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What about these least-discussed Pregnancy Aggravations?

Updated on August 27, 2014

Oh but they are there ...

When women discuss pregnancy, there is a common list of complaints that we all plan for. But ironically, although they are anticipated they are by no means universally experienced. They are:

  • morning sickness (which for some women turns out to be 24/7 sickness, from conception until birth).

  • exhaustion in the first and third trimesters

  • tender, swollen and stiff-nippled breasts

  • frequent urination

  • bizarre food cravings

  • changes in sex drive
  • moodiness

  • increased thirst
  • etc.

And then there are some side-effects of the late stages of pregnancy and childbirth that are not discussed not due to their infrequency, but rather because they are either too personal or too scary for the uninitiated. If you are like me, you hear about these things whispered between female colleagues, neighbors and relatives AFTER you tell them that you are pregnant. These issues include:

  • hemorrhoids

  • post-partum hair loss

  • vaginal soreness and tearing

  • bowel problems

  • depression (like the kind that makes you resent your husband and/or baby ... )

But truth be told, pretty much all of these symptoms are widely known and discussed, even if in hushed voices. And to top it off, women don't universally experience them.

But what about the less dramatic symptoms, or the less common ones, that still add up and make a long day even longer?

I'll take a pass on watermelon, for now.

Trust me, it's been real.
Trust me, it's been real. | Source

Watermelon belly

Yes ... I know ... ever since we were little girls we saw pregnant women walking around with what looks like a watermelon or basketball under their skirt.

I thought that being pregnant was the coolest thing since sliced bread.

I am not talking about what is on the outside.

Any idea what that watermelon belly feels like on the inside?

Remember when it was a hot June afternoon and Dad hit a great sale on watermelon? It was chilled and sliced and so crispy that you could hear the insides crack as it opened?

It was just you and your sister or brother there. You were thirsty and it looked so good ...

Did you do what I did?

(Like eat half the melon in one sitting?)

If you haven't experienced such a hedonistic pleasure then you probably should. No drug can compare to the effects of shoveling crispy and juicy watermelon slices into your mouth on a hot day.

However ... the after-effects aren't so good. Your belly get so distended that you can hardly walk. It slowly goes down when you go pee about 10 times.

I started feeling like I had overindulged in the watermelon department around 18 weeks. I asked my sister about that, and she said that she got that feeling when she was getting ready to "pop out."

Basically when the baby is growing s/he requests a bit more room and that makes you accommodate it. Why it feels like I ate too much watermelon is beyond me, but what sucks is that no watermelon was consumed and I am still suffering for it.

But returning to the subject of going pee 10 times ...

See ... urinating perpetually can be quite beautiful.

Truth be told, I WAS aware of the frequent urination issue in pregnancy. However, I was unaware of the sheer magnitude of the problem.
Truth be told, I WAS aware of the frequent urination issue in pregnancy. However, I was unaware of the sheer magnitude of the problem. | Source

Peeing becomes a way of life

My advice: find a way of appreciating the fact that you can urinate a lot.

Because you will.

Maybe compose a sonnet describing how your life would be if you had no bladder.

An ode to your kidneys?

Well I knew about the peeing problem. I am sure you know about it too.

But before I experienced the after-effects of seeing two lines on a stick, I thought that the explanation for this frequent urination problem had to do with some kind of hormone thing, with a complex medical explanation, bla de bla ...

Well yes ... it does. I think it has to do with increased progesterone which make you thirsty and then if all is functioning properly (thanks be to GOD!) more urine subsequently is excreted.


But nobody told me that as the baby starts to move and kick, s/he can kick you right in the bladder.

Oh fun.

Talk about insult to injury.

And get this ... my baby likes to engage in bladder-football in some of the most wonderful times and places, such as at 4 am, on hikes, road-trips, etc.

HA! and you thought I was done ....

Every woman's anatomy is different and every pregnancy is different. But if your anatomy is positioned in the "right" way, you might find that you urinate, wipe, flush, get up and ...

have to urinate again!?


