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Weird Pregnancy Symptoms 101: What Doctors Don’t Tell You

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If you’ve never been pregnant before, I’ve got something to tell you–there’s a whole bunch of stuff that doctors, tv, and movies have NOT prepared you for!

Sure, morning sickness is a real thing, and kicks to the ribs will occur, but side effects like these are just the tip of the gestational iceberg. From hemorrhoids to hot flashes, growing a child comes with a wide range of weird pregnancy symptoms you’ve probably never heard of.

Luckily for you; however, our community is pulling back the curtain and giving you a glimpse into what you should “actually” expect when you’re expecting!

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Unusual Early Pregnancy Symptoms & Beyond: Someone Should Have Prepared Me For This

I don’t just blame medical practitioners and fictional plotlines for my misconceptions about pregnancy. My friends, family, and every other woman who’s ever been pregnant are also to blame. (She says in a mischievous voice as she silently plots revenge.)

For some reason, we don’t talk about the unusual “stuff” that comes with pregnancy. For example, I didn’t realize I should be asking questions, like:

“When does pregnancy acne start?” or “Is insomnia a sign of early pregnancy?”

For anyone who’s currently pregnant or hoping to become pregnant soon, I’m here to offer my unofficial expertise on all of the things we wish we knew more about.

From the misconceptions of very early pregnancy signs at 1 week to the weird pregnancy symptoms you might face right before delivery, here’s a small sampling of the more unusual things your body might do.

Are There Very Early Pregnancy Signs at 1 Week?

First and foremost, let’s clear something up: if you are 1 week pregnant, you’re not actually pregnant! 

That makes sense, right?

Let me put it plainly–most doctors start counting your 40 weeks of pregnancy on the first day of your last period before conception. That means that the only one-week pregnancy symptoms you’re going to be dealing with is your period.

How Soon Can You Tell You’re Pregnant?

If you’re anxious to find out if doing the deed did its job, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself looking for any unusual early pregnancy signs.

While one of the most common “first signs of pregnancy” is a missed period, that won’t actually occur until you’re around 4 weeks pregnant. Some women, myself included, show weird pregnancy symptoms before a missed period has time to happen.

For example, when I was pregnant with our first daughter, I suddenly noticed I could barely stay awake during the day.

As someone who doesn’t usually nap, this should’ve been a big ol’ flag.

In addition to fatigue, there are some other side effects you could experience during the two-week wait after ovulation, such as:

potentially pregnant belly one week
Got tummy trouble during the TWW? This could be a weird pregnancy symptom.

What Weird Pregnancy Symptoms Should You Be Aware Of?

So, you’ve figured out that heartburn, mood swings, and food cravings are par for the pregnancy course, but what else are you in for during your gestational journey?

While this isn’t a definitive list (we’ll probably never know every strange symptom women have dealt with while growing a kid), here are a few weird early pregnancy symptoms you should be aware of:

1. Round Ligament Pain

Okay, please forgive me while I vent about round ligament pain (RLP) for a moment. 

While this is a fairly common pregnancy symptom, people don’t discuss it very often. Why we’re not spreading the word about it boggles my mind.

The unfortunate thing about the lack of awareness surrounding RLP is that this side effect can be pretty troublesome.

As your body begins changing to accommodate the baby growing inside of you, the ligaments connecting your uterus to your pelvis will start to grow, too. While this is completely normal, it can cause pain and discomfort that’s alarming for some women.

Women often describe the sensation of round ligament pain as a tightening, spasm, or cramping

What makes this side effect so frightening is that similar symptoms can be early signs of miscarriage.

If you’re unsure what’s going on with your body, the best option is always to call your doctor for more information.

woman laying in bed presses hands to her lower back
Feeling pain during early pregnancy? You might be experiencing RLP.

2. Pica

Most of us realize that strange cravings are a pretty normal part of pregnancy. What you might not realize, however, is just how weird those cravings can get.

That’s where pica comes in!

Pica cravings are any items that pose zero nutritional value and aren’t actually food – think chalk, dirt, and paint chips! Yeah, you read that right. 

If you’ve never had a desire to chow down on cornstarch or mothballs (please don’t do either!), pregnancy could be here. Some medical professionals believe pica cravings in pregnancy are related to a lack of necessary vitamins and minerals.

So, before you start guzzling down that toothpaste you’ve been craving, ask your medical provider if something else could be going on.

