You already know what to expect during pregnancy: weight gain, morning sickness and fatigue.
But with all of the hormones and changes your body goes through, there are other pregnancy symptoms that might surprise you. And while they may be strange, they’re completely normal.
Although it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first, rest assured these 10 common symptoms are nothing to worry about.
1. Excess vaginal discharge
Leucorrhea, or an increase in vaginal discharge, is common and happens because of the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy.
“The hormones cause the glands in the vagina to have an increased production of secretions which then manifests itself as leucorrhea,” said Dr. Kelly Kasper, a board-certified OB-GYN at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.
Excess vaginal discharge can also occur as you near your due date because the cervix will begin to ripen, or become soft to prepare your body to give birth.
Vaginal discharge that’s white to light yellow is nothing to worry about, but if it becomes itchy or has an odor it could mean you have a yeast infection. Also, if the discharge is persistent and watery, it could mean you’re leaking amniotic fluid, so call your doctor immediately.
Between 20 and 40 percent of women will have spotting during the first trimester and most of the time it’s simply because more blood is being pumped into the cervix. Spotting can also happen because of implantation bleeding when the embryo is implanted in the uterine lining, which happens between six and twelve days after fertilization.
A small amount of light pink or brown blood is normal but if it’s bright red or it’s heavy like your period, call your physician. Bleeding could indicate placenta previa or a miscarriage but most of the time, it’s normal and will resolve itself.
“Don’t freak about it because it happens a lot and most people are fine. But do take precautions and talk to your physician— that’s what they’re there for,” said Jeanne Faulkner, a registered nurse in Portland, Ore., author of “Common Sense Pregnancy: Navigating a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth for Mother and Baby” and host of the Common Sense Pregnancy & Parenting podcast.
3. Bloody noses and bleeding gums
The pregnancy hormones that increase the blood vessel supply throughout the body can also make the tissues in the nose and gums hypersensitive. As a result, you might have a bloody nose and notice that your gums bleed when you brush them or have a dental cleaning.
Running a humidifier at night and using a saline nasal spray or gel can help keep your nasal passages moist. When you brush your teeth, use a soft bristle toothbrush and brush gently.
4. Skin tags
Skin tags are small “outpockets” or excess skin growths that show up in the folds of the body like the neck, the underarms and the groin and usually develop between the fourth and six month of pregnancy.
Although it’s unclear why they happen, it might be due to hormones and weight gain. There also seems to be a genetic component and they tend to happen more frequently with age.
“Sometimes they regress or fall off after pregnancy but most of the time, they’re markers of pregnancy and they tend to stay until your dermatologist snips it off or burns it off,” said Dr. Doris Day, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and author of “Forget the Facelift: Turn Back the Clock with Dr. Day’s Revolutionary Four-Step Program for Ageless Skin.”
If you notice new or changing skin lesions or moles, however, tell your doctor at your next prenatal visit to make sure it’s not skin cancer, which is common but treatable during pregnancy.
5. Racing heart or a pumping sensation in the ear
The increased blood volume means there’s more blood for your heart to pump throughout your body, so your heart has to work harder. If you feel your heart beating harder or even hear the sound of your heart beating in your ear, know that it’s nothing to stress out about.
6. Varicose veins in the legs and the vulva
As your blood volume increases and your uterus and baby grow, the pressure on the large blood vessels can make it difficult for the blood to circulate back to your lower extremities.
As a result, the blood can pool and create varicose veins in your legs and even in your vulva, which happens in about 10 percent of women and can be quite uncomfortable.
To prevent varicose veins, try not to gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy and walk everyday to increase your circulation. Spandex pants and pregnancy compression hose can help varicose veins in your legs. After pregnancy, they may improve or get better. If they don’t, there are many treatments available.
If you have varicose veins in your vulva, you can still deliver vaginally and they will disappear after pregnancy. Meanwhile, ice packs can make them feel more comfortable now.
7. Dark nipples
During pregnancy, it’s perfectly normal for your nipples and areolas (the area around your nipples) to become larger and darker. The change is a result of the increased blood volume but it’s also nature’s way to prepare your body for your baby.
“It creates the bullseye that makes it easier for the baby to latch on later,” Faulkner said.
8. Numbness and tingling
During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin, which helps to open up the pelvis to deliver your baby, can also make the rest of the joints in your body loose too. As a result, it can cause sciatica or pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down the legs. The two sacroiliac joints at the bottom of the spine can get loose and create a sensation of sciatica too, Kasper said.
Although it’s almost always not a cause for concern and can be relieved with pregnancy massage or prenatal yoga, numbness and tingling sensations might mean you have a bulging or herniated disc in your lower back that’s compressing the sciatic nerve. Left untreated, it could lead to permanent nerve damage so be sure to run it by your doctor at your next prenatal visit.
9. Pain in the wrist
Swelling in the tissues of the wrists can compress the nerves and cause carpal tunnel syndrome. It usually shows up later on in pregnancy when swelling is more common and it can cause pain as well as numbness and tingling in the fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome will resolve after delivery but a hand brace or splint can help to decrease the swelling.
10. Scary dreams
Vivid, frightening dreams about your unborn baby or about your other children are perfectly normal and happen because you subconsciously want your baby to be healthy and safe.
“It’s not a premonition that anything bad is going to happen,” Kasper said.