Do you know your pica from your ptyalism? How about your hyperemesis from your hyperosmia? Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those dreams where you’re sitting a biology exam having done ZERO studying.
We are just preparing you for ourÂ Pregnancy Symptoms Glossary, where we list, explain and provide expert tips for dealing with the most common, fascinating, and frankly bizarre pregnancy symptoms you might experience over the next 40 weeks.
1. Amenorrhea (Absence of menstruation)
Sounds complicated, but it is actually a super simple pregnancy symptom. This just means the absence of periods â€” yay!
You can, however, experience light bleeding, called spotting, in the early stage of pregnancy or a pinkish discharge as you near your due date.
After delivery, this break from periods can continue if you breastfeed because the hormone that produces breast milk, prolactin, affects the hormones that control your periods.
(After giving birth, you will have postpartum bleeding that usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks or as long as 6 to 8 weeks, but it’s not a true period).
How to handle it? Hey, just enjoy being period-free! But do speak to your health care provider immediately if you have any substantial bleeding during pregnancy.
2. Dysgeusia (Distortion of the sense of taste)
While every random person may be joking that you’re eating for two (eye-roll), it’s one of pregnancy’s many ironies that it often comes with a strange, sometimes metallic taste in the mouth that makes eating â€” and life in general â€” less pleasant.
One small 2009 study from the Nihol University School of Medicine in Tokyo revealed that over 92% of pregnant women experienced a change in their sense of taste.
It’s thought to be due to rising estrogen and progesterone, and in the second and third trimesters, it could be linked to low zinc levels.
How to handle it? Cure-wise, cooling your mouth with ice may help (snow cones, anyone?), as might supplement with zinc per recommended levels (speak to your health care provider).
Thankfully, this is generally a first-trimester symptom, so it should get better with time.
Fingers firmly crossed.
3. Dyspnea (Difficulty breathing resulting in shortness of breath)
Also called “air hunger” â€” not a name we’re in love with â€” this refers to the increased breathlessness people experience in pregnancy, often kicking in when we get active/climb stairs or talk quickly without taking a breather.
It’s linked to the fact that as your baby grows, your uterus presses on your diaphragm, making it more difficult for your lungs to fully expand. Plus, high levels of progesterone can cause you to breathe faster â€” this can kick in as early as the first trimester.
How to handle it? Practicing good posture may help, as could slowing your breathing, moving more slowly, getting some fresh air, or taking a little rest â€” you’ve earned it.
FYI, though, always call your health provider if you are having shortness of breath at rest or if your breathlessness seems to be worsening rapidly.
An excessive accumulation of fluid in tissue spaces or a body cavity
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be made from the dough (a niche but possible), then you’re in luck.
Caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues, edema manifests as puffiness of the tissue under your skin, especially in your legs or arms, that leaves skin stretched or shiny and retaining a dimple after being pressed.
Why now? Because during pregnancy, our blood vessels contain 33% more fluid! And some of this extra fluid can leak out into our tissues.
Plus, as your belly gets bigger, it also blocks some fluid being carried back up from your feet and ankles, which is why swelling tends to be more noticeable there.
How to handle it? To lessen this symptom, avoid eating too much salty food or sitting in one position too long, i.e., your plans for Friday night.
Try walking or exercising â€” working the muscles of your legs helps push that fluid back up. Then when you get home, put your feet up â€” elevating them on a footstool or cushions. Staying cool also helps.
Swelling in pregnancy is usually just another bothersome symptom. However, if it is dramatic or associated with high blood pressure, it can be a sign of preeclampsia (a pregnancy condition that can be serious if not monitored/treated). So in that case, make sure you reach out to your health care team.
5. Hyperemesis gravidarum
Severe vomiting during pregnancy, usually in the first trimester
This deeply unfun symptom, which can last throughout pregnancy, takes pregnancy sickness to the next level, with such severe nausea and vomiting, it can cause dehydration or result in the loss of more than 5% of your pre-pregnancy body weight.
How to handle it? No one knows exactly what causes this condition, and it can be serious if it is not treated right away.
So definitely reach out to your health care provider, especially if you have not been able to keep any food or fluids down for 24 hours or more; your lips, mouth, and skin are very dry; or you are urinating less often (less than three times a day), not producing much urine, or your urine is dark and has an odor.
Sounds scary, but there’s plenty of help available. Treatments include vitamin B6 supplementation and anti-nausea drugs.
In the worst-case scenario, it can require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous fluids. So hotfoot it to your health care provider (hugs).
An abnormally acute sense of smell
Having a sort-of superpower should feel amazing, but it doesn’t quite work out that way IRL (though that’s no reason not to don a cape).
In this case, many pregnant people report having a stronger sense of smell, which can ruin everything from perfume to foods such as meat, fish, and eggs.
How to handle it? There isn’t much you can do, but it does fade after delivery. In the meantime, the blander, the better when it comes to dinner.
7. Linea Nigra
A vertical line that runs down the middle of the abdomen caused by hyperpigmentation in pregnancy
In fact, you’ve always had a line running from the belly button to the pubic hairline (called a linea alba), but before your pregnancy, it was probably too faint to see. During pregnancy, it darkens due to hormonal changes that stimulate an increase in the production of melanin.
How to handle it? While we like to think of it as earning your stripes (literally), if you’re not a fan, don’t stress – it will fade after delivery.
