This week’s Ask the Experts covers five of the changes you might experience during pregnancy that aren’t widely discussed. Sharing their knowledge with us on this topic are The Mommy Docs—the featured doctors in the popular TV series “Deliver Me,” currently in its third season on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. You can follow them on Twitter: @TheMommyDocs
Many first-time mothers experience unexpected or unanticipated changes to their bodies while pregnant. It can be disconcerting, uncomfortable, or just plain annoying. Our advice is always to share your concerns with your doctor and ask questions to put you at ease so you can enjoy your pregnancy. Here’s a list of the most common bodily changes women experience in pregnancy that no one talks about:
Your bladder sits directly in front of your uterus. During pregnancy, as the uterus grows, the shape of the bladder changes and urinary tract infections (UTI) become more common. In fact, 5 to 10 percent of all pregnant women will develop a UTI. Some women will have the classic symptoms of the infection such as pain with urination, frequent urination or blood in the urine. However, others will have no symptoms at all. Even women without an infection may feel like they have to urinate more frequently because of the increased pressure on the bladder so if you have this symptom, you should notify your doctor.
UTIs are treated with oral antibiotics to kill the bacteria. In addition, it is recommended to increase your fluid intake. You may use over-the-counter medications like Uristat to relieve the pain. It is important to treat UTI’s aggressively during pregnancy because the infection can spread to the kidneys or cause preterm labor.
2) Vaginal Discharge.
One of the symptoms that no one ever talks about when they are the pregnant is all the wet, watery discharge that comes out of the vagina. Many women are shocked and are unsure if they have a vaginal infection or if it occurs later in the pregnancy, they think they may have broken their bag of water.
Increased estrogen levels from the pregnancy cause the vaginal discharge to be thin, clear white and watery. It differs from a vaginal infection in that there should be no vaginal odor, itching, irritation or burning caused by the discharge. Vaginal infections can occur in pregnancy. If there is itching, burning, redness in the labial area, or thick cottage cheese-like discharge this may represent a yeast infection. If the discharge is thinner and has a fishy odor this may represent a bacterial infection. Your doctor would need to confirm the difference. Over the counter remedies are available for yeast infections, like Monistat, but bacterial medications require a prescription from your doctor.
3) Numbness, tingling, and stiffness.
Another really annoying bodily change that is not known as one of the main pregnancy symptoms is the development of numbness, stiffness, tingling or pain in the hands or fingers. This is caused by increased fluid in a woman’s body from the pregnancy. All women will have about a liter and half of extra fluid in their bodies when they are pregnant. The carpal tunnel is a narrow depression in the arm where all the nerves and tendons of the fingers pass through. If there is just a little extra fluid compression on these nerves and tendons, it can lead to a carpal tunnel syndrome of pregnancy. This symptom can be reduced by wearing hand splints.
4) Skin changes.
You’ve probably heard of the “pregnancy glow,” referring to nice skin changes that some women see during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, you may experience some skin changes during your pregnancy that you may not like, such as:
- Dark spots: About 90 percent of pregnant women develop dark spots on their skin. These may occur on the face, breasts, genital areas, in the armpits, and inner thighs. These dark spots are the result of increased pigment called “melanin.” These dark spots and skin changes may worsen with sun exposure, so we recommend using sunscreen and wearing a hat when outdoors throughout pregnancy. Most of the spots will fade within six months of delivery, but some may be permanent.
- Stretch marks: About 80 to 90 percent of pregnant women will develop stretch marks due to stretching of the second layer of skin. They may be found on your abdomen, breasts, buttocks, or thighs. There are no proven ways for women to prevent stretch marks. You may see a dermatologist after your delivery for possible laser treatment or dermabrasion to remove the stretch marks.
- Acne: Some women experience increased acne on their face, chest, or back during their pregnancy due to hormonal changes. You may use topical antibiotic solutions prescribed by your doctor, or over the counter medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
5) Varicose veins and increased hair growth.
You may notice varicose veins on your legs, vulva, and anus (hemorrhoids) during your pregnancy. Varicose veins are a result of the increased pressure that is placed on your pelvic vessels by your growing uterus and baby. You can try to alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins by wearing support stocking, avoiding sitting or standing for prolonged periods, elevating your legs, and exercising regularly.
Hormonal changes during your pregnancy may increase the hair growth not only on your head but also on your face, chest, abdomen, and arms. These changes will usually return to normal within about six months after your delivery. In the meantime, enjoy your thick mane!
*Mommy Docs are spokespersons on behalf of Insight Pharmaceuticals Women’s Health portfolio of products.