Pregnancy is an experience unlike any other – cliche, but true. Along with all the joy that comes with growing your baby, you experience a host of symptoms that will make you feel like your body’s been taken over by an alien life form (and in a way, it has). You’ll ask, “Is this normal?” constantly – to yourself, to your care provider, and to Google. While every woman goes through pregnancy in her own way, here are some of the most surprising pregnancy symptoms I’ve experienced. Fellow first-time moms, take note of what’s to come.
1. You’ll have some of the craziest dreams.
I’ve always been a crazy dreamer to being with. I tend to remember my dreams better than most people I’ve talked to, and they always are surreal, sometimes to the point of being frightening.
In pregnancy, when your sleep is more frequently interrupted and all kinds of hormones are running through you, those qualities are amplified. Many women report having vivid dreams that center around their hopes, fears, and obsessions surrounding pregnancy.
I’m planning a whole separate post of my crazy pregnancy dreams, which you’ll be able to read soon.
2. You won’t get a full night’s sleep.
In your first trimester, nausea and the need to urinate can keep you up throughout the night. As your baby bump grows, you can expect to find it increasingly difficult to get comfortable throughout the night. What’s more, once you are up, you may find that it’s difficult to fall back asleep.
For me, pregnancy insomnia really peaked at my third trimester. It didn’t help that my little one had a preference for being a night owl and would frequently wake me up with his jabs and kicks. Combine that with the aforementioned crazy dreams, bathroom breaks, restless dogs, and a husband who’s an early riser. My sleep schedule has become patchy at best.
One thing that I couldn’t live without during this time is a body pillow. Find one you love and don’t go to bed without it. This is the one I use. Many women also swear by the Snoogle (affiliate links).
3. “Morning” sickness can last all day.
At about week 6 of my pregnancy, morning sickness hit me like a truck and didn’t subside until my second trimester. I can best describe it as feeling hungover, all the time, without the fun of going out and drinking the night before. It felt like my rude welcoming into the cult of motherhood.
Anyone who’s experienced morning sickness will tell you that it is a huge misnomer. It can last throughout the entire day. For me, it was at its worst first thing in the morning and late at night, when I hadn’t had anything to eat for a while. Throwing up became part of my daily ritual; sometimes I had to call in another teacher to watch my class of second graders while I ran to the bathroom.
For most women, fortunately, it does go away. If it doesn’t, your care provider can offer you some options for relief. Even easier, I learned a lot of tricks along the way to cope with morning sickness – and I’m ready to share those secrets with you!
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4. You’ll develop a super sense of smell.
Pregnancy will grant you with a new superpower – a hyperactive sense of smell. You’ll be able to detect the most trace amounts of ingredients in your food, know right away if your partner has started using a new soap or lotion, and quickly determine what’s causing that funky odor in your fridge (long before anyone in your family smells it).
It all sounds great until you combine it with morning sickness. Suddenly the smell of raw meat and fish makes you retch, and you develop all of these strange smell aversions you never had before. For me, it got to the point where I couldn’t even hear the word “chicken”, let alone smell it, without wanting to hurl.
When your morning sickness goes away though, your sense of super-smell remains. (At third trimester, I still can’t stand the smell of cooked peppers). All in all I’ve found this symptom to be pretty cool!
5. As baby grows, get ready for some swelling.
You’ll especially see and feel it in your hands, legs, and feet. Going through a summer pregnancy, I was no stranger to this symptom. At the end of my second trimester, I gave up trying to fit my wedding ring onto my finger and hoped that people wouldn’t assume I was my husband’s pregnant mistress when they saw us in public.
Fortunately I haven’t experienced extreme swelling, except for when we visited Charleston and I spent most of the day on my feet outside.
You can keep swelling down by taking proper precautions. Don’t stay on your feet too long and avoid being out in the head for prolonged periods of time. If you plan to travel, or if your swelling has gotten especially severe, remedy that with some compression socks.
6. There will be, um…leakage.
You’ll never feel more glamorous than you do the moment you realize you have fluids leaking out of you in all sorts of ways. This can include colostrum (mine came in at 20 weeks – surprise!), increased amounts of discharge, and urine (yes, you may lose some control of your bladder, especially late in pregnancy).
For the most part, these changes are normal. However, if you find yourself bleeding or gushing a lot of fluid down below (ie. your water breaking), be sure to seek medical support.
7. You’ll be sore in places you’ve never been sore.
Many women will speak of back pain, particularly lower back pain, plaguing them in pregnancy. I did find myself with my share of back pain, but I actually felt more pain in my lower ribs where my little one loved to kick and stretch.