You get up from the potty and as you get up, the 10 lb. ball o' baby puts pressure on your bladder again, giving it a little squeeze that gives you that familiar feeling.

Then you pee again.

Rinse and re-peee-t.

Or shall I say ... "wipe and re-pee."

At some point you give up and think "I'm never gonna get that "emptied bladder" feeling so to hell with it.

Speaking of "getting up"

And you thought that you would be able to walk around and stuff!

Well at least I did.

I am usually good in the morning and when I am moving around. But once I lie down it is all over for me. Getting out of bed is painful on my lower back and I find myself grunting like my grandfather used to do when he got out of his easy chair.

I am not a grunter, at all. I generally don't have mobility problems and I am not handling this lack of agility, clumsiness and inability to move stuff without putting my muscles out of alignment, gracefully.

For me the back problems came on during the first trimester, and they lingered. Some days are worse than others. It isn't a back pain that feels like a strain, it is more like if you stand in a way that makes your muscles adjust, sometimes they don't do such a good job and it is like "Ouch!"

This is apparently due to a hormone called "relaxin" which makes your muscles and joints softer, in preparation for birth. Why "relaxin" needs to kick in two weeks after conception beats the hell out of me ...

And speaking of grunting and straining . . .

I will just keep it polite and "at a certain level."

In the first trimester your digestive track might be a bit wonky due to hormones and the body getting adjusted to the pregnancy. I know that mine was. That is how I sensed I was pregnant ... that things weren't "moving" the same way and if you have experience with this, you kind of know ...

If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor or somebody who is qualified to address these issues.

As the baby grows your insides get smashed up kind of funny. That includes your stomach and intestines. This can lead to heartburn (on the top) and all kinds of weird stuff on the bottom including gas that you might not be even aware of. This can be embarrassing because if you are one of those people who prefer to be discreet about her body functions (and I hope you are) it is hard to control something that you did not know was there. Also being "regular" might not be in the cards if you are pregnant. I have found that my digestive track is far more temperamental, moody and unpredictable than my state of mind these days.

Finally, don't actually grunt and strain to have a bowel movement. Not too hard anyway. That can increase the pressure in an area already subject to presure, and that is not good for your anatomy.

Odd pressure in your "area" and not just in the third trimester

Yeah ... don't strain too hard to use the toilet, that is all I can say. I have no idea what causes it, and it seems to come and go.

Keep on movin'

Restless legs?

Did you or your spouse experience RLS during pregnancy?

See results

On the subject of movement: your legs might be moving .... all night

Yeah it can be horrible but come 11 pm my legs find a reason to start moving. It started with "restless leg syndrome" but I am beginning to think that it is "restless Anne syndrome." That is because for a while I had it badly and now I am just getting surges of adrenaline.

Oh yeah ... they generally won't prescribe you anything for it, so God help you if you have a job to get to by 9 am. Most drugs for RLS are actually psych-meds or stuff for Parkinson's and other conditions, written off label. Doc did not want to prescribe that.

Keep in mind that this is a temporary condition but risks to the baby can be permanent. If you still have RLS after you give birth, they can prescribe stuff.

Do not underestimate the amount of suffering this condition can inflict. Just when you are getting ready to drift off to sleep, you have this sudden urge to move your leg. It is like an itch, a pulse, tug or jolt and it generally wakes you up.

Rest assured (if you can rest, that is ... ). Having the creepy-crawlies when the legs are at supposed to be still is not painful. It is not like a searing cut with the blade of a knife into your bone, or the grinding feeling of a drill going into your ankle, or even like the Jolly Green Giant pressing his index finger into your bicep with all his strength.

No ... that is pain and at a threshold that I hope you never have to experience.

Instead it is simply the urge to move --- like to get on a bike and ride --- at 3 am when you are bleary-eyed. YOU GO GURRRLLL!

