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Pregnancy Symptoms: What They Never Told You

Morning sickness isn't the only one. Here's a list of pregnancy symptoms you might not be expecting.

Enlarged Breasts

Many women find they gain a bra size or two during their pregnancy. (For better or worse, the change is usually not permanent.) The swelling, which signals an increase in fat reserves and milk gland size, may be accompanied by soreness.

Itching

"Itching is a very common complaint and can occur throughout pregnancy," Lindsay says. The usual areas are the breasts and abdomen, where the skin is stretching to accommodate your growing shape.

Constipation

Here's one pregnancy symptom your mom may not have warned you about - you're likely to get constipated, especially in the late second and third trimesters. According to Lindsay, constipation may result from a number of factors:

  • Changes in digestion caused by the hormone progesterone
  • Increased water absorption in the large intestines
  • Iron supplements
  • Pressure of the uterus on the rectum

"Constipation may be eased or prevented by eating high fiber foods, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly," Lindsay says.

Heartburn

Also common in the second and third trimesters is heartburn, a burning sensation between the breastbone and the throat. Lindsay says progesterone is once again to blame. The hormone relaxes the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus, allowing gastric acid to come up. Lindsay's tips for easing heartburn:

  • Avoid spicy foods
  • Don't eat immediately before lying down
  • Elevate the head of the bed -- try blocks under the head of the mattress
  • Take antacids (Check with your doctor or midwife first.)

Unpredictable Allergies

Seasonal allergies and asthma may become unpredictable during pregnancy. Stein tells WebMD some women see their symptoms improve, while others notice the opposite. She says expectant moms with asthma generally should continue using their inhalers. "If you don't breathe, your baby won't either."

Changes in Balance

In the third trimester, many women find they are perpetually off-balance. "This change happens later in pregnancy, but I notice very few women expect it," Stein tells WebMD. While a growing belly tends to throw off your center of gravity, there's more to it than that. "A hormone called relaxin kicks in toward the end of pregnancy," Stein explains. "Its main purpose is to loosen the pelvic joints so they are more flexible during labor. But this hormone also works on the hips, knees and ankles. This makes [expectant mothers] more wobbly and achy and likely to fall."

Abnormal Pregnancy Symptoms

With so many changes taking place in your body, you may be tempted to dismiss any new discomfort as normal during pregnancy. But certain symptoms could signal a serious problem:

  • Bleeding or spotting - According to Lindsay, "bleeding or spotting is never felt to be normal during pregnancy." Spotting is common in the first trimester and probably not a cause for alarm. However, in the second and third trimester, bleeding could provide advance warning of a serious complication, such as preterm labor or problems with the placenta. Always report any bleeding or spotting to your doctor or midwife.
  • Severe itching - In the late second and third trimester, severe itching may signal a rare liver problem that sometimes develops during pregnancy, known as intrahepatic cholestasis. "This condition requires increased fetal surveillance and early delivery," Lindsay says.
  • Blurred vision, severe headaches and pain in the right side of abdomen - These symptoms, whether they occur alone or in combination, may indicate severe preeclampsia - the medical term for dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy. "Women who experience any of these symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately," Lindsay advises. Early delivery may be necessary "to avoid life-threatening maternal and fetal complications."

 

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