After looking into it, I found that your ribs could get sore from your growing uterus (and baby) pushing up into them. I suspect that the fact I’m short-waisted made this a particular issue for me. Still, I was surprised that I had not seen more women mention it in my endless search for pregnancy-related information.
8. You’ll feel tired and/or lightheaded a lot of the time.
Enjoy all of the sleep you can, and don’t feel guilty about it! Your body is building a new life and that takes work.
Summer break could not have come at a better time for me. I slept late into the mornings, sometimes taking a nap in the middle of the day too, and woke up still feeling tired.
If you are getting enough sleep, you still may get bouts of lightheadedness. Sitting or lying down on your side momentarily will help you to cope with it, as will drinking a glass of water.
9. Your nails will grow like Wolverine’s overnight.
The cocktail of hormones your body produces during pregnancy means your hair and nails will grow crazy-fast. The good thing about this is you’ll have the best hair of your life and, if you’re a fan of long nails, you’ll be able to grow them out without worrying about them breaking.
I found myself having to constantly cut my nails and redo my nail polish because they kept growing out so fast. Luckily I didn’t have to invest a lot of time in styling my hair.
10. You’ll cry over just about anything.
You won’t be able to help it. You’ll happy-cry, sad-cry, stress-cry, and cry for no reason. Thank those pesky hormones and wait for it to pass. Assure your partner that you are not losing your mind.
I’m planning a whole post for the silly reasons I’ve cried during this pregnancy, from looking at cute photos of old couples to getting a flight rerouted while I was battling morning sickness. You’ll be able to read all about it soon!
11. Forgetfulness will force you to make written reminders for everything.
I’ve always been a big fan of the to-do list, but “pregnancy brain” made me kick this enthusiasm into high gear. I had to-do lists and reminders set on my phone, stuck on the fridge, written in notebooks, and saved to my computer. I was hopeless if the important thing I had to do wasn’t written somewhere for me to find later.
Figure out a system that works for you – whether that’s a productivity app, a whiteboard hanging on your wall, or an agenda that blocks out your daily schedule down to the hour. Something will slip your mind eventually, and you’ll be glad you have a backup.
12. Your partner may hear you burp or fart.
Another super-glamorous aspect of pregnancy – you get gassy. You’ll pass this gas in the aforementioned ways without even expecting it. Forgive yourself if (when?) it does happen. I just excuse myself and blame the baby.
13. You can expect constipation, too.
As if gassiness wasn’t bad enough, your digestive system slows down during pregnancy. You can expect to not be as “regular” as you were before baby came along. Iron, which is found in many prenatal vitamins and is an essential nutrient for pregnancy, can make this problem worse.
Your care provider will probably have some suggestions for how to cope with this uncomfortable symptom. I found it helpful to increase my fiber intake (usually through a green smoothie containing spinach) along with having the occasional cup of coffee (make sure to keep your caffeine intake under the recommended 200mg daily limit!)
14. You essentially are running a low-grade fever throughout your pregnancy.
Before I even took a pregnancy test, I began to feel feverish. Sure enough, when I had my temperature taken, it was at 100.5 degrees. It was enough to be considered a low-grade fever, but not enough for me to go home and get bedrest. Little did I know it was one of the first signs of my pregnancy!
As time went on, I continued to “run hot” and fortunately escaped the horrors of a summer pregnancy in the South by retreating to our air conditioned home. Indoors, I still found myself sweating even though our central air was adjusted to a mild 72 degrees.
At some point, you may start experiencing hot flashes. Hot flashes are fun – uncontrollable sweating, sudden dizziness, racing pulse and of course, an unbearable feeling of hotness. The first time I had one I thought I was about to pass out. Fortunately changing my position and moving around helped it to subside.
15. You spend a lot more time in the bathroom.
Early on, you’ll get a lot more cozy with your toilet if you’re coping with morning sickness. But as your pregnancy goes on you can continue to expect to make frequent trips to the bathroom. The main culprit? Having to pee all the time.
If you’re getting enough hydration, you should be going often. You’ll need to increase your water intake throughout the day (12-13 glasses is the recommendation). Combine that with the increasing pressure on your bladder from your growing baby, and it’s no surprise you’re going to the restroom so often.
Don’t worry. It’s not all bad!
Every mom will repeat the same sentiment about their pregnancy symptoms: It’s worth it. Getting to watch and feel your baby grow inside of you is a magical experience. You can also look forward to strangers and friends alike being extra-nice to you – offering their seats, complementing your glow, and taking on physical tasks for you. Even though I’ve experienced all of the symptoms described above, I’ve absolutely loved being pregnant!
Did I miss anything? Let me know what your most surprising pregnancy symptom is in the comments! Please share if you enjoyed this post!