Pregnancy Surprises: Symptoms You May Not Expect


Pregnancy is a surprise in itself, so it’s no wonder that it’s also full of surprises. Most of which nobody ever really talks about leaving the first-time mom clueless about what’s going on when she appears to be lactating at 20 weeks or she has swollen glands below her armpits.This is for her. While most prenatal physicians or midwives will attempt to cover all of their patients upcoming changes, they’re bound to miss a few. This is an explanation of just a few of those changes during pregnancy that are lesser known, but just as common as wanting pickles on your ice cream at 4 am.

“I haven’t even had my baby yet and my boobs are leaking milk. What’s wrong with me?”

Actually, that’s not milk per say. It’s colostrum, sometimes called “immune milk”. Colostrum is the first milk a mother produces. It’s a thin, opalescent, white sometimes yellowish fluid that proceeds actual milk containing a higher level of antibodies to support your new babies immune system, as well as more protein and less fat making it easier for your newborn to digest.  Colostrum can begin to leak as early as 16 weeks, while sometimes it doesn’t appear until after birth. However, rest assured, it is entirely normal and nothing is wrong with you.

Another concern women who begin leaking colostrum early have is, “Will there be any milk left when my baby gets here?” The answer is yes, your body produces colostrum on a daily basis and will continue to do so until a few days after your baby is born and the real milk kicks in. If you don’t leak colostrum also don’t be concerned. This is not a sign of weak milk production or an inability to produce at all. Like everything else in your pregnancy, nothing will be just the same as any one else’s.

“The glands under my arm pits are swollen, am I sick?”

Possibly, but it could also be the tail of Spence preparing to produce milk. The tail of Spence is a strip of breast tissue that extends up into the armpit. Sometimes this tissue develops milk glands which can produce minor swelling. It’s a good idea to show your health care provider these lumps even though they are fairly common, because it could lead to complications while breast feeding. In fact, information is so elusive on the subject I had to ask my midwife just to get the information for this article. Massaging the area or taking a warm bath can help with swelling and/or pain. If the area continues to swell after pregnancy there is a possibility milk has become trapped in the area. This doesn’t mean you can’t continue breast feeding, but your going to want to see a doctor immediately.

“I keep getting nose bleeds. Is that normal?”

I’d never heard any one mention nose bleeds during pregnancy, and when it became one of my most common symptoms I was quite confused. Nose bleeds during pregnancy are normal and occur in higher frequency than normal because of the combined effect of increased blood volume in the body and expanded blood vessels in the nose. A humidifier can help, but for the most part you’ll just have to deal with the nasal leaking. Stuffy nose and other nasal symptoms are also common during pregnancy. If you do think your nose is sick, avoid cold medicines until you’ve consulted a physician as some medications can be harmful to your baby.

“My shoes don’t fit. Have I really put on that much weight?”

Relax, just because your shoes no longer fit doesn’t mean you’ve gained too much weight. Excess fluid in the body during pregnancy can cause swelling all over, most notably, the feet. This can cause you to need a shoe size, or even two, larger than you normally wear. It has nothing to do with weight gain and is perfectly normal. Sometimes this increase will continue after pregnancy. During the final trimester hormones act to relax tissue within your joints for labor and this affects your feet too. For example, before I had kids I wore a 6, now I wear a 7.5 after three children.

“Ahhhhh! I’m turning into a werewolf!?!?!”

Nope, some hormones released during pregnancy just cause significant hair and nail changes. You may grow hair in places you never had any before, like the tummy, chin or nipples. Your existing hair may thicken, darken or even change colors, and of course your finger nails will likely grow like crazy. Most changes do go back to “normal” after you’ve had the baby though so not to worry.

Pregnancy really does throw the body into a tail spin of new and surprising changes, most of which are perfectly normal and harmless to you and your child. The best policy when wondering about any change though is to just ask who ever is giving you your prenatal care. Sure you could read articles like this one. You could ask trusted friends or family. You could google to your heart’s desire, but when it really comes down to it, the easiest most trust worthy way to be sure what’s going on with your body is just what should is to ask a professional. Also they’ll likely take note of any less common changes that could be symptoms of a problem. Trust you instinct and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Knowledge is power.

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