What Do They Mean?
You probably already know that pregnancy is full of bodily oddities. Suddenly your shoes don’t fit or you can no longer lie comfortably on your left side, your period is gone (hallelujah 9 months of no periods!) and your boobs hurt just from thinking about touching them. It doesn’t stop there though, there are a whole bunch of other things that happen. I don’t want to alarm you but…
You may start bloating and swelling like nothing you’ve experienced before.
Progesterone is the culprit here. Progesterone works to slow down digestion, allowing your body more time to get the nutrients from your meals into your bloodstream and Baby. When your digestion slows down it can cause bloating. This often happens later in pregnancy but for some women it is almost immediate.
What you can do: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink lots of water and organic herbal teas, particularly those with added diuretics such as cornsilk.
You may find yourself battling an acne breakout.
In the first trimester, your hormones go into overdrive, which can cause as many as one out of every two pregnant women to develop acne . While you may not be happy about the breakouts, try to remember that they will heal and go away and you should check with your midwife or doctor before using any medications for acne.
What you can do: Try using Apple Cider vinegar on your skin after washing. Apple Cider vinegar kills pimple-causing bacteria and becomes alkaline, helping to balance the pH of your skin and discourage bacterial growth.
Sensitivities to smells.
When does a rose not smell as sweet as any other rose? Answer: when you’re pregnant (sorry William, for butchering that line). During pregnancy your estrogen levels rise and fall, and since estrogen is linked to your sense of smell it makes sense that you can suddenly smell the garbage can down the hall or the body lotion your office mate applied this morning. For many women, the heightened olfactory sense is overwhelming and often linked to morning sickness. How Stuff Works has an interesting article on how pregnancy affects the senses which you can read here.
What you can do: Avoid smells that you don’t like and try to keep nausea under control by eating small meals more often and drinking lots and lots of water. If your sniffer is really sensitive and you can’t avoid that smelly co-worker why not carry something with you that you do like the scent of such as a lip balm or a small bottle of essential oil. Sniff as needed.
Indigestion rears its ugly head.
They say that indigestion is an indicator of your baby having a full head of hair. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study to find out once and for all if heartburn and the amount of hair newborns have were in any way connected. It turns out that it is, although it’s not necessarily a cause and effect situation where the presence of hair causes heartburn.
Published in the journal Birth, the study involved 64 pregnant women, 78% of whom reported heartburn. They rated the severity of their heartburn and the researchers kept track of the results. Once the women gave birth, photographs of their babies’ heads were given to the researchers, who used a scale to rate the newborns’ hair volume.
Of the 28 women who had “moderate to severe” heartburn, 23 of them had babies with average or above-average amounts of hair. Meanwhile, 10 of the 12 women who reported no heartburn had babies with little or no hair. This is all very interesting (and in this writer’s experience true) but at the end of the day heartburn’s still really painful.
What can you do: Chew raw almonds, a tablespoon of yogurt or a glass of milk will help as the calcium helps neutralize the acids in your stomach. Eat small meals more frequently. Avoid spicy and fatty foods as they are more likely to cause heartburn. Also, avoid drinking beverages during meals – let your body digest the food first before diluting the acid allowing it to splash up. Complain to your partner. Learn to sleep semi-upright. Apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to your neck: the scent can ease the acid feel
Your hair is suddenly lush and full.
During pregnancy, estrogen slows the growth period of new hair which in turn slows the shedding of older hairs. Your mane feels fuller and some women report shinier hair too.
What you can do: Enjoy it! After childbirth, all those older hairs suddenly wake up and jump ship: which can be alarming – but completely normal too.
You may find that you are experiencing more vaginal discharge.
In our normal, daily lives women secrete a substance known as leukorrhea, the mild-smelling, milky discharge you may have noticed in your underpants throughout your life. Leukorrhea is still being expelled from your vagina but during pregnancy there is more. We can go ahead and blame estrogen again for this one and toss in extra blood flow to the vaginal area as well. It’s normal and as long as you don’t have amniotic fluid leaking (more on that here) everything is fine.
What you can do: Not much, I’m afraid. You can wear a pantyliner, but we do not recommend using tampons while pregnant.
You may find yourself having crazy dreams at night.
When I was pregnant with my first I had a recurring nightmare where I was hiding in a huge mansion because Madonna (yes THE Madonna) was trying to kill me. While it didn’t affect my love for the rockstar hero of my youth it did freak me out somewhat. I had lots of vivid dreams, but that one was on a replay loop for months.
A 2007 study by Tore Nielsen, PhD, described in the September 2007 issue of the journal Sleep, concluded that there are several contributing factors including increased emotional influence, sleep deprivation, and altered hormone levels that lead to “pregnancy dreams.” Also, body changes can disrupt sleep and hormone levels can be all over the place during pregnancy both of which factor into the prevalence of vivid and intense/bizarre dreams during pregnancy.
What you can do: A calcium supplement before bed can help with rest. Try to catch a few extra zzzs throughout the day when you can, and consider keeping a dream journal.