Pregnancy is a beautiful part of womanhood, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Aside from the obvious symptoms we can see from the outside (no I’m not bloated, it’s a baby) there are so many more changes going on behind-closed-doors.
These symptoms range from bizarre and quirky, like an increase in shoe size (it’s a real thing!), to more serious signs that should be relayed to your doctor if persistent.
So if you’re carrying a little bundle of joy or thinking about trying to conceive, here are 10 unusual pregnancy symptoms your friends may have failed to mention…
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Tender and swollen breasts
Sore, sensitive and swollen breasts are one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy. For some, the breasts may only feel sore when they’re touched, or for others even just the feeling of clothes brushing against the chest can cause discomfort. This is because the body is producing more oestrogen and progesterone, which causes tenderness. The swelling is due to the multiplication of milk glands, thickening of the fat layer and the blood flow increasing – all changes that occur in order to get the body reading for breastfeeding.
Changes in eyesight
Hormone fluctuation during pregnancy can be intense and can even lead to changes in eyesight. “Changes in hormonal levels may alter the prescription needed in spectacles or contact lenses”, says Optometrist Dr. Barry Zinn of Hornsby OPSM. But there’s no need to be alarmed if your computer screen suddenly seems blurry. Dr. Zinn assures that for most women, the changes are temporary and eyesight will generally return to normal post-delivery.
Constipation and bloating
Bloating and constipation during pregnancy is common in many women thanks to an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes muscles throughout the body to accommodate the growing baby. One muscle in particular that becomes relaxed is the digestive tract, which means that food passes through the intestines more slowly, hence constipation and bloating.
The reason for this symptom is quite simple: you’re growing another human inside of you. It’s a big job that requires a lot of energy and resources from the body, meaning more sleep is in order to supplement this energy. The surge in pregnancy hormones also plays a large part in making you feel tired and emotional.
Dry, irritated eyes
Many pregnant women suffer from very dry, irritated eyes. “Hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy can decrease tear production resulting in dry eyes, which will produce symptoms of stinging, grittiness, foreign body sensations and at times cloudy and hazy vision,” says Dr. Zinn. Using lubricants or gels can relieve these issues and Dr. Zinn also suggests avoiding wearing contact lenses if possible.
While a missed period is a common sign of pregnancy, so is spotting, which is why it’s so easy for women to become confused. During early pregnancy, spotting can occur as a result of implantation, when the fertilised egg implants into the lining of the uterus. However, there are also a lot of other causes for spotting, so if it persists, see your doctor.
Headaches and backaches
Headaches can occur during pregnancy thanks to a surge in hormones, while backaches are a result of your ligaments loosening to accommodate the baby. Thankfully, the headaches usually subside, but the backaches may continue as your belly begins to grow and your weight shifts to rely a lot more on your back.
Another reason for persistent headaches could be due to strained eyesight. Dr. Zinn explains that pregnant women may experience increased spots in their vision. “Unlike floaters, these may affect a larger part of their field of vision and may indicate pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, which can cause blood pressure to become extremely high.” Therefore, it is very important for women experiencing on-going headaches during pregnancy to flag this with their OBGYN as soon as possible.
Altered sense of smell
During pregnancy many women experience sensitivity to certain smells or an overall heightened sense of smell. Once again thanks to those pregnancy hormones (in this case oestrogen in particular), the smell of certain foods, or even foods that you usually find to have a pleasant smell, could have you running to the bathroom. The level and impact of an altered smell is different for every woman and unfortunately the only thing you can do to help is to avoid the smells that drive you crazy as much as possible.
Change in shoe size
If you’re struggling to fit into your favourite pair of trainers, it’s likely because your feet have actually grown during pregnancy. This is a common symptom for many women and seems to occur because the hormones produced during pregnancy increase joint looseness. This, in combination with the weight most women put on during pregnancy, elongates the foot and flattens the arch. And while many pregnancy symptoms subside post-delivery, this might actually be here to stay!
“Women with diabetes or gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing more serious eye conditions during pregnancy, which can lead to permanent damage to the blood vessels in the eye,” says Dr. Zinn. This is known as diabetic retinopathy and is characterised by blurred vision or fluctuation, floaters, and flashes. Dr. Zinn stresses the importance of having your blood vessels monitored during and after pregnancy.
Shortness of breath
Struggling up the office stairs more than usual? Huffing and puffing as you stroll down the street? You’re not alone. Once again your baby requires some of your body’s resources to grow and oxygen is one of them. Unfortunately this is also a symptom that can continue throughout pregnancy as the baby grows bigger and begins to put pressure on the lungs and diaphragm.
Have you experienced any of these unusual pregnancy symptoms?