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Pregnancy 101: Things Mom Never Told You

You May Be Expecting -- but Maybe Not Expecting This
By
WebMD Feature

April 16, 2001 -- There's no doubt about it, pregnancy is a time of discovery and surprises. But for many moms-to-be, the journey includes some symptoms for which they may be unprepared.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we've gathered a group of new or pregnant moms and persuaded them to tell all. The names of the women have been changed to protect their privacy, but the experiences they share are true to life.

Spider veins

What started out as one little red vein quickly grew into a roadmap of red, blue, and purple streaks on 22-year-old Jessica Thompson's legs.

"It started during the fourth month and got nothing but worse," she says. "My legs looked like those of a 60-year-old!"

While alarming, spider veins are actually common during pregnancy, says Michael D. Randell, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atlanta's Northside Hospital. They are a result of increased estrogen in the system and usually subside after delivery, he says.

Jessica's baby is now 3 months old and her spider veins are 75% gone.

"There is one big patch above my knee that hasn't faded, but even that looked much better within a week after my delivery."

If spider veins stick around, a dermatologist can make them disappear with saline injections or laser zapping, says Randell.

Itchy belly

"Around the seventh month of my pregnancy, the sides of my stomach itched so bad I could hardly stand it," says 28-year-old Laura Smith.

This common annoyance is caused by a combination of dry skin (thanks to pregnancy hormones) and the stretching of the skin as the baby grows, says Lorraine Chrisomalis, MD, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia Presbyterian Eastside in New York City. But don't scratch -- that can lead to stretch marks, she says.

Instead, slather on moisturizer after bathing and several times throughout the day. And don't worry that you'll be itching for months; it usually passes within a few days.

Bleeding gums and nosebleeds

A common but often surprising symptom during pregnancy is the so-called 'pink toothbrush' effect. Starting in the first trimester, hormonal changes in the body trigger increased blood flow to your mouth and nasal passages that in turn can lead to bleeding gums and nosebleeds.

"When I went to the dentist in my first trimester, she said my gums bled so much during my cleaning that if she hadn't known I was pregnant, she would have been seriously concerned," says 27-year-old Tracy Jacobs, who is now pregnant with her second baby.

Keeping up with good dental hygiene is a must during pregnancy, says Ruth Shaber, MD, the women's health leader for Northern California's Kaiser Permanente Hospital. So keep brushing and flossing as usual throughout pregnancy, pink toothbrush or not, she says.

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