By Han McKimm.
I remember so frequently googling ‘is X normal during pregnancy?’ And sure enough, everything I searched for was, indeed, a normal symptom of pregnancy. I was expecting the food cravings and frequent toilet trips, but here are the symptoms I had not seen coming that you may relate to:
- Sweaty hands and feet
- Partly due to our change in hormones and partly due to the significant increase in our blood volume (up to 50%), it is normal to feel very hot during pregnancy. As a way of bringing your core body temp down, you start to sweat more, hence the sweaty hands and feet.
- I’m a little prone to headaches anyway, but they really ramped up in pregnancy for me. A combination of lower blood pressure, increased blood volume and increased oestrogen levels is probably the cause. It’s also harder to stay hydrated due to the increased sweating (see above) and your posture may be taking a hit due to your breast size and possibly spending more time on the couch.
- Breast size/pain
- Which brings me to the next symptom I did not see coming - my breasts grew and became incredibly tender almost as soon as I fell pregnant. And when I thought they had probably maxed out, they just got bigger and bigger. Again, we get to blame our hormones here. Oestrogen stimulates the growth of breast duct cells and progesterone supports the formation of milk-producing cells.
- Thrush becomes twice as common for women during pregnancy as a result of the increase in oestrogen. It’s best to speak to your GP as soon as you notice symptoms so that you can treat the infection appropriately.
- The jury is out a little when it comes to evidence around the cause of leg cramps. But most likely there is a combination of factors making leg cramps a common symptom of pregnancy. It’s easier to become deficient in some salts and electrolytes when your blood volume is so high and you are sweating more than usual. You are also carrying around a lot more weight on your leg muscles, which can lead to calf cramps.
- Getting sick easily
- If you feel like you’re getting sick more easily during pregnancy, you may be right. In order to accept the partially foreign DNA within the embryo of our baby, our immune system needs to dial back a bit. This means that you are less able to fight off viral and bacterial infections you may be exposed to. Look after yourself by eating well, getting good quality sleep, practising hand hygiene and being mindful in busy, enclosed spaces.
- Feeling a little gassy? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! We can blame progesterone (again) for this one. By relaxing the muscles throughout your body, your digestive system slows down, meaning that the time it takes your food to digest and pass through can increase by up to 30%. This causes more gas to build up than usual and, hence, the pregnancy-related flatulence.
- You may be aware that haemorrhoids are common after giving birth, but did you know that they are experienced by up to 50% of women during pregnancy? The increase in your blood volume, coupled with the pressure on the veins near your anus can cause haemorrhoids to occur, especially if you are also experiencing any constipation from your slowed digestive system.
- Painful/bleeding gums
- Once again, increased levels of oestrogen and progesterone are the cause of this odd symptom. By causing inflammation, your gums are more susceptible to a buildup of plaque and can become sore and even bleed as a result.
This is all based on personal experience and the experiences of my clients and people I know, so if you are unsure about anything or are concerned about any changes you have noticed, it’s best to speak to your doctor.