Strange and wonderful things happen to your body when you’re pregnant. Some of them last forever – hello, stretch marks – and others, sadly, don’t. I mourn the loss of my magnificent DD cup size now I’m no longer breastfeeding.
Many of us experience morning sickness or tender breasts, but thanks to a surge in pregnancy hormones, you might notice more unusual side-effects, too.
Every pregnant woman will experience these changes differently, says Clare Livingstone, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives. Mostly, you don’t need to worry about them unless they bother you.
Women should never take anything to treat these symptoms before getting medical advice. “This applies to complementary therapies, too,” says Livingstone. “Check with your midwife or a GP before trying anything.”
Here are eight symptoms of pregnancy – if nothing else, take them as a reminder of how remarkable our bodies are.
You’re more susceptible to colds and flu
The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is found in urine and blood during pregnancy – it’s what dictates a positive pregnancy test. But it also works to suppress your immune system to reduce the chances of your body rejecting the baby... meaning you could find yourself sneezing more often, as you become more susceptible to colds and the flu.
“This is due to the hormone partially,” adds Livingstone, “but also, there’s such a huge impact physically on the body during pregnancy so it’s just fighting in all directions – it makes sense you’re more likely to get ill.”
This is why pregnant women are advised to get the flu jab, she says.
You’re a walking shampoo advert
For some women, there’s no such thing as a bad hair day when you’re pregnant – and it’s no coincidence that your hair feels thick, glossy and looks gorgeous. Hair may even change texture completely, going curly when it’s always been poker-straight. “Quite a lot of women report having really wonderful hair in pregnancy,” says Livingstone. “It’s something to celebrate and be enjoyed!”
That is... until you actually give birth, when it may fall out again. “It’s not extreme, but it’s not unusual to find hair falling out, as it does at other times of year,” says Livingstone. It’s all down to those pesky hormones, again, as well as increased blood circulation.
Your nails may miraculously grow
When you’re pregnant, your nails may grow faster and longer. By the time you have your 20-week scan, chances are you’ll have longer talons than you’re used to. This is likely to be down to metabolic changes in the body, says Livingstone. They’ll probably resume their normal rate of growth three to six months post-partum, so enjoy them while you’ve got them.
Your belly button will probably change
The skin on your stomach stretches during pregnancy – and something very strange indeed may happen to your belly-button. Trust me. I was a half-inny, half-outy before, and when I was pregnant the entire thing popped out, like a tiny button. It’s gone back to normal, now... sort of. But if, like me, you’ve ever had a belly-button piercing (at university, aged 18, when everybody wanted to look like one of the girls from All Saints), you might also find substantial scarring above your navel where the skin stretched over the original piercing. Be warned.
Your feet may grow... yes, really
One of my mum’s favourite tales is that when she got pregnant with me, her feet grew two sizes bigger – and stayed that way. Some say this is because you produce the hormone relaxin while pregnant, which loosens your pelvic joints and the ligaments in your feet.
Livingstone believes this may be down to swelling, though. If women are finding their shoes to be tight, she says that’s the most likely reason why. If your ankles and feet are really swollen, it’s best to get them checked with a midwife.
You may get excessive saliva
There’s a common condition called ptyalism that isn’t often spoken about, says Livingstone. It’s when pregnant women have an excessive amount of saliva in their mouths – and feel the urge to spit.
“It can affect some women more profoundly that others and worry them, as they get a rush of saliva in their mouth,” she says. “Some women may carry around a pot so they can spit it out – it’s common, but nothing to worry about.”
Your skin could change – for better or worse
I know, it feels like being a teenager again... and not in a good way. If you’ve suddenly got spotty skin, you can thank an increase in pregnancy hormones (specifically progesterone) that cause the glands to produce more sebum, a type of oil that can clog pores.
“Some women do really suffer from acne, dry skin or eczema when pregnant,” says Livingstone. “Others may find they get a lovely glow and have great skin! But it’s worth seeing a midwife if these changes are troubling you, there are topical ointments and creams women can take.”
You’re likely to get a line on your stomach
The ‘linea nigra’ is a dark, vertical line that can appear more vividly during pregnancy, and stretches from your belly-button and your pelvis. If you’ve noticed yours, you probably always had it – but it just shows up more when you’re carrying a baby, usually around the second trimester.
Michelle Lyne from the Royal College of Midwives told HuffPost UK: “It’s where the muscles meet in the abdomen and it is just pigmentation (skin colour change) which happens during pregnancy because of the hormones. It has little meaning, we just note it. It normally disappears after the pregnancy.”