Pregnancy is like a hazing ritual you must conquer to join the club of motherhood. If it's your first pregnancy, you might have expected some physical challenges, like nausea or having to pee five times a night. But that's just the tip of the pregnancy-symptoms iceberg. Nothing can prepare you for some of the truly weird sh*t that happens to your body while it grows another human over 40 weeks.
It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about strange symptoms, but a range of physiological changes explain why many of them are completely "normal" — although they won't feel like it. Take growing feet that start to look like Frodo Baggins's feet in The Lord of the Rings. They're caused by the hormone relaxin, which helps the pelvic bones loosen to prepare for labor. Dr. Heather Rupe, an OB/GYN and WebMD Contributor, told me: "The extra weight of pregnancy and the added swelling of the third trimester in combination with the hormone relaxin can cause the ligaments in the feet to loosen and the bones in the feet to spread, and before you know it, you are buying new shoes." Unfortunately, this is one of the symptoms that doesn't go away after pregnancy, and you'll be stuck with a new shoe size.
Others do subside, including the spots and lines pregnant women notice all over their bodies. "Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a dark line that travels from the pubic bone to the belly button and sometimes all the way to the chest bone," Rupe explained. "These same hormones can also cause darkening of the skin of the nipples, armpits, and groin." Your skin coloring will slowly go back to normal postpartum, sometimes taking several months.
That's just a taste of what to expect once you get that positive pregnancy test. I chatted with my fellow POPSUGAR moms and put together this definitive list of the bizarre changes we've all encountered. How many happened to you?
- Weird shooting pain in vaginal area
- Dark veins visible on chest (that look like an interstate highway map)
- Leg cramps (got to love a charley horse in the middle of the night)
- Bloody or swollen gums
- Bloody nose
- Stuffy nose and congestion
- Acne breakouts
- Darkening acne scars
- Hairy face
- Hairy belly
- Swelling of everything south of belly button at end of pregnancy
- Veiny hands
- Itchy breasts
- Itchy stomach
- Crusty nipples (from leaking colostrum)
- Vaginal varicose veins
- Horrible yeast-like taste in mouth
- Heartburn (keep those Tums stashed in your desk, car, purse, and nightstand)
- Constant burping and huge belches
- Dark vertical line on belly known as that linea nigra
- Dark circle around belly button
- Darkening of armpits, nipples, and groin
- Shortness of breath during minor physical activity (like having a very engaging phone conversation)
- A popped belly button
- Fingernails that grow really fast and strong
- Hair that grows really fast
- Sun spots that darken or appear on face known as melasma or the pregnancy mask
- Aversions to foods you used to enjoy
- Lots of vaginal discharge
- Growing feet
- Round ligament pain (aka a sharp jabbing pain in your lower belly)
- Extreme thirst and the need to chew ice
- New moles (one mom grew five on her neck)
- Growing skin tags
- Excess saliva
- The need to pee five to seven times a night (forget about jogging)
It's all worth it though, right?!