What it is, is a real nuisance because here you are, trying to be disciplined and "go to bed" and what you would call a "reasonable hour" and then it is like some invisible elves tapping you on the shoulder and saying "tee-hee-hee-tee-hee-hee" and jolting and tugging your legs by marionette strings, thus depriving you of much needed sleep. Oh yeah, it also isn't "your legs" ...

So sorry to generalize!

It is specific and randomly chosen muscles, in your legs.

And tell those little elves that this is not funny in the least. I believe that those little elves are a neurotransmitter called 'dopamine' in disguise. Nobody is exactly sure what causes RLS in pregnancy but it has been linked with problems processing iron, potassium, magnesium and with estrogens. So some of your elves might be wearing chain-mail, and others might be sporting fluffy too-toos. Nonetheless, this symptom is anxiety producing.

And even if you do actually close your eyes and are in an unawake state, you still might be losing that much-needed REM sleep that is necessary in order for your body to secrete hormones and regenerate cells to heal itself.

So ask your husband if you have been "twitchy" at night and if you have, you might have a mild version that you are sleeping through.


Yes, we are familiar with the problem of first trimester fatigue.

But what about insomnia?

Trust me sister ... second and third trimester you can be hit with fatigue and insomnia at the same time and it is kind of awful.

You can have insomnia without restless leg.

However if your experience is anything like my experience, you can adapt to it. Some days it feels like you should be absolutely dead-tired but you manage to keep a clear head.


Disco mixes quite poorly with church and sleep.
Disco mixes quite poorly with church and sleep. | Source

Baby might be moving ... all night

I call it his "disco moves."

For a while it was so bad he had me awake with my own legs dancing between the sheets until 8 am. I had tears in my eyes and I was thrashing around all night.

It was like it was scenes from the movie "Saturday Night Fever" on replay, all night.

By the way, he also likes to show Daddy his disco moves when we are in church, especially during the "prayers of the faithful" the homily and the second reading.

Never ... of course ... when we are say ... at a party.

You can feel like an upside-down beetle

Again this is from a person who does not usually have trouble with stuff like getting up, down, under things, etc.

But I have noticed lately if I am lying down on my back I have to use my elbows to move to my side. And I have to move to my side otherwise after a while I get that wonderful watermelon feeling. So I find myself struggling to move the weight of my body to the side, kind of like what a bug looks like when he is stuck on his back.

I feel like Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis --- you know, the salesman who turned into a large insect. But just between you, me and the lamp-post, I can pretty much assure you that Kafka's masterpiece is NOT an allegory about pregnancy so let's not go there.

By the way, when I see large bugs helplessly turned over, I flip them back on their legs. No sense in being cruel, right?

Swollen feet

Your feet can swell up making it uncomfortable to put on anything except for a really wide shoe, like Doc Martins.

It is what it is.

I strongly suggest that you call your doctor if your feet look anything like this.

Weird rashes, skin markings and itchies

Yeah there is this rash that is abbreviated PUPP that is actually confirmed to be exclusively pregnancy related.

But then there are these other odd skin problems that could be pregnancy, or could be just a bad day ... .

I got a rash on my face, around the sides of my nose. It is also the middle of summer and when I get sweaty on my belly, it gets a bit red.

Then there are the "itchies."

Like many of these other joyful symptoms, in my case, they seem to come at night.

Just how uncommon are clogged ears in pregnancy?

Did you or your pregnant spouse experience clogged ears while pregnant?

See results

Airplane ears

I am not joking ...

Here you are, trying to get something done: in my case it was to go and get the oil changed.

You are just minding your own business and suddenly your ear plugs up like it does on an airplane, when you are landing.

This is not a common symptom of pregnancy but when it happens it is quite obnoxious.

This problem lies in the eustachian tubes but unlike having a sinus infection or being on a plane, the pinching your nose and blowing trick, or the yawning trick, does little or nothing to relieve the pressure.

