"Embarrassing" Pregnancy Issues

Pregnancy Symptoms You May Not Have Heard About

Are you pregnant and feeling slightly embarrassed by some of the symptoms you’re experiencing? You’re not alone! Many pregnant women feel self-conscious about their symptoms, including mood swings and swollen ankles. Remember that these symptoms are entirely normal and aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Just relax and enjoy your pregnancy!

As women, our bodies change significantly when we are pregnant. Not all symptoms are commonly known and you may not have expected some other changes. Many common symptoms include weight gain, belly growth, and breast growth. There are a lot of other symptoms, though, that many women don’t talk about because they find them embarrassing. 

Vaginal Discharge

During pregnancy, your body may produce extra discharge, a clear or white sticky substance called leukorrhea. Increased hormones cause you to secrete more discharge than average, making a sticky barrier preventing vaginal infections. Your discharge might look more like mucus from your nose than your normal fluids. Discharge may also be thin and clear and have a mild odor. During the end of your pregnancy, your discharge can become thicker and increase in the amount where it might feel like you peed your pants.

Some women find this an embarrassing pregnancy symptom as it ruins their underwear. If this is the case, consider using a pantyliner (never a tampon!) to protect your undies! To reduce discharge, you can add probiotic yogurts and pregnancy safe rated probiotics to your diet. Avoid scented feminine products such as pads, toilet papers, and soaps. Avoid wearing tight underwear or pants as well will help reduce discharge.

Not all vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal, however. Here are some types that you should notify your doctor of: 

    • White and Lumpy

Yeast infections during pregnancy can resemble cottage cheese and cause vaginal soreness and pain while urinating. If the vaginal discharge is lumpy or off-white, it may indicate a yeast infection, especially if you experience itching or burning. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you something or suggest an over the counter cream to get rid of the infection.

    • Yellow or Green

Vaginal discharge is not normal if it is a green-yellow color, causes itchiness, or has a foul odor. This can indicate a sexually transmitted infection(STI) such as chlamydia or a bacterial infection called vaginosis. If you notice discharge of abnormal color, notify your doctor so they can test you for any infections, including vaginosis and STIs.

    • Pink or Red

While pink hues in early or late pregnancy are sometimes normal, they can also be a symptom of a miscarriage. They should be checked on as soon as possible. Red discharge especially bleeding, cramping, and pain, can be potentially serious, and you should be seen immediately by a doctor.

Some spotting is expected early in the pregnancy due to implantation bleeding, intercourse, or even a pelvic exam. Mild spotting can also be expected in the later stage of pregnancy as you get closer to labor. When in doubt, always let your doctor know when you notice any bleeding.

Mucus Plug

While pregnant, your body forms a mucus plug at the opening of the cervix to help prevent bacteria from getting into the uterus. When you first become pregnant, estrogen and progesterone hormones start to produce a stickier discharge forming the plug. It is a thick jelly like a plug that is filled with antimicrobial proteins to protect any infection from occurring while you are pregnant.

Once you get closer to labor, around 37 weeks, your cervix will thin out as it prepares to dilate, causing the mucus plug to fall out. The plug is generally thicker and more gelatinous than your normal pregnancy discharge and may be up to 5 centimeters long.

It is possible to lose a partial or full mucus plug earlier in your pregnancy and could indicate a sign of preterm labor. If you are unsure if you lost a part or full mucus plug, speak to your doctor if it is earlier than 37 weeks. Your doctor can tell if it is still intact and may prescribe bed rest or a procedure to close the cervix.

Varicose Veins

Among the many embarrassing and uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, large twisted veins that protrude out on the legs, arms, or anywhere in the body are some of the most common. These veins, called varicose veins, can be painful and itchy. While they are more common in pregnant women for the first time, any woman can develop them during pregnancy.

Varicose veins are caused by increased blood volume and pressure on the veins. They are also more likely to occur if you have a family history. When you are pregnant, your growing uterus puts pressure on the large vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. This causes the vein to enlarge and can slow down blood flow, which can lead to pooling in your leg veins. In addition, hormone changes during pregnancy can cause your vein walls to relax, which can also contribute to varicose veins.

While there is no sure way to prevent varicose veins, you may be able to reduce your risk by staying active and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting. You can wear loose-fitting clothes and elevate your legs when you can help. If you do develop varicose veins, talk to your doctor about ways to relieve your symptoms.

Constipation

Another embarrassing symptom of pregnancy is constipation. Your pelvic floor muscles consist of your uterus, bladder, and your bowels. Your body is producing extra hormones, and one of these hormones (called progesterone) causes your pelvic floor muscles to relax, preventing contractions. With your bowels being relaxed, they are not moving your stool through, causing you to get constipated!

