Morning sickness. Skipped period. Fatigue. Most of us are familiar with these signs of pregnancy. But what about lesser-known changes that take hold early in pregnancy?
Pregnancy affects the entire body as it prepares to provide an environment for the fetus to grow and develop properly. These hormonal changes — spurred by increased production of estrogen and progesterone — often mean that you will experience some physiological changes that might take you by surprise. Here are five you might not expect.
Acne is a common side effect of hormonal changes, so a breakout may be a sign you’re pregnant. Shifting hormone levels cause the skin to produce more of a substance called sebum that can clog pores, triggering breakouts.
About 40 percent of pregnant women have acne. While many had it before pregnancy, more than 13 percent will experience it for the first time.
During pregnancy, surging levels of progesterone slow down the muscle contractions responsible for moving food through your system, which might cause gastrointestinal issues. If you’re normally regular and find yourself constipated, bloated or gassy, pregnancy could be the reason.
As your baby grows, there’s less real estate for your intestines, stomach and esophagus to function properly, so you might experience continuing symptoms throughout pregnancy.
Acid reflux is another GI issue that you might experience when pregnant and can lead to complications if not discussed with your physician. If you’re experiencing pain below the ribs, call your doctor. This kind of discomfort can be a sign of fatty liver disease or preeclampsia, which can cause high blood pressure.
If you’re one of many women who gets headaches related to changes in your menstrual cycle, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that hormone changes also can cause headaches during pregnancy.
In addition to hormone changes, the sudden increase in blood volume that happens during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause headaches because of increased pressure on blood vessels. Fatigue, tension and stress, increased hunger and low blood sugar also can lead to headaches during pregnancy.
Smell sensitivity and palate changes
If you find yourself unexpectedly nauseated by a smell you normally love, you may be pregnant. Some pregnant women discover that formerly beloved scents — their favorite perfume, woodsmoke, fresh coffee — suddenly cause nausea. Changes in smell generally occur in the second trimester.
Similarly, some women experience taste aversions early in pregnancy. Sometimes these aversions go away a few weeks or months later, and other times they stick around longer, even postpartum. Occasionally, women report a sour or metallic taste in their mouths even when they’re not eating anything.
As with other signs and symptoms, hormones are to blame for these changes. In this case, estrogen is the culprit.
We all know the breasts produce milk during pregnancy, but most people don’t realize how soon this production starts. Cells in the breast begin to secrete a substance called colostrum as early as the twelfth week of pregnancy, and some women may experience nipple discharge as an early sign of pregnancy.
Breast tenderness is another possible sign of pregnancy. In one study, 76 percent of women reported having tender or painful breasts during their first trimester.
When To See Your Doctor
If you’re experiencing certain problems that could be signs of something more serious, it’s time to call your doctor for an appointment. These include:
· heavy bleeding
· abdominal pain
· inability to keep food down, constant vomiting or dehydration
If your pregnancy symptoms are disrupting your quality of life, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter or holistic remedies such as ginger for nausea and stool softeners for constipation. A doctor also can tell you which medications to avoid during pregnancy so you can remain as comfortable as possible while your baby grows.
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