You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of swollen ankles and fiery heartburn, but of sleepless nights and no sex drive. That's the signpost up ahead -- your next stop: The Pregnancy Zone.
Just when we thought there was no explanation for all of the weird stuff our bodies go through during pregnancy, in steps momlogic expert Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz to explain the good, the bad and the ugly of baby making. Sit back and take a trip through the Pregnancy Zone ....
Unwanted Hair Growth in Odd Places and Hair Loss in Places We Want to Keep It
Higher hormone levels overall increase the growth of lots of stuff, including hair. Additionally, much of your hair enters the resting phase of the growth cycle during pregnancy -- and stays there. Instead of cycling through and falling out, it stays put. The results? Fabulous, lustrous locks -- and not just on your noggin.
Typically, hair loss isn't an issue in a healthy pregnancy -- though once the normal hair-cell cycle resumes (about three to five months postpartum), a lot of hair does seem to fall out. Unless it's coming out in great clumps or causing patchy baldness, don't worry. Otherwise, consult your healthcare provider.
Increased Body Odor and Sweat
Again, the hormones and increased metabolic rate associated with growing stuff -- like babies -- are the culprits. The other issue here is a heightened sensitivity to odor: You may smell worse to yourself than to others. Take the opportunity to buy some fabulous, chemical-free perfumes (such as organic essential oils) to smell better to yourself and others.
Cankles, a.k.a. Swollen Ankles
Increased fluid volume in the body can translate to increased fluid retention (edema) -- and the ankles are a geographically desirable location for that excess fluid to collect (or at least get stuck).
Lie down and put your feet up above your heart; move your legs around (sitting at a desk for long stretches makes the swelling worse); increase your protein and fluid intake (yes, increase it); decrease your intake of processed and salty foods and drink a mild tea consisting of whole fennel, coriander, parsley and cumin seeds. All of these moves will promote healthy, mild diuresis (also known as increased peeing). In other words, bye-bye, cankles.
Hormones again! So good, yet so bad! Elevated levels of pregnancy hormones and estrogen can cross-react with melanin (skin pigment). The result? Dark patches on the upper lip, forehead, bridge of the nose and/or sides of the cheeks -- especially if that skin is exposed to the sun. The pigmentation will fade after pregnancy, though it can take many months. To diminish its impact, avoid direct sunlight and wear sunscreen daily.
The linea nigra (that funny, dark line down the middle of your abdomen) is caused by the same mechanism. Women of color and those who have darker skin are most at risk, but everyone is susceptible.
The muscular ring of tissue that normally closes off the acid- and enzyme-filled firepit that is your stomach relaxes during pregnancy, due both to pesky hormones and to the forces of that growing abdominal mass in your belly (your baby!). The stomach acid that's so critical to digestion comes into contact with the delicate tissues of your throat, and ouch: That smarts!
Many of us never understand the American obsession with antacids until we experience the intense heartburn that occurs during pregnancy. What to do? Avoid spicy and acidic foods; even tomatoes can exacerbate it. Eat smaller meals. If that doesn't work, snag some of those big-time, over-the-counter antacids that are safe to take during pregnancy. (Just make sure that you check with your provider about timing beforehand, so the absorption of important nutrients isn't affected.)
Blood pressure is usually lower during pregnancy because of (you guessed it!) hormones. The blood vessels dilate (widen) to accommodate increased blood flow to the uterus, placenta and growing fetus, causing a subsequent blood-pressure drop that can sometimes be enough to cause dizziness (especially in the beginning of a pregnancy).
But dizziness can have so many causes, including: dehydration, fatigue, low blood sugar, low iron levels (anemia) and even anatomy (a large uterus compresses the blood vessels that feed the brain and body of both mommy and baby). Any long-term dizziness needs to be to be evaluated. To decrease the occurrence of dizzy spells, avoid standing for prolonged stretches, don't take long, hot showers and don't lie flat on your back after about 20 weeks. Make sure you eat and drink healthy stuff regularly.
Hormones and increased blood flow in the vaginal area cause a higher rate of discharge and increase the rate that cells slough off. As long as the discharge isn't heavily colored, funky-smelling or causing itching and burning, it's most likely just leucorrhea (pregnancy-related discharge). If you're not sure, it might require treatment. Do not douche, and don't use medications without consulting your healthcare provider first.