3.  Bigger Feet

Nope, we’re not talking about swelling here! Many women notice an increase in their shoe size during and after pregnancy. 

In fact, during a study of 49 women conducted by the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, researchers found 60-70% of their feet grew by almost a full shoe size. 

It’s believed this occurs because of the pregnancy hormone relaxin that helps loosen a woman’s pelvic muscles in preparation for delivery.

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4. Dizziness & Lightheadedness

While we’re on the topic of those pesky pregnancy hormones, we might as well talk about these other weird pregnancy symptoms – dizziness and lightheadedness. As pregnancy hormones start to rise, they can cause an increase in blood flow to your baby. Unfortunately, this also slows down the amount of blood going to you

As this occurs, it can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness and lightheadedness.

Would you like some tips on how to avoid dizziness in pregnancy? Try these things:

  • Stand up slowly, especially if you’ve been sitting down for a while
  • Eat regularly, including lots of small snacks throughout the day
  • Try to avoid standing for long periods, if possible
  • Avoid taking hot baths and showers

5. Voice Changes

You might be surprised that in addition to a change in your shoe size, pregnancy can also lead to alterations in the sound of your voice. Studies have shown that there’s a possibility that increased swelling and episodes of acid reflux can permanently affect a woman’s voice, even after she delivers her baby. 

6. Heightened Sense of Smell

Hyperosmia, otherwise known as a heightened sense of smell, is just one more of the unusual early pregnancy symptoms. So, if you suddenly feel like you can smell every ingredient in your food, you’re not alone.

Pregnancy hormones, specifically estrogen, are to blame for this as, they can make us more sensitive to the odors surrounding us.

Be careful with this weird pregnancy symptom–if you’re already dealing with morning sickness or hyperemesis, hyperosmia can make the situation even worse.

7. Acne

So, you’re expecting a baby…does it suddenly seem like you’ve reverted to your teenage, pimply self? Regretfully, sudden acne isn’t too unusual during pregnancy.

If you’re wondering “when does pregnancy acne start,” we’ve got some bad news. 

For women who deal with this side effect, it can start as early as their first trimester. 

If you’re trying to figure out why you’re suddenly searching for the Clearasil and Noxema products from your youth, it will come as no surprise that pregnancy hormones are once again the culprit. 

8. Insomnia

Fact of the Day: Up to 78% of pregnant women will deal with insomnia at some point or another. 

Since most of us are familiar with fatigue as a typical pregnancy symptom, it might be shocking to learn that having a tough time falling asleep is another of our weird pregnancy symptoms.

Why, you might be asking? Well, there’s a few different reasons for insomnia during pregnancy

insomnia is a weird pregnancy symptom
Insomnia can be a weird pregnancy symptom! Talk to your doctor if you’re struggling to sleep.

Weird Pregnancy Symptoms Right Before Labor

Despite what many of us women might believe, a sudden gush of water or high-powered contractions aren’t the only ways to tell that labor is imminent. There are also some weird pregnancy symptoms you might experience in the days and hours leading up to the big event. 

If you’re struggling with the question of “when to go to the hospital for labor,” be on the lookout for signs like these:

  • A bloody show a.k.a. a release of the blood-tinged mucus “blob” that blocks your cervix throughout pregnancy…ew.
  • Diarrhea, or the feeling you need to go to have a bowel movement.  
  • The sudden urge to do some spring cleaning, which is commonly referred to as nesting during pregnancy.
  • A leaking feeling if you begin slowly losing amniotic fluid before labor begins.
  • An increase in lower back pain or cramping sensations.

The Pregnancy Fake-Out: What Other Conditions or Situations Resemble Pregnancy?

In some situations, an individual might experience many signs of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. Whether it’s missed periods, headaches, fatigue, or cravings, some conditions, like the ones below, can mimic pregnancy:

If you believe you might be pregnant or could be suffering from one of these other conditions, check with your doctor for an in-depth diagnosis.

You’re Not Alone in this Pregnancy Journey

So, the moral of the story is this: even if you have a sudden craving for chalk or your voice drops a few octaves, you’re probably not alone.

Whether it’s unusual early pregnancy symptoms or side effects of impending labor, our bodies are put through the wringer when we’re carrying a baby. Just remember, though, if you’re ever concerned or confused about something you’re feeling, make sure to let your doctor or medical practitioner know.

Have you experienced any of these weird pregnancy symptoms? Did you deal with something else that didn’t make our list? Let us know!

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When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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