Pregnancy can do odd things to your body.
Everyone knows you may have morning sickness or experience weird cravings. But did you know your gums may be sore or bleed during pregnancy, or you may lose some hair after you give birth?
These are just a few less common, but still perfectly normal, symptoms of pregnancy.
My colleagues and I wanted to share some of the strange things we experienced during pregnancy, including why they happen and how you can minimize them. That way, even if your doctor or friends don’t warn you about these things, you’ll be ready should they happen!
Changes in taste buds
(Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer)
I’ve been a big coffee drinker my entire adult life. But as soon as I became pregnant with my twins, coffee smelled and – even worse – tasted terrible. I couldn’t even think about drinking coffee without feeling sick. So, in the midst of other pregnancy symptoms, I spent a few weeks battling a headache due to caffeine withdrawal.
Dysgeusia, or a change in your sense of taste, during pregnancy likely is caused by pregnancy hormones. It may cause you to hate a food that you normally love, or enjoy foods you normally dislike. Sometimes it can cause a sour or metallic taste in your mouth, even if you’re not eating anything.
While there’s not a lot you can do about dysgeusia during pregnancy, you can try these tricks:
- Eat what you can. Don’t feel bad if you have to avoid certain foods.
- Banish that metallic taste with acids such as citrus juices like lemonade, or foods marinated in vinegar.
- Brush your tongue along with your teeth, and rinse with a mild salt or baking soda solution.
- Change your prenatal vitamin. Some cause metal mouth more than others.
Above all, don’t worry. You won’t hate foods you used to love forever. Dysgeusia is most common during the first trimester. As your hormones begin to settle down in the second trimester, your taste buds should return to normal.
However, if you’re like me, it may last until you give birth. The morning after my cesarean section, my breakfast tray included a cup of black coffee – and it smelled and tasted wonderful!
Pain around your belly button
(Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer)
I was fortunate to not experience this, but many of my patients complain about it. I’ve seen women actually flinch when I move the transducer over the belly button during an ultrasound. The pain can be quite intense.
There’s no one reason for this pain, but it’s usually due to the changes your body is going through. Your skin and muscles are stretching and your uterus may be pressing up against the belly button. In fact, as your uterus grows, you may find one day that your “innie” belly button is now an “outie”! Don’t worry, you’ll become an “innie” again about six weeks after delivery.
Your belly button pain may come and go throughout your pregnancy, but it should subside after you give birth. Try taking pressure off your belly by sleeping on your side and wearing a support belt.
If the pain is accompanied by a fever, vomiting, cramping, or bleeding, see your doctor right away to rule out a hernia or other medical condition.
Postpartum hair loss
(Dr. Elaine Duryea)
Several months after I had my baby, I began to notice a lot more hair in my brush and in the sink. I felt like a shedding dog.
Many women experience some hair loss in the months after giving birth. It’s known as telogen effluvium. But don’t freak out. You won’t go bald.
About 90 percent of your hair at any time is in a growing phase, while the remaining 10 percent is in a resting phase. Every two to three months, the resting hair falls out and new hair grows in its place. During pregnancy, increased estrogen levels prolong the growing phase, which means fewer hairs go into the resting phase and fall out. That’s why you may notice your hair seems thicker and more luxurious during pregnancy.
After birth, however, your hormone levels return to normal. All that hair that’s been stuck in the growing phase moves to resting and falls out a few months later. This shedding will taper off, and by the time you celebrate your baby’s first birthday, your hair should be back to its pre-pregnancy state.
There are a few things you can do to keep your hair healthy and perhaps reduce the amount you lose:
- Be gentle. Avoid blow dryers, curling and flat irons, or hairstyles that pull and stress your hair whenever possible.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to give your hair the nutrients it needs to stay strong and promote growth.
- Talk to your doctor if your hair loss seems excessive. It could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.
Sore and bleeding gums
(Dr. Elaine Duryea)
I spent part of my pregnancy with a swollen spot on my gum. A surge in hormones during pregnancy increases blood flow to your gums, which can cause them to become sensitive, swell, or bleed. You also may get a pyogenic granuloma, which is what I had. These “pregnancy tumors” are non-cancerous inflammatory growths.
Pregnancy also can make you more susceptible to gingivitis, so even if your gums hurt, you need to continue practicing good oral hygiene. Switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush gently. And don’t skip your regular dental cleanings and check-ups while you’re pregnant.
This won’t last forever. Your gums will go back to normal after the birth of your baby.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
(Dr. Patricia Santiago-Munoz)
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I began to notice tingling and numbness in my hands. I had developed carpal tunnel syndrome, and it’s fairly common in pregnant women starting late in the second trimester.
The carpal tunnel is a passage between the wrist and hand. The median nerve, which controls some movement of the thumb and supplies feeling to several of your fingers, runs through it. Fluid retention during pregnancy causes swelling, which in turn can pinch the median nerve.
Many women report that carpal tunnel symptoms are worse first thing in the morning or late at night. There are a few things you can do to reduce this discomfort:
- Avoid sleeping on your hands.
- Cut back or avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms.
- Make changes to how you use your hands. Use an ergonomic keyboard, adjust the height of your chair so your wrists aren’t bent downward or backward when you type, and take frequent breaks to stretch.
- Wear a wrist splint or brace.
My carpal tunnel syndrome magically disappeared after delivery, and yours also should go away as pregnancy-related swelling subsides. Talk to your doctor if it begins to interfere with your sleep or daily routine, or if it doesn’t get better after giving birth.
Our bodies are capable of performing the amazing feats of pregnancy and childbirth. But that means we may need to manage temporary, annoying symptoms. But it’s all worth it in the end. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor about any odd symptoms you experience. You’ll likely find they’re not as uncommon as you think!