole pregnancy as it can for some poor women!)
I did know this was a symptom particularly in later pregnancy but I was under the impression it was pretty minor. Boy was I wrong!! For me this has been a major symptom in both my pregnancies starting around the 20 week mark and got progressively worse. For those of you not familiar with reflux; it’s an uncomfortable, and at times painful, acidic burning sensation rising up from your stomach into your throat. It’s where your gastric sphincter has become a bit incompetent and relaxed in pregnancy and allows stomach acid to reflux back up your oesophagus. My most important possession is my giant bottle of Gaviscon that sits on bedside table, closely followed by additional emergency Renee tablets in every handbag I own! I actually have nightmares about being without these things! Pathetic I know! Thankfully I am now also taking Omeprazole prescribed by my GP which has helped a lot, though if I forget to get a tablet one day I will paying the price later on.
Let’s talk vaginal discharge. It’s not particularly surprising that this topic is not often discussed by most women prior to pregnancy but it’s important none the less. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy is normal, increased amounts are normal particularly during the last trimester and it can often become more mucusy (lovely word not!) and may contain streaks of blood if close to delivery (called a show). Maternity pads are you friend! You will need them by the shed load post birth anyway so might as well stock up early! If you have any concerns, i.e. If it smells, or is a funny colour or bleeding then you should see your midwife or doctor.
5) Emotional instability AKA baby rage!
Pregnant women randomly crying are the stereotype often portrayed in films, but the reality is so much worse than that. Pregnant women are crazy!! Your hormones are running rampant throughout your body and you have absolutely no control over it. One minute your feeling loved up, the next extremely sad and low complete with uncontrollable sobbing, then horny and then just really ?mad! And this can all be within the space of a few hours, I kid you not!
My husband refers to this as the ‘baby rage’and I can’t blame him really. At the moment at almost 37 weeks pregnant I am definitely feeling the rage! He really hasn’t done anything in particular wrong and I love him immensely but he is just annoying me for no reason and I find myself at times just wanting to punch him square on in the face! Don’t worry I haven’t, not yet anyway! I tell him this and thankfully he just laughs and finds the situation quite hilarious ?
During my first pregnancy I was lucky enough to escape this particular side effect. However I’ve not been so lucky the second time around it seems! Haemorrhoids are a royal pain in the arse! (Pardon the pun). It was such a horrifying realisation to me that the uncomfortable lump I could feel down below were in fact piles. I managed to confirm this with an awkwardly placed mirror between my legs (seriously don’t do it it’s best not to see down there before or after birth!). Still not being entirely sure what I was looking at, I asked my poor husband to have a look for me whilst I bent over! Much to his reluctance and horror, poor guy! Sorry if too much information here, you can’t say I didn’t warn you all first and hey like I said pregnancy not pretty!
And if you think that’s bad it gets even worse when combined with the inevitable constipation and then they start bleeding.. ?
7) Leaky Boobs–
Let’s just say that I was expecting to produce breast milk for the purposes of breastfeeding once my baby was born. I was not however expecting my gradually expanding breasts to start randomly emitting small amounts of weird looking goldy/yellow liquid. I now know this is colostrum, the ‘liquid gold’ stuff before your real milk kicks in a few days post birth. Yes so apparently you can start producing and leaking this ‘liquid gold’ at any point during your third trimester.. who knew!…
For me this has been a particularly troublesome side effect during both pregnancies in the third trimester. Basically right about the time your supposed to be getting ready for baby’s arrival, and resting, insomnia hits! This symptom seems particularly cruel as you know that once the baby arrives you may never properly sleep again! You would think the least your body could do was let you sleep whilst you have the chance…but then again perhaps that’s the point. Maybe we experience insomnia as some sort of test or preparation before the baby is born.
Not much you can do about this one except to try and sleep when you can, even if that means having naps on the sofa during the day. Admittedly this is much easier the first time round, not quite the same when your in charge of an energetic toddler! On the plus side the insomnia this time around has given me the time to start this blog so not all bad…
9) Leg cramps –
This is something I had absolutely no clue about being related to pregnancy at all, until I got them that is. I can’t quite remember at what point they started during my first pregnancy, most likely the second trimester. All I remember is lying in bed sound asleep and suddenly waking up in absolute agony in both my lower legs, with my calves in severe spasm. I had no clue what was happening, just that I was in severe pain and scared the shit of out Mike by sitting up and screaming/crying at him “my legs, my legs…. do something… rub them rub them”. Thankfully after a minute or so of Mike rubbing/squeezing my calf muscles, they relaxed and the pain ceased, although they did feel sore the next day like I had overdone it at the gym or something!
I then asked my friends who had children already about it and did some googling and found out that yes leg cramps were yet another ‘funny’ symptom during pregnancy, unclear as to what the mechanism or cause of it is, although some ideas related to not drinking enough water before going to sleep. Which I do now try to do, the major flaw in this being you then to need to bloody wee even more during the night (even worse when your only bathroom is downstairs!)
This symptom for me comes and goes throughout pregnancy, I often found that it has been worse during first trimester (perhaps as more dehydrated due to sickness) and third trimester. Although weirdly in the third trimester I seem to alternate with Constipation and being the other way inclined on sometimes s daily basis!
Again not a nice symptom of pregnancy, and it can make you feel uncomfortable and bloated, not great if your abdomen is already the size of house admittedly! But at least you can do some things to ease this symptom, I recommend taking a fybogel and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. The fybogel is a gentle treatment for Constipation, safe in pregnancy, comes in sachets and different flavours and you mix it up with water (not particularly nice to drink but I personally prefer the orange flavour!). You only likely need to take it once a day or perhaps even every other day just to keep everything moving. This is often what the hospital give people postpartum if they’ve had a bad tear or lots of stitches.
In summary, there are lots of pregnancy symptoms that are less well known and talked about, and the above list is by no means exhaustive. There are even some very strange ones, which leads me on to…
11) ‘black eye’
So this was probably the weirdest symptom I had during my first pregnancy; I developed a random ‘black eye’ (no mike had not been hitting me!) I went to the doctor who basically just reassured me and said I don’t know why that’s happened but pregnancy is weird and does weird things to you!!
As embarrassing and gross as these symptoms are, it’s good to talk to other people. Pregnancy can be a scary and unknown time, and chances are others will have experienced similar things. It can help to empathise and laugh with each other about these things.
I hope I haven’t put you off having a baby too much! Yes pregnancy is hard going at times, and the mythical ‘pregnancy glow’ only lasts for a brief period, I discussed this with mike the other day “yeah you did have the glow.. long pause.. for a couple of days”… charming! Pregnancy is also pretty wonderful, you feel womanly and there is nothing quite like feeling your baby moving inside you. It’s worth all the pain and exhaustion because at the end of it all you have your beautiful baby in your arms, which you wouldn’t change for the world!!