To combat this, drink plenty of hydrating fluids and increase the amount of fiber you eat. If eating more fiber and drinking more water doesn’t help get things moving, contact your doctor to find out if over the counter stool softeners could benefit you.

Hemorrhoids

With pregnancy, you will likely get hemorrhoids. Pregnancy hemorrhoids are swollen veins in and around your rectum that are swollen and protruding outward. They are similar to the varicose veins, but instead, they are on your anus. Many women find this embarrassing during their pregnancy and not to mention uncomfortable.

Pregnancy hemorrhoids can be itchy and painful to deal with, but luckily, they usually subside after your pregnancy. The increased blood flow in your body and constipation causes the hemorrhoids to form. High fiber and water intake can help take the pressure on your fanny when you try to make a bowel movement and prevent the hemorrhoids from worsening.

Gas

Another common embarrassing symptom is excessive gas. As your body releases hormones to relax your pelvic organs, it also relaxes your bowels. With your bowels relaxed, it will slow down your digestive system, causing gas formation.

This can be very embarrassing, but there are a few things you can do to help minimize the problem. First, try to avoid foods that give you gas. Second, eat smaller meals more often throughout the day instead of three large meals. Finally, make sure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet so that your digestive system is working properly.

Water Retention

Pregnancy is a time of significant change, both physically and emotionally. Pregnancy comes with several physical changes, and swelling in your belly isn’t the only one. During pregnancy, your body begins to retain water, which can cause swelling in areas from your face to your toes. This can be uncomfortable and even painful at times.

Your feet may swell as gravity pushes the water down towards your feet, making your feet sore and your favorite shoes no longer fit! The swelling will go down after the birth of your baby! Some women may grow up a shoe size permanently, however.

However, there are things you can do to help ease the discomfort. For example, avoid standing for long periods and wear comfortable shoes that offer support. You should also drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.

Incontinence

One embarrassing symptom a woman may experience during pregnancy is stress incontinence. This is when urine leaks out when putting stress on the bladder through movement or activity, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, and lifting things. While it may be embarrassing, it is essential to know that this symptom is expected and temporary, usually resolved after pregnancy.

 As your baby grows in your uterus, it will start to put downward pressure on your bladder, causing your urine to lead out. To help manage stress incontinence, be sure to empty your bladder before engaging in activities that may put stress on your bladder, and practice pelvic floor muscle exercises (also known as Kegels) to help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder. If you are still experiencing symptoms after pregnancy, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Leaky Breasts

One embarrassing symptom of pregnancy can be leaked breast milk. You may notice that your breasts are leaking milk, which can happen to any woman, even if she has never had a baby. The activity of the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for milk production, is increased during pregnancy, and this can cause your breasts to leak milk.

Your breasts may grow larger and more tender, and you may notice they are leaking breast milk. Breast milk leakage can occur when the baby cries, when the mother hears her child cry or when the mother experiences stress or anxiety. While not all women experience this symptom, it is pretty common.

If you are leaking breast milk, wear a supportive bra to help hold in the milk and prevent it from staining your clothes. You can also try putting a breast pad in your bra to absorb the leaked milk. Suppose you are uncomfortable with the idea of breast pads. In that case, you can try using a clean cloth diaper or sanitary napkin instead. Leaking breast milk is usually nothing to be worried about, but if you are concerned, you should talk to your doctor.

Linea nigra

During pregnancy, many women experience embarrassing or inconvenient changes to their bodies. One of these is the linea nigra, a dark line that runs down the center of the abdomen. The linea nigra is caused by increased melanin production due to the increased estrogen levels in the body during pregnancy.

In addition to causing the linea nigra, the increased melanin production can also make your nipples darker. There is no way to prevent the linea nigra from occurring. However, you can help prevent it from getting darker by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen when you are outdoors.

Acne

Pregnancy is an exciting time filled with many changes, both physical and emotional. However, it can also be a time of unease, as many women experience new and embarrassing symptoms. One common but embarrassing symptom is the development of acne.

While acne is often associated with adolescence, it can also occur during pregnancy due to increased progesterone levels in the body. Progesterone causes the skin to produce more oil, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.

If you are struggling with acne during pregnancy, you can do a few things to help clear your skin. Most acne cleansers and washes are safe during pregnancy, but medications typically are not. With some care, you can help minimize embarrassing pregnancy symptoms like acne. You can also try to reduce stress, which can trigger or worsen breakouts. Finally, be sure to cleanse your face gently and avoid touching or picking at your skin.

 

As if the morning sickness, swollen ankles, and mood swings weren’t enough, many other not-so-pleasant side effects come with pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of these embarrassing symptoms are just par for the course. And chances are you won’t even remember all of the pregnancy symptoms you experienced along the way. But don’t worry — all of this will be worth it when you finally meet your little one.

Please note: This article was written in collaboration with healthcare writer Breann Kakacek, RN BSN.  

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