When you find out you’re pregnant, you know to expect a few changes in your body, such as morning sickness, breast growth, and stretch marks. But there are other, less well-known effects of pregnancy that might surprise you.
If you stand up or change positions very quickly while pregnant, you may become faint or dizzy. This dizziness during pregnancy is caused by normal changes in your blood pressure, which can become higher or lower during your pregnancy.
Mild cases of dizziness or even fainting during pregnancy once or twice are not harmful. However, you should carefully monitor the frequency of fainting or duration of spells of dizziness. If they happen often or you find yourself fainting more than a couple times, you could be experiencing a dangerous change in blood pressure and should talk to your doctor.
If you feel like you’ve had a stuffy nose since you became pregnant, you didn’t suddenly develop allergies. During pregnancy, your rising hormone levels and the increased blood flow in the body cause blood vessels in your sinuses to swell. This constricts air movement in your nose, leading to stuffiness and trouble breathing known as rhinitis of pregnancy.
Mild rhinitis is common and not dangerous, and studies show that for most women it goes away soon after giving birth. However, if you find yourself with severe rhinitis that interferes with your ability to sleep, talk to your doctor. You may have developed a more serious condition known as gestational rhinitis that could affect your health or your baby’s development.
As your pregnancy progresses, you may wake up in the morning to find yourself drooling all over your pillow. This is partly due to your rhinitis: as your ability to breathe through your nose becomes restricted, you often breathe through your mouth in your sleep, leading to increased likelihood of drooling.
But you’re not just drooling because your mouth is open; during pregnancy, your body actually produces more saliva, especially if you suffer from queasiness or morning sickness at the beginning of your pregnancy.
Studies have found that some women produce so much saliva during pregnancy that they are unable to swallow it and must spit frequently throughout the day. This condition is known as ptyalism, and is often accompanied by a bad or unpleasant taste. Ptyalism is unpleasant, but it is not dangerous, and usually goes away postpartum.
The fluctuating hormone levels that accompany your pregnancy can trigger increased hair growth known as hirsutism. Sometimes this appears as increased strength or thickness of the hair on your head; other times, though, hair can appear in unwanted places.
You may notice hair growing on your abdomen, lower back, or thighs, but the most common place for many pregnant women is on the face — specifically, around the jawline or on the upper lip. Luckily, hirsutism in pregnant women is rarely permanent. Most women find that their body hair returns to normal within a few months of giving birth.
Changes in skin pigment are normal and incredibly common during pregnancy. According to one study, local melanosis, or small changes in skin pigment due to increased melanin, happen in 9 out of 10 pregnancies. Local melanosis usually appears in the form of darker spots or patches of skin on the body; it can fade or disappear completely postpartum.
You may also notice changes in the pigment of your breasts, including dark spots on your areolas. This is also normal and is usually accompanied by small, white bumps around the nipples. These are called Montgomery's tubercles, a form of sebaceous glands that produce oil to keep your nipples from cracking as they expand in preparation for breastfeeding.
Melasma, also known as the “pregnancy mask,” is more rare form of melanosis that happens on the face. It usually appears in the form of dark patches on the cheeks or jawline and can affect women with any skin color, including those with dark skin. Though melasma often lightens after pregnancy, it may not disappear completely.
Though you may be surprised by many of the changes that happen to your body during pregnancy, most are completely normal and will go away after you give birth. If you are concerned, though, talk to your doctor for reassurance or to explore treatment options.
June 01, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN