Every pregnancy is unique with different symptoms and experiences. The most common symptoms of pregnancy, morning sickness, cravings, breast tenderness, and hormone fluctuations, are well known. There are unexpected symptoms of pregnancy that are less common. Although most pregnancy symptoms are not dangerous to mother or baby, you should consult a doctor whenever you have an unexpected symptom.
Heightened Sense of Smell
Most women are familiar with the idea of morning sickness during pregnancy. The early morning to all day nausea that can last of few weeks, a few months, or all during pregnancy. For some women it is triggered by almost anything, including the smell of food. Most women don’t realize though, that a heightened sense of smell can last all through pregnancy. For some women this is why nausea lingers. For other women, although the nausea gets better, the stronger sense of smell remains. This heightened sense of smell may also be what contributes to cravings or changes in eating habits.
Hair and Nail Changes
Some women experience changes in hair texture and growth patterns during pregnancy. A pregnant woman may notice her hair growing thicker and faster. During pregnancy hair can also grow in unwanted places like on the face, around the nipples, or on the belly or back. The abnormal hair growth is related to hormone fluctuations and will resolve itself after the birth or when a nursing mother weans her baby. Some women also experience changes in the texture and thickness of nails. For some women nails grow faster and thicker, for other women nails become brittle and split. The best remedy is to keep nails clipped short and filed smooth and to avoid nail polish and nail polish remover. Products that contain formaldehyde and acetone, common ingredients in many polishes and removers are not safe.
For some women the only skin change they experience during pregnancy is a healthy “glow” due to increased blood flow and oil secretions. For other women, the increased oil secretions can lead to acne. Pregnant women may also experience dark patches on their skin known as melasma. The patches typically occur on the face, but increased skin pigment can also darken around the nipples, pelvic area, anus, and in a line from the belly button to the pubis area. Women with darker skin tones are more prone to these patches, and using sunscreen and staying out of the sun as much as possible can help. These darker patches gradually fade in the weeks following the birth and usually disappear completely within a few months. In some women, the darkening around the nipples in permanent.
Some women can also develop palmar erythema, itching and redness on hands and the bottom of the feet, during pregnancy. PUPPP or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy can develop on the abdomen, back, thighs, buttocks, or arms. It is characterized by hive-like red itchy bumps that may spread into larger plaques. Both these conditions are typically treated with creams and antihistamines if recommended by a doctor.
During pregnancy the body produces more relaxin, a poorly understood hormone that affects the heart, smooth muscle tissue, connective tissue, and the central nervous system. Increased relaxin levels during pregnancy are believed to be responsible for the flexibility of the cervix, pelvic muscles, and pubic symphisis necessary to pass a baby through the birth canal. The increased relaxin can also have an effect on ligaments and tendons throughout the body making joints more prone to injury. The knee and ankle joints and lower back and pelvic area can be more prone to strain and sprain injuries, especially since they are already bearing extra pregnancy weight. Pregnant women should be cautious about sudden movements and stretch and warm-up carefully before exercise.
Exhaustion or Extreme Fatigue
Many pregnant women experience increased fatigue as a symptom of pregnancy. Adjusting to carrying extra weight and providing resources for a baby can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Few women, however, are ready for overwhelming exhaustion and extreme fatigue. Some women suffer debilitating exhaustion in the later months of pregnancy to the point that they cannot get out of bed. It has been theorized that this is due to a hormone imbalance or an inability in some women’s systems to adjust to pregnancy. This symptom is usually intermittent during the last three to four months and disappears after giving birth.
During pregnancy many women expect nausea, cravings, and breast tenderness, but some less common symptoms may be a surprise. Unexpected symptoms of pregnancy include changes in hair and nail texture, skin problems, vulnerable joints, and extreme exhaustion. Fortunately these symptoms while tough to deal with are not dangerous for mother or baby and quickly disappear after the birth. Always consult a doctor for any unexplained symptom during pregnancy.