When we imagine being pregnant, we might picture a big, perfectly round belly. Perhaps a little of that rumored pregnancy glow radiating from our faces. But bringing life into the world isn’t always basketball-sized bumps and glowing skin. There is a lot that comes with pregnancy that’s less than fun, heck, some of the stuff we experience might feel downright gross or embarrassing to bring up to our doctor, friend, or partner. But chances are, if you’re experiencing what seems like a weird pregnancy symptom, you’re not alone.
During pregnancy, women can feel a range of less-than-pleasant “symptoms” such as incontinence, hemorrhoids, pain during intercourse, skin changes, and more. Here to help answer some of the most common embarrassing pregnancy questions is Dr. Alyssa Dweck, OB-GYN and Medical Advisor for INTIMINA.
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
Your Embarrassing Pregnancy Questions Answered
Digestive System Woes
Normally foods I love, I hate now. What’s the deal?
Aversions to certain foods are a common symptom of pregnancy. 6/10 pregnant women are quoted to experience this. Some theorize this to occur as a protective mechanism and to prevent illness. Hormonal shifts are likely the cause.
My bowel movements are completely off—from constipation to diarrhea. Why?
The hormone progesterone is elevated in pregnancy, and this can have effects on intestinal motility. Pregnant women are also susceptible to the same dietary influences as non-pregnant people. For example, water intake, fiber intake, and gassy foods will influence bowel habits.
Why do I have constant gas and bloating?
The hormone progesterone is likely responsible for these common symptoms. Progesterone, elevated during pregnancy, affects intestinal motility since it relaxes muscles. Dietary choices are also influential.
Why can’t I seem to hold it in when I have to pee?
The increasing size of the uterus can put mechanical pressure on the bladder and cause urinary leakage or urgency. UTIs are not uncommon during pregnancy and should be checked for as well. Pelvic floor muscles may become relaxed during pregnancy, further contributing to the risk of leakage. Kegel exercises are helpful to manage this.
Discomfort Down There
Why do I get hemorrhoid flare-ups during pregnancy?
Hemorrhoids are simply bulging veins, similar to varicose veins, around the anus. They are very common during pregnancy due to increased blood volume and increased pressure from a gravid uterus. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Why do we get so itchy and uncomfortable around our vulva and vagina during pregnancy?
Genital itching during pregnancy should be evaluated to ensure there is no yeast or bacterial infection. Yeast is not uncommon due to the hormone changes (primarily increased estrogen) experienced during pregnancy. Other causes could be skin conditions or external irritants.
However, excessive itching on your hands and feet during pregnancy can be a warning sign for a more serious condition—Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy or ICP. Talk to your doctor right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
Why do I have more vaginal discharge?
An increased amount of normal or physiologic vaginal discharge during pregnancy, called leukorrhea, is common due to increased blood flow. This is the body’s way of naturally cleansing the vagina and helping to prevent infection. Any discharge that is copious, malodorous, bloody, significantly discolored or causing itching/irritation/burning or swelling should prompt evaluation by the OB-GYN.
Sex During Pregnancy
Why is my sexual drive different during pregnancy?
Sexual drive can vary during pregnancy. Significant engorgement with blood due to extra blood volume can increase the feeling of arousal. The hormone estrogen is elevated during pregnancy, and this can increase sexual drive. The increased curves in hips and expanding belly as well as larger and super sensitive breasts during pregnancy can increase sexual feelings.
Others will feel a diminished drive due to being physically uncomfortable, having nausea or a high-risk situation or due to emotional changes such as fear, anxiety or depression which can accompany pregnancy. Sex drive typically waxes and wanes throughout for most.
Why am I bleeding after sex during pregnancy?
This symptom, while common, is very disconcerting to most since fear of miscarriage is often top of mind. During pregnancy, even early in the first trimester, the cervix becomes more friable, delicate, and prone to bleeding during intercourse. Typically, this is nothing to panic about but other more concerning causes including infection, growth or lesion, placenta previa to name a few, need to be ruled out [by your healthcare provider].
Body and Skin Changes
Why is my skin changing (from linea nigra to pregnancy acne to discoloration)?
Increased pigmentation associated with increased estrogen levels can occur along the mid lower abdomen (just below the belly button) aka linea nigra, the face in a butterfly shaped distribution under the eyes and on cheeks (pregnancy mask) and on the vulva. This may fade after pregnancy but may never fully disappear. In fact, the estrogen-containing birth control pill may cause similar pigment changes. While pigment changes of this nature can be distressing, they are not dangerous.
I’ve noticed that I have an extra strong sense of smell and I don’t know why?
Many (⅔ of pregnant women) will have a heightened sense of smell (hyperosmia) and even strong adverse reactions to certain aromas during pregnancy. Oftentimes this is one of the first signs of pregnancy. It is theorized that elevated estrogen is responsible for this. Others will have nasal congestion during pregnancy, altering or diminishing sense of smell.
Why am I drooling?
Ptyalism or excessive saliva is common during early pregnancy. Hormonal changes are likely causative. Some have excessive saliva due to nausea associated with early pregnancy.
Why are my ankles and feet constantly swollen?
Swelling of ankles and feet during later pregnancy is very common. Increased blood volume during pregnancy is in part to blame. Veins being more relaxed is also contributory. While this is usually self-limited and not concerning, elevated blood pressure including preeclampsia and/or other cardiovascular issues must be ruled out by your healthcare provider.
Tips for Talking to Your Doctor
Yes, some of these topics may make you feel embarrassed when speaking to your doctor, but doctors have seen everything and it’s their job to care for your wellbeing. Make a list of questions and concerns so you’re ready to address any concerns at your next prenatal visit.