Imagine it’s your birthday. You walk into a dark room and get the shock of your life when you flip on the lights to find a room full of people standing there ready to celebrate. The scenario isn’t unlike pregnancy, when sometimes even the fact you’re expecting may catch you off guard. Plus, just like those unanticipated party guests, your three trimesters of baby-brewing can host a slew of symptoms that show up at your door without warning. Hold on tight to your party hat—we’re about to clue you in to all the top secret details of your nine-month event.
First things first
Before you even know you’re pregnant, the logistics of your gestational gala are well under way.
Implantation. Hints of the baby-baking festivities to come may leak out prior to peeing on a stick. Abdominal pain (which can be secondary to the fertilized egg implanting into the uterus) and vaginal bleeding (which occurs as a result of the implantation) are two of the first indications of a pregnancy taking hold, notes Linda Burke-Galloway, MD, MS, FACOG, author of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy. Since most women will likely be expecting their monthly periods however, these clues are easily overlooked.
Let’s get this party started
Once the cat is finally out of the bag (you’re having a baby!), the first trimester can bring nervous energy along with a few unwelcome symptoms.
Nausea. One of the most common signs of pregnancy is morning sickness. The unforeseen part comes when women realize it doesn’t just happen in the morning—and can be pretty severe to boot. “The level of nausea at times is incapacitating and may even require a trip the hospital for further evaluation,” says Burke-Galloway.
Sense of smell. You might find yourself running from the fridge when your first trimester hits since olfactory changes can cause certain foods to become offensive.
Breasts. With the increase of estrogen and progesterone comes a noticeable change to the girls. Your nipples will become both darker in color and larger in size, and a map of blue lines will appear as blood flow increases to bring nourishment to your wee one. Montogomery’s tubercles, which are little bumps on the areolas that secrete a fluid to lubricate the nipples, will also make their debut.
Mood swings. Hormones in your body begin to work overtime between weeks six and 10, so don’t be surprised when you find your feelings running the gamut. From happy to sad to depressed to anxious, you’ll likely experience a rollercoaster of emotions.
I like to party
It’s (mostly) fun and games in the second trimester when the celebration is in full swing.
Stretched ligaments. “The uterus is growing and stretching the ligaments that hold it to the pelvic wall,” explains Burke-Galloway, which can sometimes cause round ligament pain at the lower part of the abdomen. Though mamas-to-be may find this a worrisome symptom, it’s perfectly normal.
Appetite. Since nausea has subsided, you might find your stomachaches transforming into hunger pangs. Hooray for no longer fearing the fridge!
Blood pressure. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the increased volume of blood circulating through your body actually lowers blood pressure, notes Burke-Galloway.
Skin. Your face may be the first sign to the outside world that you have a baby on board. “Blotches, pregnancy mask and acne usually occur because of estrogen,” Burke-Galloway says. “Severe itching, especially at night might indicate a liver problem. Crusts and blisters indicate a serious condition and should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.”
Flatulence. The hormone progesterone relaxes the muscles in your body, including your stomach muscles, and slows down digestion. This causes a surplus in the amount of bloating, burping and gas.
These uninvited physical changes can show up unexpectedly.
Stretch marks. Pink, red, purple or brown streaks that form on the skin when a change occurs in the elastic tissue beneath it are called stretch marks. They are most frequently found on the growing abdomen but can also occur on the buttocks, thighs, breasts and hips.
Varicose veins. These swollen, twisted and sometimes painful veins that appear blue or purple in color most often take up residence on the legs, but can also show up as hemorrhoids (which range in size and can cause rectal bleeding). Due to pressure on the inferior vena cava from the growing uterus, varicose veins can feel achy or itchy after a long day of standing.
Pregnancy nose. “The nose can swell during pregnancy because of fluid retention and usually reverts back to its normal size after the baby is born,” says Burke-Galloway. “Fluid retention during the third trimester could indicate preeclampsia which is an obstetrical emergency. If a woman’s nose swells or enlarges, her blood pressure should be checked immediately.”
Leaky ducts. In preparation for breastfeeding your milk ducts begin to produce colostrum, a thin yellow-colored fluid that contains antibodies and will provide immunity and nourishment until your milk comes in. The surprise part? If your nipples are squished, they can expel liquid, causing the surrounding area to become caked. And they aren’t the only things leaking these days either. Due to the weight of the uterus on your bladder, you may find sneezing, coughing or laughing results in a little urine sneaking out.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
Embarrassing symptoms can make you want to hibernate, but don’t worry: You can blame these less-than-pleasing symptoms on the bump.
Gingivitis. Because of the high level of progesterone increasing blood flow to the mouth, a mom-to-be’s gums may become inflamed when brushing and flossing. In fact, half of expectant women experience pregnancy gingivitis, which is responsible for swollen, irritated and bleeding gums.
Dental discomfort. Benign nodules or tumors may appear on your gums during pregnancy. These lumps are usually painless and tend to disappear after delivery. If any bumps cause pain, however, you can have them removed—even while there’s a bun in your oven.
Hair loss. Though it’s normal to experience hair loss in the third or fourth month after delivery, hair loss during gestation can signal a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Vaginal discharge. Odor may change during pregnancy for the better or worse thanks to the influx of hormones. You can expect discharge to increase at first, switch to a milky white in the middle of your pregnancy, and turn to a jelly or mucus-like texture at the end of the third trimester.
Perspiration. Increased blood flow may cause expectant moms to sweat a bit more than they did prepregnancy. Even though your mama-to-be status may leave you feeling extra moist, the kind of perspiration responsible for body odor (apocrine perspiration) decreases, which means you won’t be smelly at least.
Linea nigra. This dark, vertical line goes from your belly button to your pubic area and will fade after delivery. Not surprisingly, pregnancy hormones are the culprit in its appearance.
Belly button. If you have an innie, you might be startled to find that when your stomach expands, so does your belly button; in fact, some women find their innies become outies.
The revelry is almost over, but fear not: There will be plenty of fashionably late party- goers showing up in the third trimester.
Heartburn. Progesterone causes the esophagus to relax, which can permit sneaky acid to make its way up from the stomach. This bothersome symptom worsens in later stages of pregnancy when the weight of the uterus pushes on the stomach and intestines.
Leg cramps. Blame extra poundage and changes in circulation for the sharp muscle spasms that plague tired, achy gams.
Foot size. A change in shoe size may occur if you’re retaining fluid, says Burke-Galloway. “Most often it occurs because of the stretching of ligaments in the feet. It’s [caused by] the same hormone that allows the pelvic bones to relax right before labor begins.”
Constipation. A painful and annoying symptom, constipation is common amongst the expectant crowd. If you haven’t had a bowel movement in three days or find your stools to be hard and difficult to pass, it’s time to up your water and fiber intake—you’re plugged.
Insomnia. Zs are hard to come by as your pregnancy draws to a close. Burke-Galloway explains: “The level of estrogen drops during the third trimester, especially at the end, [much like] what happens hormonally during menopause.”
Forgetfulness. Pregnancy brain is an interesting phenomenon and (not so shockingly) has something to do with hormonal changes during pregnancy, says Burke-Galloway.
As your gestational get-together begins to wind down, you may feel bittersweet about bidding farewell to pregnancy. But as you savor your final moments as a mom-to-be, rest assured: Baby’s coming out party will be even more cause for celebration.