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Weird and Wonderful Things Pregnancy Does to the Body

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Andrea Eisenberg, MD

It’s one thing to have a pregnant friend or family member describe, in detail, all of the strange changes taking place in the body during pregnancy—while it’s another thing to actually be pregnant and experience them personally.

I can honestly say, until I was preggers with my first baby, my daughter, I didn’t truly understand what the following 10 weird and wonderful physical and mental influences of pregnancy would have on my body…

Baby Brain

Mommy brain, pregnancy brain, baby brain—regardless of what you deem it, this side effect of pregnancy decreases your ability to concentrate, zaps your memory, and destroys your sense of focus. I would lose my train of thought mid conversation and put my car keys in the freezer only to rip the house apart later trying to find them.

Pregnancy brain comes on strong during the second trimester, when the other effects of pregnancy are greatest (i.e., lack of sleep, worry, fatigue, and nausea). Research from the Mayo Clinic does support the fact that your growing bump can impair memory due to sleep loss, hormonal changes, and the anxiety of an impending major life change.

Is It Hot in Here?

Hot flashes don’t only strike menopausal women—they inflict expectant women due to a roller coaster of hormones that had me shedding sweaters in the cold of winter during my second and third trimester. The sudden sweating, flushing skin, and accelerated heart rate would come on so unexpectedly and last roughly 5 to 10-minutes. Luckily, my hot flashes gradually lessened late in my third trimester and disappeared totally after I delivered.

According to Dr. Andrea Eisenberg, a board certified OB/GYN in the Metro Detroit area, it’s more common for women to have hot flashes and sweats during postpartum due to the sudden decrease in hormones after delivery.

Heightened Sense of Smell

In the first trimester of my pregnancy, some smells made me literally gag in horror. For instance, cinnamon, which I put in my coffee and oatmeal prior to pregnancy had me rushing to the nearest bathroom. My bionic nose would pick up on the smell in the mall, in the line at my favorite coffee shop and tormented me right through my third trimester.

My doctor credited this heightened sense of smell to increased estrogen, which over stimulates the olfactory system into overdrive.

Phantom Smells

Many pregnant women can also credit surging estrogen levels with a phenomenon known among mommies-to-be as “phantom smells,” or a whiff of something that isn’t actually real. I accused my poor husband of smoking cigars all through my third trimester of pregnancy, even though he’s never smoked period and swore up and down that he never inhaled a puff or went near another cigar smoker.

Jeepers…What’s With My Peepers?

When I awoke during my pregnancy with blurry vision I was pretty freaked out! However, after an unnerving cab ride to my optometrist, I was comforted by the fact that hormone fluctuations can cause cornea swelling, dry eye, the appearance of spotty vision, and tunnel vision throughout pregnancy.

Even though vision problems can be par with the pregnancy course, it’s wise to consult with your eye doctor for temporary lenses and obstetrician in case you have gestational diabetes (vision changes are a sign).

Foot Growth

There’s a big reason why pregnant women care not for style when it comes to shoes while pregnant—particularly in the later stages. They may resort to Uggs, Crocs, flip-flops, or runners, but don’t judge. You’re not carrying around extra weight and surging with a hormone called relaxin, which also causes your feet to literally flatten, your arches to fall, and your footprint to grow as it loosens your ligaments and encourages your pelvis to open in preparation for birth. Fluid retention is also an added reason why feet may grow a size or more.

Restless Legs

In my third trimester, I didn’t get much shuteye. Sure, I was a bit anxious, but my legs were literally keeping me up at night. Restless leg syndrome (or RLS) caused my legs to burn, tingle, spasm, and creep and crawl during the night due to a combination of hormonal changes, iron and calcium deficiencies. I wish I would have known that iron and calcium supplements would help alleviate this chronic evening irritation.

Darkened Skin Patches

Melasma, or the “pregnancy mask,” is a startling, hormone-related condition that causes darkened skin patches to suddenly appear on the cheeks, nose, upper lip, and forehead. As the hormones encourage the over-production of melanin, pigment cells, pregnant ladies (myself included) may also notice a darkened line forming from their belly button to their pubic area during the second trimester, called Linea Nigra. In most cases, both Melasma and Linea Nigra slowly dissipate goes after delivery.

Pregnancy Gingivitis

Doctor’s advice expectant moms to up their calcium intake, because your unborn baby will deplete your stores for bone growth. However, your oral and bone health may suffer if you become calcium-deficient. Pregnancy gingivitis results when calcium is low in the later stages of the first trimester, resulting in bleeding, swollen, irritated gums.

If you suffer from pregnancy gingivitis, be sure to visit your dentist and maintain good oral health (i.e., brush and floss) for treatment as it can impact the health of your unborn child as well as your own health.

Luxurious Locks

Part of that glorious pregnancy glow is thick, shiny hair. You can thank your hormones for those thick and luxurious locks on your head. However, you can also blame hormone fluctuations for embarrassing, coarse hair growth in unexpected places—like the chest, upper lip, cheeks, belly, chest, and back. Thankfully, my chinny-chin-chin hairs fell out and ceased to come back after delivery.

MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Andrea Eisenberg, MD is a board certified OB/GYN in the Metro Detroit area. She has dedicated her life to caring for women through all stages of their lives -- from adolescence, to delivering babies, and later into menopause. Her special interests include minimally invasive surgeries, adolescence, family planning, infertility, and menopause. In her spare time she writes about the human side of medicine on her blog and has several essays published in a variety of journals. To decompress, she enjoys trail running and baking.

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