Friday, January 16, 2009

6 Embarrassing Pregnancy Symptoms

The unofficial new-mommy archives are overflowing with tales of pregnancy symptoms no one ever expected:
The pregnant obstetrician who threw up while examining a patient.
The pregnant graphic designer who insisted her husband developed a horrific and nauseating body odor the minute she became pregnant.
The pregnant administrative assistant who not only fell asleep at her desk, but also snored so loudly her boss heard it from his office -- across the hall.
And that's just the tip of the belly-berg. Experts say many of the unexpected blind alleys of pregnancy can take you by complete surprise.


Women think they are prepared, but no matter how much you read or talk to your doctor, somehow no one ever seems to prepare you for the quirky 'side effects' of pregnancy -- those weird and embarrassing events that can not only take you by surprise, but can sometimes even scare and worry you," says Stacy Quarty, author of Frankly Pregnant: A Candid Week-by-Week Guide to the Unexpected Joys, Raging Hormones and Common Experiences of Pregnancy
Quarty, also director of the Frankly Pregnant web site, says one of the reasons she wrote the book was not only to better understand her own "strange and embarrassing" pregnancy symptoms, but to let women know they are not alone.
"When you're pregnant you'll hear every scary labor story ever told, but no one will tell you about 'cheeseburger crotch' or a gas attack that can shake a room. You think you're the only one," says Quarty.
To help you know what you can really expect when you're expecting, WebMD asked Quarty and two top obstetricians to explore six of the most common "unspeakable" side effects of pregnancy -- and give you the tips and advice you need to handle what comes your way!
1. The Pregnancy Gas-O-Meter
If you're constantly trying to figure new ways to back out of a room, or you're certain your co-workers no longer believe there are plastic utensils burning in the office microwave, then you already know the embarrassment of passing enough gas to power a small compact car.
"When it comes to pregnancy side effects, excess gas is at the top of the list, certainly in the first trimester," says obstetrician Laura Riley, MD, a high-risk pregnancy obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Riley says problems stem from high levels of the pregnancy hormone progesterone, which slows down motility in the stomach, allowing more gas to build, and consequently causing you to expel it -- or to belch loudly when you least expect it.
The solution: Pay close attention to your diet. Riley says cutting out foods like beans or broccoli, as well as carbonated beverages including fizzy water or juice, can make a big difference. So can eating smaller, more frequent meals.
Riley says over-the-counter gas remedies rarely help. "It's not a good idea to take any medication you don't really need during pregnancy," she says. If, however, your belching brings on a bout of heartburn, Riley recommends Tums or any calcium carbonate product
2. Vomit Is Not a Food Group
The stories of "morning sickness" in early pregnancy are legendary. But what many women don't expect is how quickly they can go from feeling queasy to tossing their cookies -- sometimes in the most embarrassing situations.
"Nausea is pretty much a part of every pregnancy. But there are things you can do to keep it from escalating to the point where you are actually vomiting on someone," says Kathryn Macaulay, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. One suggestion is to change the time of day you take your prenatal vitamins.
"Try taking them at night, and always take them with food -- this can definitely help with morning nausea," she says. If it doesn't, she says talk to your doctor about switching to a low-iron formula since that's one component that frequently contributes to nausea.
Additionally, try wearing an anti-seasickness band on your wrist. Designed to press on an acupressure nerve related to nausea, Macauley says it can also help morning sickness and reduce the risk of sudden vomiting. You can also try sucking on lemon- or ginger-flavored hard candy, or chipped ice, which has a similar antinausea effect.
3. When Pee Ruins Your Socks and Your Shoes
It's not just rumor, it's really true. Pregnancy and incontinence go hand in hand.
"I can remember during my first pregnancy I went for a walk, something made me sneeze -- and I felt this gush of urine. I tried to get home as quickly as I could, but another sneeze brought a second gush and, well, it wasn't long before I felt the warm trickle of pee down my leg, heading straight into my socks and shoes. I felt like I was 7 years old again," says Quarty.
The problem, says Macaulay, is your growing uterus pressing on your bladder, making it hard to hold even a small amount of fluid. While drinking less during the day can help if you're out and about, Macaulay says that also means having to drink more fluids in the evening -- which not only means up-all-night trips to the bathroom, but also the possibility of wetting the bed.
A better solution: Get going on those Kegel exercises -- muscle-toning movements that help increase urinary control. "Don't wait until after pregnancy -- do them now," says Macaulay. In the meantime, try wearing a sanitary napkin or incontinence pad for the times when sneezing takes you by surprise.
4. The Cheeseburger Crotch
While it may not be embarrassing in the public sense, it can certainly be a private source of chagrin. We're talking about pregnancy vaginal and vulvar problems, including discharge, an increase in odors, itching, and even a swelling of the vulva that Quarty and her pals nicknamed "cheeseburger crotch."
"My friend Grace and I named it that because it looks like you’re stuffing a cheeseburger in your panties," jokes Quarty.
Macaulay says once again pregnancy hormones and baby's increasing weight are to blame. Thankfully, there are things you can do.
She says wearing panty liners and changing them often will help keep your "v-zone" clean and dry, which in turn can dramatically cut down on odors, itching, and general discomfort.
"I don't recommend using an intimate deodorant or other scented products. Many women get vulvar burning and itching, which could cause other problems," says Macaulay.
Also remember that pregnancy hormones boost the olfactory sense, so Macaulay says don't be surprised if no one smells the body odors you insist are just horrific.
"What smells really, really bad to a pregnant woman may not even be noticeable to someone else," says Macaulay.
As to your "cheeseburger crotch," experts say it's a result of increased fluids and blood, which cause swelling in this area -- and it's normal. That said, Riley cautions that if your swollen vulva is also bright red or blue/purple in color you might have vulvar varicosities -- or varicose veins in the vulvar region. If so, staying off your feet as much as possible is important, as well as wearing an elastic under-belly support belt sold in many pregnancy lingerie departments. Make sure to discuss it with your doctor.
5. The Pregnancy Memory Bank Is Overdrawn
You pick up the phone to call a client -- and can't remember whom you're calling. You walk into the grocery store determined to pick up ... what? You can't remember. These are just two examples of "mommy brain," the absentminded forgetfulness that seems to plague most pregnant women, usually beginning in the second trimester.
While many lay the blame on all those raging pregnancy hormones, Macaulay says it's more likely mom's raging schedule is responsible for the foggy thinking.
"When you are trying to manage all your normal obligations on top of all your pregnancy symptoms, and your worries about the baby, yourself, your future, and maybe the color of the nursery, your mind just spazzes out from time to time," says Macaulay.
And while Riley admits it can be embarrassing, she says you can keep things under control by realizing you can't do everything at once. "Just recognizing that it's normal -- and that nothing is wrong -- removes some of the stress, which in turn can help your memory," she says.
6. World Federation of Pregnant Wrestlers
Whoever coined the term "never mess with a pregnant woman" knew what they were talking about. Indeed, Quarty says, pregnancy hormones can turn even the most timid woman into a force to be reckoned with!
"Not only can road rage take on a new intensity, but getting into an argument seems like a desirable challenge, especially to win at all costs, no matter who the opponent is," says Quarty.
Riley says pregnancy hormones can increase not only anger and aggressiveness, but also melancholia, causing some women to feel weepy over the slightest emotional event.
That said, she also cautions that reactions should be transitory -- and if they're not, something else might be going on.
Says Riley: "If you get to the point where you're always angry, or sullen, or crying for a good part of the day -- and you can't talk yourself out of it -- then you should speak to your doctor. Sometimes pregnancy brings out certain emotional problems, and it may be more than just hormones at work."

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