Your body changes during pregnancy. In addition to the more common signs of pregnancy — fatigue, nausea, frequent urination, breast enlargement, mood swings, and a metallic taste in the mouth — some women experience unexpected symptoms. You can have so many different symptoms during pregnancy that hardly anything you might experience can be considered “abnormal.” Changes to your body can cause a lot of distress and worry, so it is always a good idea to express any concerns to your doctor. Many unusual symptoms can be attributed to increased levels of pregnancy hormones in your body, such as estrogen and progesterone, and are actually normal. Symptoms are abnormal only when they significantly impair your ability to function, in which case a visit to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment may be required.
Uncommon Signs of Pregnancy
However unusual they seem, the following symptoms may be a completely normal part of your pregnancy. You may have had some or all of these symptoms at some point in your life, and you may notice an increase in their frequency during pregnancy. Occasionally, they are a sign of more serious illness. When you are pregnant, your immune system is compromised, making it more susceptible to infection and disease. This is why you have to watch what you eat and avoid unpasteurized and raw foods, and why you should get the flu vaccine. Many pregnancy symptoms, even the unusual ones, resolve before or after delivery and do not require medical intervention. Other symptoms, however, need your attention:
Breathlessness: Breathlessness is fairly common later in pregnancy, often beginning in the second trimester. It is usually mild and often caused by your uterus pushing up on your diaphragm. Your hormones also play a role in increasing the frequency and depth of your inhalations. This heavy breathing is most noticeable after exertion. It usually passes quickly and is nothing to worry about. Some women with asthma may experience worse symptoms when pregnant, some see their symptoms improve, and others see no change in symptoms. If your breathlessness increases to the point at which you have difficulty breathing, it is time to call your doctor. Breathlessness accompanied by chest pain or a rapid pulse requires immediate care.
Snoring: Even if you have never snored in your life, you could become a snorer during pregnancy. Nasal congestion and extra weight can contribute to snoring. Although snoring can ruin a good night’s sleep for both you and your partner, it is usually not a problem for most pregnant women. In rare cases, it can be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing briefly stops during sleep. For this reason, it is important to mention snoring to your doctor.
Nosebleeds: During pregnancy, the blood vessels in your nose can expand from the increase in blood supply in your body, the pressure can cause these vessels to rupture more easily, resulting in a nosebleed. This occurs infrequently and is nothing to worry about. Any condition that causes the nasal membranes to dry out, such as a cold, sinus infection, or allergies, can make you more susceptible to nosebleeds. You may also experience nosebleeds after trauma or if you have high blood pressure or other circulation problems, such as a clotting disorder. For heavy or frequent nosebleeds, see your doctor.
Allergies: Some allergy sufferers may find relief from their symptoms during pregnancy. Others may find that their symptoms become worse. If you are sneezing, sniffling, and tearing through your pregnancy, you should contact your doctor before you reach for your antihistamine of choice. Some over-the-counter allergy medications are not recommended during pregnancy. Your doctor may suggest ways to relieve symptoms without oral medications, and may offer other treatment alternatives.
Vaginal discharge: You may notice an increase in thin, whitish vaginal discharge (leucorrhea) at various times during pregnancy. This is a visible proof that your vagina is doing its job by maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the birth canal. Increased discharge is normal. If the discharge is thick, yellowish, or foul smelling, however, you may have a vaginal infection. Some women may have itching and burning. There are several types of vaginal infections, and more than one can occur at once. This is why it is important to see your doctor if you think you have a vaginal infection. You may need prescription medication.
Rash: Aside from the normal skin changes that accompany pregnancy, you may experience certain rashes that occur only in pregnancy. These include herpes gestationis, impetigo herpetiformis, papular dermatitis of pregnancy, prurigo gestationis, and PUPPP (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy). These usually have a characteristic appearance that your doctor will recognize. You may be referred to a dermatologist for evaluation and treatment. See your doctor if you have persistent itching without rash that seems to be getting worse. These skin disorders can cause harm to you and your baby, so don’t hesitate to seek medical advice for any skin changes that seem unusual.
Diarrhea: You are probably wondering why you have diarrhea when all your pregnant friends are complaining of constipation. Constipation due to your increased hormone levels is more common, but diarrhea can happen for many reasons. Your diet changes during pregnancy. You eat more and have more bowel movements. Sometimes certain foods that you ate before no longer agree with you. Spicy foods may cause your gastrointestinal (GI) system to revolt. Diarrhea that persists and does not resolve with over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide, could signal an underlying GI disease. Clostridium difficile infection, for instance, is a serious GI illness that can occur in immunocompromised persons — such as pregnant women. This illness requires antibiotic therapy and can be difficult to treat.
Weakness and feeling faint: These symptoms are beyond normal fatigue and may be a sign of anemia. If you have no energy whatsoever, you may not be getting enough iron in your diet. Iron-deficiency anemia is easily fixable with daily iron supplementation, prescribed by your doctor. You need not worry about your baby. Your body will direct all nutrients to the baby first and to you second. Eating iron-rich foods is important throughout your pregnancy, but particularly in the second and third trimesters, when the amount of iron needed to produce red blood cells increases.
Sleeplessness: You might be wondering why you can’t sleep when you feel fatigued all the time, but bouts of sleeplessness are common in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. If you have three sleepless nights a week for three months, you may have insomnia. However, even if a diagnosis of insomnia is made, you will probably not be treated because most medications for this condition are not safe to take during pregnancy. The over-the-counter sleep aid, doxylamine (Unisom), is okay to take and can help you get some needed sleep, but it should be used only temporarily to get your body back on track. When you are pregnant, it is better to look for non-medical remedies to help you sleep.
Depression: It is not unusual to feel depressed during pregnancy, even though you’ve probably heard that pregnancy hormones make you feel happy all the time. Every women reacts differently to pregnancy, however, and every pregnancy is unique. If your depressed feelings persist and compromise your ability to function, talk to your doctor. You might want to seek counseling. Talking about your feelings can help you feel better and relieve any related anxiety or stress. Addressing depression during pregnancy is important in order to avoid postpartum depression.
You may experience one of the symptoms on this list if you had an underlying condition before pregnancy that you were not aware of or that was not treated adequately. Sometimes the symptoms are exacerbated by an aggravating factor such as stress. If not managed well, stress can worsen many symptoms of pregnancy, causing further problems. Not all the symptoms listed here require immediate attention. Symptoms that persist or fail to resolve with treatment recommended by your doctor require further evaluation, possibly by a specialist.