There’s more to being pregnant than morning sickness and food cravings. By Estelle Low
Weird pregnancy symptoms you should know about. Photo: subbotina / www.123rf.com
It’s funny how we always associate pregnancy symptoms with nausea, vomiting, food cravings and fluid retention, turning us into unrecognisable beings. So when I discovered I was preggers, I was surprised by the lack of obvious symptoms, like puking, for instance.
In my 38 weeks of pregnancy so far, I’ve only thrown up once – which I believe was triggered by a deadly sour mixture of orange and grapefruit juice. I should be glad for being able to keep my stomach contents intact. But strangely, I feel as if I’m sub-normal for not being more pukish, like most other pregnant women.
Another non-sign I’ve been struggling with: Food cravings. Sad to report, I’ve experienced no major urge to eat a particular food so far, other than the occasional ice cream and froyo. Nothing like the “I have to eat this now or die!” sentiment that some pregnant women claim to have, before dispatching dutiful husbands to obtain said food for them. So when well-meaning friends ask me to suggest a dining place, I can’t help but shrug and say “no cravings, so anything goes” – to their disbelief.
Now, it may seem like my pregnancy journey has been a breeze compared to the toilet bowl-clutching, food-craving women out there. But guess what, I’ve been plagued by other signs that assure me I’m no less pregnant than the pukers and eaters. Hey, vomiting and cravings may get the attention, but these less-talked-about symptoms are just as nasty. I know I’m not the only one feeling them. #truestory
Stuffy and runny nose
This started bugging me from the first few weeks of being pregnant. At first, I brushed it off as a nagging cold. But as the nasal congestion persisted over a few months, causing me to wheeze and run out of breath, I found out that a stuffy nose is actually a common pregnancy symptom. In fact, there’s a name for it: pregnancy rhinitis. During pregnancy, higher levels of hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) from the placenta affects mucus production, which leads to a stuffy or runny nose. At 38 weeks – two weeks away from my expected delivery date – I’m still suffering from rhinitis. Taking a warm shower or placing a hot towel on the face helps, but the effect is temporary. The good news is, this stuffy nose usually subsides after pregnancy, according to BabyCentre.
As if my tummy isn’t swollen enough, I get the feeling of gassiness every now and then, sometimes accompanied by a sharp ache similar to gastric pain. After several bouts of bloating, I found that drinking warm water and lying down helps to alleviate the discomfort, and the best way to avoid gassy situations is to have frequent small meals and chew slowly. Pregnant women are prone to bloating, since the hormone called progesterone (again!) causes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract to relax, slowing down digestion and creating more opportunities for gas build-up. Argh. Which brings me to the next symptom.
Farting (a lot)
Certainly the most embarrassing yet unavoidable pregnancy symptom – how can one get rid of gas in the tummy without (ahem) farting? I’ve lost count of the number of gas bombs I emit daily. Don’t judge! Every fart is one step closer to soothing my distended belly, so there’s really no point in holding it back. Of course, I’ve mastered the art of farting silently when in public. Then pray it does not stink.
Not just a consequence of heavy meals, the burning sensation in the oesophagus (the canal that connects throat to stomach) can also be triggered by eating acidic foods like beef, dairy products and chocolate, or drinking in large amounts while eating. Again, it can be explained by changes in hormones, which causes muscles in the digestive tract to relax and stomach acids to rise. Yuck. Besides watching my diet and eating habits, I prop my shoulders with a pillow at bedtime to keep those acids down. So long, sleepless nights.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Like a nightmare, I woke up one day to wrists so sore I could barely turn a door knob, and fingers so stiff I could hardly hold my toothbrush. The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are varied: Some describe it as a numb, tingling sensation in the wrist and fingers; others call it a dull ache. While carpal tunnel syndrome in healthy adults is usually a result of prolonged or repetitive flexing of the wrist (through activities like typing), this debilitating hand condition also strikes pregnant women. When fluid retention increases during pregnancy, it may lead to compression of a major nerve in the wrist that governs feeling in the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger. But don’t panic yet. According to WebMD, the painful symptoms usually disappear shortly after delivery. For quick relief, shake your hands quickly as if you’re drying them. Or do this simple move recommended by my prenatal yoga instructor, which she affectionately calls the Begging Dog: In a comfortable sitting position, bend elbows and raise fists to front of shoulders at chest height. Ball fists and rock them gently by flexing wrists, for 20 reps. Repeat as needed throughout the day.