10 Weird Things That Could Happen When You’re Pregnant

What in the world is a mucus plug?

Updated on April 26, 2023

pregnant person holding belly
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Pregnancy can bring many expected changes, such as morning sickness, frequent trips to the bathroom, and a growing belly. But it can also lead to changes you might not expect, like breathing issues, constipation, and puzzling skin conditions.

While everyone 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.

pregnant person holding hand over mouth as if burping
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Frequent gas and burping

Gas, burping and bloating may become more frequent during pregnancy, says Dr. Maune, and this is very common. The increase in progesterone causes your intestinal muscles to relax, and that slows down the digestion process. In fact, it can take 30 percent longer for food to make its way through the intestines when you’re pregnant.

As you approach your due date, you may notice you pass gas even more often. Your uterus is growing, which can put pressure on the bowels and also 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 or contribute to gas and burping, and consider limiting them or avoiding them all together.

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Say hello to thicker, fuller hair

Many people will notice that their hair becomes thicker and fuller during pregnancy. Some may not shed much hair for months. But all this hair growth isn’t limited to your head—some pregnant people may discover hair growing on their face or belly, too.

Here’s the flip side: Around three months postpartum, you may actually experience hair loss. As your hormones return to their typical levels, your natural hair cycle usually returns (growing and falling out). Within three to six months, however, your strands should be back to the way they were before pregnancy.

pregnant person holding their belly
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Constipation is common

Studies show that most people have some sort of bowel issue during pregnancy—especially in the first trimester, when an increase in hormones slows down the digestive system. Constipation can 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 also happen.

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 walking or doing other types of low-impact exercise can help your digestive system stay regular, too.

two people in bed raising their hands
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You can still have sex

Some people experience a surge in libido during pregnancy, and enjoy the opportunity to feel closer to their partner. Others may be exhausted, bloated, or have tender breasts, and would rather have a foot massage in front of the TV. If you do feel up for sex, it’s completely safe as long as you don’t have high-risk issues like vaginal bleeding or a multiple gestation (like twins, or more), or have had a premature birth in the past, in which case your healthcare provider may put you on “pelvic rest,” says Dr. Bleecker.

If you’re feeling like having sex, try different positions that may work better with your growing belly, and if you’re uncomfortable, adjust your positioning. Some people may find that kissing, stroking, and massages feel more comfortable than intercourse as pregnancy progresses. And many people may decide to simply express their affection in other ways until after pregnancy.

No matter how your pregnancy is going, it’s best to check in with your OBGYN if you have any concerns about your sexual health and activities.

pregnant person holding their belly
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Mood changes are typical

Many people experience heightened emotions during pregnancy, says Maune. “You may cry over things that usually don’t evoke an emotional response, like cooking mishaps or silly work issues.” Hormone levels can also cause mood changes—you may be happy one minute, and upset the next. These changes are very common.

The most important thing to remember: Be kind to yourself. If your emotions are interfering with work or relationships, ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a therapist or support group.

pregnant person putting lotion on their belly
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Your skin may look different

Skin often goes through many changes as it stretches to accommodate a growing fetus. Here are some you should prepare for:

Stretch marks: About 90 percent of pregnant people get stretch marks, pinkish streaks running down their belly, breasts, hips or buttocks. While you can’t always prevent them, using moisturizer or lotion, eating a healthy diet and drinking water can help keep your skin soft, elastic and well-hydrated. Most stretch marks will fade after birth, but some may never completely disappear. Speak to your OBGYN before using any topical products that promise to prevent stretch marks.

Melasma: Also known as “the mask of pregnancy,” melasma appears as tan to dark-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 for some people it can last for years afterward. Since sunlight can make melasma worse, limit exposure, apply sunscreen with a least an SPF of 30 that blocks ultraviolet A and B rays, and wear a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outdoors.

Varicose veins: During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause the walls of blood vessels to relax combined and the weight of the growing fetus can lead to bluish vessels called varicose veins. They may be painful at times, but staying active, propping your feet up and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time can ease the discomfort. Avoiding heels, getting regular exercise, staying hydrated, reducing sodium intake and sleeping on your left side may also help.

Linea nigra: this pigmented line can develop during pregnancy and typically runs from the pubic bone up to the navel. It’s completely harmless, says Bleecker, and will probably go away within a few weeks or months postpartum.

pregnant person blowing their nose
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Nasal congestion could be an issue

“Some people find that they salivate more and have nasal congestion that won’t go away during pregnancy,” says Maune. Nosebleeds are also common because blood volume increases when you’re pregnant.

When you blow your nose, make sure you do it gently. Drink lots of water, and if you’re having nasal congestion at night, try putting a humidifier in 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 to stop the flow.

pregnant person holding belly and breathing deeply
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Pregnancy can cause shortness of breath

As you enter the later stages of pregnancy, you may find that everyday activities like climbing the stairs or doing the dishes leave you out of breath. “As the uterus grows upwards toward the diaphragm, it can be difficult to take deeper breaths,” says Maune. Once the fetus moves lower into your pelvis as you get closer to delivery, your breathing issues should ease up.

An increase in progesterone, the hormone that prepares the breasts for producing milk and breastfeeding, can also make it harder to take a deep breath.

Shortness of breath normally isn’t anything to be concerned about, but if it’s uncomfortable, see your OBGYN. Meanwhile, take any strenuous activities—like exercise, housework and walking—slowly, try propping your upper body with pillows in bed to ease pressure put on the lungs by the uterus, and practice good posture when you’re standing or sitting.

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You may pass a mucus plug

A mucus plug like is sort of like a cork in a bottle: “This large glob of mucus, which 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, the plug is released so the newborn can pass through your cervix. “Some people may notice the mucus plug in their underwear or the toilet after 36 weeks, while others may lose it slowly in the form of discharge, over the last weeks of pregnancy,” she adds.

While losing 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, it’s important to see your provider, too.

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You may poop while giving birth

A tell-tale sign that you’re pushing effectively is passing stool during labor, says Maune. The pressure of the newborn in the birth canal can also push out anything in the bladder or rectum, adds Bleecker. But remember that the healthcare providers in the delivery room have seen everything, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed, says Bleecker. “We are focused on the baby and the parent and couldn’t care less about other bodily fluids.”

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

American Pregnancy Association. “Pregnancy Gas.” June 10, 2012. “10 Things That Might Surprise You About Being Pregnant.” June 2018.
Mayo Clinic. “Bed rest during pregnancy: Get the facts.” February 8, 2020.
Elizabeth B. Krieger. “The Truth About Pregnancy Stretch Marks.” WebMD. September 15, 2015.
American Pregnancy Association. “Pregnancy Stretch Marks.” January 19, 2013.
Harvard Health. “Melasma (Chloasma).” April 1, 2019.
American Pregnancy Association. “Treat Varicose Veins Naturally During Pregnancy.” April 30, 2015.
Nationwide Children’s. “Pregnancy Rhinitis: Relief for Ongoing Nasal Congestion Is Possible.” April 12, 2016.
Mayo Clinic. “Nosebleeds.” September 26, 2020.
March of Dimes. “Shortness of Breath.” August 2009.
Pampers. “What Happens When You Lose Your Mucus Plug?” June 9, 2019.
WebMD. “Signs of Labor.” August 17, 2020.
Mayo Clinic. “Labor and delivery, postpartum care.” October 23, 2019.
Cleveland Clinic. Varicose Veins While Pregnant. Last reviewed May 25, 2022.

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