10 Weird Things No One Tells You About Pregnancy

What in the world is a mucus plug?

1 / 11

You probably know that pregnancy means morning sickness, more trips to the bathroom and bigger breasts (woo-hoo!), but carrying a little one can also lead to things you didn’t expect, like regular breathing issues, frequent constipation and strange skin changes.

While every woman experiences pregnancy differently, OBGYNs Heather Maune, MD, and Elizabeth Bleecker, MD, of TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, have the lowdown on some of the weirder changes you might notice. 

Gas will become the norm

2 / 11 Gas will become the norm

Annoying bodily functions like gas, burping and bloating may become more frequent during pregnancy, says Dr. Maune, but these reactions are totally normal.

Here's why: the increase in progesterone causes your intestinal muscles to relax, and that slows down the digestion process. In fact, digestion time through the intestine can increase as much as 30 percent when you’re pregnant. 

Closer to birth, you may notice you pass gas even more often. Your uterus is growing, which can put pressure on the abdominal cavity and slow digestion.

While you can’t prevent these symptoms completely, keeping a daily food journal can help. Make a note of foods that seem to aggravate and encourage gas and burping, then try to avoid them. 

Say hello to more, thicker, fuller hair!

3 / 11 Say hello to more, thicker, fuller hair!

Though everyone is different, the texture and growth of your hair is likely to change during pregnancy. Many women will notice their locks are thicker and fuller, and some may not shed for months.

Then, about two to three months after having the baby, you may actually experience hair loss. Why? Your hormone levels are returning to normal, along with your natural hair cycle (growing and falling out). Don’t worry; within three to six months, your strands should be back to the way they were before. 

Prepare for constipation

4 / 11 Prepare for constipation

Studies show most women have some sort of bowel issue during pregnancy—especially in the first trimester, when an increase in hormones slows down your digestive system. Constipation can often cause you to have fewer bowel movements, and when you do have one, it may be painful or hard. Irritable bowel syndrome, bloating and diarrhea can all strike, too, but shouldn’t be so bad that they interfere with your daily life.

Keep your bowels healthy by drinking a lot of fluid. Going to the bathroom when you have the urge, eating high-fiber foods like fresh produce and whole grains, and squeezing in mild exercise can help you stay regular, too. 

Sex is a go (probably)!

5 / 11 Sex is a go (probably)!

Whether you can have sex while pregnant depends on how you feel—and how your pregnancy is progressing. You may have breast tenderness, exhaustion, and be a bit hormonal or nauseated, all of which could lower desire. But if you do feel up for the deed, it’s completely safe as long as you don’t have high-risk issues like vaginal bleeding or multiples, or have had a premature birth in the past. Dr. Bleecker says that sometimes, your doctor will put you on something called “pelvic rest” if you have one or more of these circumstances.

Try sexual positions that feel good, and if you’re uncomfortable, adjust your positioning. Remember that it’s normal to feel a bit awkward with the movements; you can try kissing or massages instead. It’s okay to skip it altogether, too.

No matter how your pregnancy is going, it’s best to talk with your OBGYN before you have sex.

Brace yourself for mood swings

6 / 11 Brace yourself for mood swings

Maune says you should prepare for heightened emotions during pregnancy. “You’ll probably cry over things that normally don’t evoke an emotional response, like cooking mishaps or silly work issues.” Hormone levels can also cause mood swings—you may be happy one minute, and upset the next. These changes are completely normal. 

The most important thing to remember: be kind to yourself. If your emotions are interfering with work or relationships, talk them through with your OBGYN.

Yep, there are skin issues

7 / 11 Yep, there are skin issues

Most pregnant women are going to notice a lot of skin changes. Here are some you should prepare for:

Stretch marks: About 90 percent of pregnant women get stretch marks, pinkish streaks running down their belly, breasts, hips or butt. They form when your body is expanding, and while you can’t prevent them, keeping your skin moisturized can help keep it soft. Most stretch marks will fade after birth, but some may never completely disappear.

Chloasma: Also known as “the mask of pregnancy,” chloasma is grayish-brown patches on the face, cheeks, forehead chin or upper lip. It's triggered by a change in hormones, and will most likely fade after birth, though some women have it for years afterwards. Since sunlight can make chloasma worse, wearing a daily sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outdoors can help protect your skin.  

Varicose veins: During pregnancy, reduced blood flow out of the legs may cause the formation of large, bluish vessels called varicose veins. They may be painful at times, but staying active, propping your feet and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time can ease the discomfort. 

Linea nigra: You may also develop a linea nigra, or a pigmented line from the pubic bone to the navel. It’s nothing to worry about, says Bleecker, and will probably go away within a few weeks or months postpartum.

Constant congestion could be a problem

8 / 11 Constant congestion could be a problem

Some women find that they salivate more and have nasal congestion that won’t go away during pregnancy,” says Maune. Nosebleeds are also common. Congestion and nosebleeds happen because your blood volume increases for the baby.

When you do blow your nose, make sure you do it gently. Drink lots of water, and if you’re having congestion problems at night, try adding a humidifier to your room. If you get a nosebleed, squeeze the bottom of your nose with your thumb and forefinger for 10 to 15 minutes while bending forward at the waist. 

Pregnancy can take your breath away (literally)

9 / 11 Pregnancy can take your breath away (literally)

As you enter the later stages of pregnancy, you may find that everyday activities like climbing the stairs or doing the dishes leaves you out of breath. “As the uterus grows north near the diaphragm, women often have difficulty taking deeper breaths,” says Maune. Once your baby moves lower into your pelvis, it will probably become easier to breathe.

Another reason pregnant women have shortness of breath: an increase in progesterone, the hormone that prepares the breasts for producing milk and breastfeeding. 

Shortness of breath normally isn’t anything to be concerned about, but if it’s uncomfortable, see your OBGYN, just in case. In the meantime, here are some tips that may help:

  • Take any strenuous activities—like exercise, housework and walking—slowly.
  • At night, prop your upper body with pillows to lessen pressure put on the lungs by the uterus.
  • Practice good posture when you’re standing or sitting. 
So, there’s this thing called a mucus plug…

10 / 11 So, there’s this thing called a mucus plug…

You read that right. “A mucus plug, or a large glob of mucus that could be light pink or blood-stained, is the body’s way of plugging the cervix and protecting the uterus from bacteria and infections during pregnancy,” says Maune. Closer to labor, it's released so your baby can pass through your cervix. “Most women will notice the mucus plug in their underwear around 36 weeks, while others may lose their mucus plug slowly in the form of discharge, over the last weeks of pregnancy,” she adds.

While your mucus plug could be a sign that labor is about to start, it’s not always an indicator—in fact, in most cases, it’s not, says Bleecker.  

Maune says it’s a good idea to let your OBGYN know when it happens, though. If your discharge is bright red and more than one ounce, it’s important to see your doctor, too. 

Yep, you can poop while giving birth

11 / 11 Yep, you can poop while giving birth

A tell-tale sign that you’re pushing effectively is passing stool during labor, says Maune. That’s right—the pressure of the baby in the birth canal can also push out anything in the bladder or rectum, adds Bleecker. However, some women won’t experience it—and that’s completely healthy, too.

There’s no reason to be embarrassed or nervous says Bleecker. “We are focused on the baby and mom and couldn’t care less about other bodily fluids.” 

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