You may think you know everything when it comes to bodily changes during pregnancy. After all, you've read the usual pregnancy books, discussed what to expect during pregnancy with your doctor ad nauseum and talked to all of your friends and family members about their experiences.
Nothing will come as a surprise now—right?
Here are 6 embarrassing pregnancy symptoms you wish someone had warned you about, and how to deal with them.
Pregnancy has a lot of potentially embarrassing digestive-related side effects, including gas. And not the kind of gas that you can hold until you're in private. It's the kind that can cause awkward moments and embarrassment.
Increased levels of progesterone can cause your muscles to relax, including those found in your digestive system, the American Pregnancy Association explains.
As a result, your digestion slows down, allowing for gas buildup which can cause bloating, burping and yes, passing gas.
You may also notice that these symptoms increase during the later part of your pregnancy. This is because your growing uterus places more and more pressure on your abdominal cavity, further slowing down digestion.
The best thing you can do is laugh off any embarrassing situations that may arise. Besides, you're pregnant. This is the one time in life you can get away with passing gas in public and not be considered rude.
On the opposite end of the digestive spectrum, you may experience constipation during your pregnancy. In fact, about half of all pregnant women have reported this uncomfortable condition at some point, the American Pregnancy Association says.
The cause of constipation is actually the same as the cause of gas in pregnancy—hormonal changes that lead to slower digestion.
Constipation can also increase if you're taking iron supplements. The American Pregnancy Association recommends you increase your water intake or switch to a different type of iron supplement—after you've talked to your doctor, of course.
Ways to prevent or reduce constipation include:
- Increasing your fiber intake
- Drinking more fluids
- Exercising regularly
- Reducing or eliminating iron supplements
Source: American Pregnancy Association
However, don't reach for the laxatives or mineral oils. The Association warns that laxatives may cause contractions or dehydration. Mineral oils reduce your body's ability to absorb much-needed nutrients.
Some women do get that healthy glow you hear about. Other's don't. Instead, they feel like they're back in high school the way their skin breaks out.
Some women get acne flares when they're pregnant because of increased levels of androgen hormones, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). While androgen is usually associated with testosterone, both men's and women's bodies produce it. There is also evidence that androgen plays a role in preparing your body to deliver your baby, according to a February 2014 article in Human Reproduction Update.
Your doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic for you. If that doesn't do the trick, oral medications may work instead.
In the meantime, the AAD suggests you wash your skin with warm water and use mild cleansers or foams. Be sure to stay away from cleansers with scrubbing beads in them. They might sound cute, but they can cause further inflammation.
Also, try using a broad-spectrum sunscreen—that is, one that protects against UVA and UVB rays—that is SPF 30 or higher. This can help protect your skin from pregnancy-related changes in pigment.
- Itchy Skin
You may notice that your skin feels extra dry and itchy, especially on your belly. This is normal, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
In fact, about a fifth of all pregnant women experience itchiness at some point, the US Office on Women's Health reports.
The culprit is usually a combination of hormonal changes and, of course, stretching skin. The American Pregnancy Association recommends eating foods rich in vitamin C and exercising to help prevent stretch marks.
To relieve skin itchiness, try to:
- Wash with gentle soaps
- Use moisturizing creams
- Avoid really hot showers or baths
- Stay away from itchy fabrics, like wool
Source: Office on Women's Health
- Leaking Breasts
At some point during your pregnancy, you may notice that your breasts are leaking. This could very well happen while you're out to lunch at a crowded restaurant or some other equally embarrassing public location.
The culprit is a substance known as colostrum, says the American Pregnancy Association.
Colostrum is an ingredient in breast milk, and your body usually starts to produce it in your second trimester. At first it may appear yellow and thick, but as your due date nears it becomes paler.
As with other embarrassing pregnancy symptoms, there's not really much that can be done to prevent your breasts from leaking. It's best to just laugh it off or consider putting absorbent pads inside your bra if it gets too bad.
- Urine Leaks
When you hear the term “urinary incontinence”—bladder control problems—you probably think of older people, not pregnant women.
And yet, now you find yourself experiencing “leaks” when you sneeze or laugh.
The fact of the matter is that your growing baby is pushing down on your bladder, urethra and pelvic floor muscles, and these can all cause urine leaks, explains the Office on Women's Health.
If you're worried about this issue, try wearing a thin sanitary pad or pantyliner to prevent the leak from showing through your pants.