There are a number of symptoms of pregnancy, including fatigue, vomiting, and nausea, which are completely normal. In addition, many develop some awkward and embarrassing symptoms, like abdominal hair, belching and constipation, increased discharge from the vagina, and hemorrhoids. According to Michele M. Hakakha, MD, an O.B.G.Y.N. in a private practice in Beverly Hills, California, and author of Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy, these are not things that women usually discuss.
Women should not feel awkward discussing any of the symptoms with the gynecologist or obstetrician so that the doctor can decide whether the symptoms are normal, or if it is something to be concerned about. Kim Hoover, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, feels that most of the time it will be a normal symptom and it is important to reassure the person that symptoms, like gas, bloating, incontinence, stretch marks, and belching, are normal.
Pregnancy is associated with a surge of hormones that affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract resulting in excess gas and bloating. Since the control over the muscles is poor during pregnancy, it is difficult to prevent. Few changes in the diet and regular exercise can help to reduce the tendency. “Exercise increases the motility of the gastrointestinal tract helping the food to move faster, and prevents it from staying for a longer time and ferment," says Hakakha. Avoid foods like carbonated drinks, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and dried fruit completely, as they are more likely to cause gas.
During pregnancy, flatulence may be caused by dairy products too. Sonja Kinney, MD, associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine and medical director of the Olson Center for Women's Health at UNMC, many women find it hard to tolerate milk during pregnancy when they start having it every day thinking it is good for health.
This is yet another embarrassing symptom during pregnancy, mostly caused by stress incontinence, leaking of urine just by cough, sneeze or laugh. This leakage is very small but it is still very embarrassing to the person, especially when it happens in a crowd. Regular trips to the bathroom to clear the bladder is a simple step to avoid this embarrassment. Some doctors suggest that it is better to wear a panty liner, especially during the last few months of pregnancy when leakage is more likely.
“The real cause of this is that as the fetus grows, it sits on the bladder resulting in incontinence," says Hakakha. “Emptying the bladder every two hours, even when one does not feel the need, is the best way to avoid leakage," adds Hakakha.
The surge of hormones during pregnancy may also result in other unwanted effects including the growth of hair in all unwanted places. “Many pregnant women feel happy when they hear that hair growth would be very good during pregnancy," says Hakakha. This soon turns into a horror as they understand that hair growth can also occur in places like the breasts, abdomen and face.
During pregnancy, waxing and tweezing are the two safe methods for removing unwanted hair. Hoover suggests that it is better to postpone the removal until delivery as it is an outpatient procedure. Laser treatments can be avoided as it may affect the skin pigment resulting in scarring.
The sense of smell may improve considerably during pregnancy in some women. Strong food odors like that of seafood and poultry may cause aversion in many. It is embarrassing when some of them start picking their own smells. This is quite common during pregnancy and many can smell themselves vaginally, especially during the last trimester, says Hoover. This is because of the increased production of mucus during pregnancy. There is no need to be embarrassed and others may not be able to catch it as the smell has not got stronger but the woman’s sense of smell has.
If there are any new noticeable vaginal odors, it is better to inform the doctor to rule out the possibility of yeast infection, which can be treated safely using antifungal medications.
“One of the most common complaints of pregnancy is constipation and many of them develop hemorrhoids," says Hakakha. Hemorrhoids often develop with constipation and the strain applied to clear the bowels.
The risk of hemorrhoids can be reduced by avoiding constipation – have more fiber, drink plenty of fluids, and use over-the-counter stool softeners. One can also look at fiber supplementation as an option, which should be started only after discussion with the doctor. “Hazel pads and anti-inflammtory pads can be used safely during pregnancy," suggests Hakakha.
The increase in the hormones also leads to outbreaks of pimples, especially during the first trimester. Common medications like retin-A and many other over-the-counter medications cannot be used during pregnancy. It is always better to discuss with the doctor before using any of the acne medications. Products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid are safe options during pregnancy. Topical acne medications can be used sparingly, only on the affected areas.
The normal physical changes and weight gain associated with pregnancy can lead to intimacy and communication problems with the partner. Many pregnant women hesitate to get intimate with the partner as the discharge will change and there are chances of swelling in vulva. If one finds it difficult to share the details of this issue to the partner, it is better to get him during the visit to the gynecologist after discussing the issue with the doctor.