There is so much to love about being pregnant – great hair, strong nails and that glorious glow. But then there are the not-so-great side effects and we aren’t just talking swollen feet. We’re talking symptoms so icky they’re almost taboo – the real underbelly of that beautifully blossoming bump.
Your mum might tell you of the hours she spent lying on the bathroom floor dealing with morning sickness when she was pregnant with you, and Grandma might share the swelling she experienced that caused her to wear her wedding ring on a chain around her neck while she was expecting.
But, will they tell you the truth behind the embarrassing new bodily functions you are experiencing and explain why parts of you seem hell-bent on punishing you for some unknown reason?
Fear not, we have compiled a list of the less glamorous side effects of pregnancy to put your mind at ease and remind you that you are not alone – pregnancy can be bloody hard (and a little bit gross).
1. Bleeding gums
Bleeding gums are one of those nasty surprises some women are lucky enough to discover during pregnancy. As if battling the nausea brought on by certain smells isn’t bad enough, the sight of blood in the basin and the taste of it in your mouth as you brush your teeth doesn’t help. An information pamphlet developed by The University of Adelaide explains the effects pregnancy hormones have on women’s oral health.
“Pregnancy hormones change the blood supply to your gums, and when plaque is present it can cause pregnancy gingivitis – swollen red gums that bleed easily when brushing and may be tender,” it explains.
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Expectant mums are urged to have a dental check-up before falling pregnant or early in the pregnancy to ensure their gums stay healthy throughout and to minimise the risk of pregnancy-induced gingivitis.
Constipation isn’t fun at any time, let alone when you’re pregnant and already feeling pretty loaded up. Pregnancy causes an increase in progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles in the body, including the gut. What this means is that food passes through the system more slowly than usual and can result in constipation.
Drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in fibre are obvious pieces of advice, yet 40 percent of women still report some form of constipation during pregnancy. There are limitations on what you can take safely during pregnancy but thankfully there are some products which are gentle and effective in providing relief so talk to your pharmacist to get advice on what’s the best next steps for you.
Constipation does not need to ruin the pregnancy experience and by keeping the stools soft, women can potentially avoid developing other conditions like haemorrhoids. Speaking of which …
Nothing can counter that gorgeous pregnancy glow quite like the torture of walking around with painful lumps, sometimes the size of grapes, rubbing right at your back passage.
The all-too-common delight of haemorrhoids in pregnancy is caused when blood vessels around the anal passage become swollen and enlarged. Avoiding constipation is the most important way to reduce the painful swelling or prevent them altogether, but there are no guarantees unfortunately.
Other ways to reduce the risk of developing haemorrhoids include not straining to pass a bowel movement, or lingering too long on the toilet, as well as doing kegel exercises daily and not sitting or standing for too long without a break.
4. Vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge would have to be the most common icky side effect experienced by women during pregnancy. It is completely normal to expect a little extra something in your underwear so it’s time to top up your supply of liners.
The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria cautions though, “If the discharge smells unpleasant, causes soreness, itching or is discoloured, you may have a vaginal infection.” Thrush is most likely to be the diagnosis, but it is still important to see your doctor to confirm that it is nothing more sinister.
5. Leaking breasts
We all know breasts can leak after baby is born, but some women also get to experience this joy beforehand.
While it is more common later in pregnancy when hormones are at their peak and your body starts preparing to become a feeding machine, it can happen much earlier in pregnancy too, particularly if this is not your first child.
Stocking up on some breast pads is a good idea and, if you do have any concerns about changes to your breasts, it is always best to consult your doctor.
This post was originally published on 7 April 2017