Sun exposure can exacerbate it, though, so slap on the SPF 50 (general rule for life).
A thin, odorless discharge from the vagina that is clear or milky in color
With the hormones estrogen and progesterone surging, you may notice your discharge becoming heavier.
And because our bodies are brilliant, there’s a reason for this – it can help prevent any infections from traveling through the vagina to the uterus.
How to handle it? A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013 revealed that women with thicker discharge have a lower risk of preterm birth â€” so it’s time to love your discharge.
If you do want to use a panty liner, make sure it’s cotton and unscented (higher levels of estrogen make yeast infections more likely). Alternatively, just pack a change of (cotton) undies when you’re out.
If you have itching, burning, or other unpleasant symptoms, speak to your health care provider to rule out an infection.
A patchy pigmentation of the skin, seen most commonly in pregnancy
Known (slightly dramatically) as the “mask of pregnancy,” this symptom shows up as dark patches on the forehead and cheeks (though it can also affect nipples, freckles, and genitals).
Why? During pregnancy, higher estrogen levels cause your body to make more melanin â€” the pigment that gives color to the skin.
How to handle it? This usually fades after delivery, though it can last for years. To prevent it from developing or stop it from getting worse, wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outside #stylegoals.
An abnormal craving to eat non-food substances, such as soil, clay, or ice
Named from the Latin word for magpie – the collector of the bird world – this pregnancy symptom can have you craving some highly unusual items.
So if you find yourself wanting to snack on charcoal or burned matches, you’re not alone.
One study of 286 pregnant women at Ho Teaching Hospital in Ghana found that 47.5% of them had experienced pica, while a 2009 Cornell University study found that 46% of pregnant New York state teenagers engaged in pica behavior.
How to handle it? If you don’t fancy becoming a temporary garbage shoot (probably for the best), you might want to check your iron since the 2009 Cornell research suggests an iron deficiency could be partially to blame.
You’re at an increased risk of iron deficiency during pregnancy, so try supplementing with the recommended amount (speak to your health care provider).
Oh, and it goes without saying that eating nonfood substances can be dangerous, so check in with your health care provider about what might be going on and what to do. Remember, they’ve heard it all before.
11. Polyuria (Frequent urination)
There’s a clue in the name here, which translates to “many urinesâ€ (the glamor). And that pretty much sums it up since pregnancy increases your need to pee.
Similarly, nocturia (or “night urine”) refers to needing to pee more than 2 times during the night. Basically, it’s toilet time!
What’s it all about? During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases, which leads to extra fluid being processed by your kidneys and ending up in your bladder. And what goes in must come out.
Then, as you get further along, you gain the added bonus of your baby putting more pressure on your bladder. Fun!
How to handle it? It’s important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, but it’s good to know that caffeine consumption (which you should be curbing anyway) can increase how often you need to pee. And remember, caffeine isn’t just found in tea and coffee but also in chocolate and soft drinks.
Avoid drinking too much before bed, and when you pee, try to completely empty your bladder (pause for a bit before you finish up to see if there’s anything else in there).
Plus, putting your feet up before bed may help you mobilize some of your extra fluid before going to sleep.
Excessive flow of saliva
Another less-than-ideal symptom linked to nausea and vomiting, ptyalism can last throughout pregnancy.
The excessive saliva produced may require tissue or spitting cups (yes, these are a thing!) to manage it.
How to handle it?
While there aren’t any cures per se, you may find eating smaller but more frequent meals; taking regular small sips of water, and brushing your teeth several times a day can help.
Pinkish or purplish, scar-like lesions caused by the weakening of elastic tissues (aka stretch marks)
Stretchmarks vary massively â€” some pregnant people don’t get any, while others get a lot.
They’re more likely if you are younger, have a family history, gain more than the recommended weight during pregnancy, have darker skin, and, unsurprisingly, have a bigger bump.
How to handle it? As your skin stretches, it ruptures dermal elastic fibers, which means stretch marks are irreversible but often fade to thin white scars. And hey, they’re not anything to be ashamed of!
There are no proven remedies that keep stretch marks from appearing or that make them go away. But keeping your bump well moisturized as it grows may help reduce any itching.
14. Symphysis pubis dysfunction
This symptom is characterized by a sharp, shooting pain that can occur in the pelvis, vagina, or rectum
This happens when the ligaments that normally keep your pelvic bone aligned during pregnancy become relaxed and stretchy in the run-up to labor to make delivery easier. Sometimes, the increased movement in this joint causes pain in the pelvis.
It comes on suddenly, and when it does, you may find you’re unable to move for several seconds, so take a moment to pause until it passes.
How to handle it? Helpful behaviors include placing a pillow between the knees while sleeping, taking regular breaks from sitting, and doing pelvic floor exercises (always a good idea at this stage of the game). For severe cases, ask your health provider for a referral to physical therapy.
This is a vascular lesion formed by the dilation of a group of small blood vessels.
Sounds somewhat terrifying, but this is just the medical term for spider veins, which can be more likely in pregnancy.
Thought to be caused by an increase in estrogen, they usually appear in the second trimester and typically fade after delivery.
How to handle it? If they stick around and you’re not a fan, you can opt for laser treatment, but â€” we’ll say it again â€” they are nothing to be embarrassed about.