The problem with this symptom is that it manifests itself in your behavior. So it is one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" types of problems. If you go out and pretend that there is nothing wrong but you forgot your hearing aid at home, you might get a "geez woman, grow up" kind of response. And if you tell them the truth then it is completely T.M.I. And if your ears are stuffy enough and you can't function properly without an accommodation, like the employee speaking directly into your non-clogged ear, then it is also like "get a hearing aid woman ... "

As a person with ADHD and fibromyalgia, I can tell you that the idea of not disclosing a condition that is related to your cognition, senses or behavior can seriously backfire because people don't know why you act weird or intolerant. When you do disclose, there is an explanation for your behavior, but some people see the condition in and of itself, as weakness.

This is awful on multiple levels and here are the reasons:

  1. Hearing your own voice echo back to you is really super annoying. It would be nice to just not say anything at all, but we need to use our voice to do stuff like: pick up prescriptions, get the oil changed, answer our husband's question, talk to the neighbor about a newspaper delivery, whatever.

  2. Not being able to hear is annoying, aggravating and socially awkward too, for all the same reasons.

  3. The clogged ear is physically uncomfortable. You feel like there is something in it, so you move your head from side to side and nothing comes out.

  4. The problem can strike before you start to "show" and be obviously pregnant. So if you are in public you can look like a slightly-overweight crazy chick walking down the street banging her head to the side, yawning, or moving her jaw side to side in a futile attempt to unclog those ears. Even if you are showing, this is a lesser known symptom of pregnancy, and people might think "oh dear ... another crazy pregnant woman who my tax dollars will have to support." Just tell them that you are trying to bang the voices out of your stuffed ear. Actually ... don't.

  5. For me, the problem was at its worst when I was only a bit thick around the waist, and dealing with men who really don't need to hear about this stuff. I think it hit rock-bottom on the day I had to get the oil changed and I had to talk to this young male employee (must have been around 22 years old). The room had this massive echo and a noisy group of customers, chatting away. Not only could I not hear to save my life, I couldn't think properly with a clogged ear, and my voice kept echoing back to me. Telling a guy like that you are pregnant is awesome and everything, but it would be three steps shy of a minor miracle if he was familiar with this relatively obscure pregnancy symptom and could relate. It turns out that he was a very nice guy. But even telling a dude that you are pregnant, and not just [expletive] weird is just plain awkward.

OK, just in case you enjoy making a scene in public as much as I do .... to get relief (albeit extremely temporary) try bending over with your legs straight and hanging as you talk. Pretend you are trying to touch your toes.

Now don't get ahead of yourself missie ... lest you think you can actually SOLVE this problem. But you can get a bit of relief to say ... hear what this person has to say, or to not have your voice echo back to you.

I found that clearing debris from the ear thru ear dryer and ear-wax remover lessened the symptoms. But I am not sure if that is correlation or causation. In other words, I don't know if the symptom was on its way out anyway. But ear cleaning fluids will cost you a max of $20 and you can get them over the counter at the local pharmacy.

Some women complain about this problem, they have it 24/7 and no matter what they find no solution except for giving birth.

Acid Reflux

Some women have a real hard time with this.

In my own case, when I experienced this in "full swing" it was not quite any stomach problem I had ever experienced before. I have had acid reflux, but this time around, it was different.

This is truly an uncomfortable symptom and I sympathize with any woman who is combating it.

Metallic taste in mouth

Yes. It is bizarre. But fortunately, unlike the ear problem, this can be dealt with discreetly.

This general area can get a bit more constricted.

I just like the word "uvula."
I just like the word "uvula." | Source

Choking on your own uvula.

Seriously. The uvula is the back part of the mouth that has that "dangle" thing on it.

More than once I have breathed or drank something and I get "backed up" somehow.

With breathing, it can be like a "purr" and it is like "what the heck?"

With drinking, you can end up snorting or some of the fluid gets in the wrong pipe and triggers a coughing fit.

This problem seems to be similar to the "airplane ears" and the "acid reflux" issues, in that the baby is smooshing everything up a couple of notches.

The uvula problem has caught me off guard several times and it can be kind of awkward.

Congestion can strike when you least expect it

OK this is an odd one ... sometimes in the middle of the night, it is like I have an earplug in one nostril. It isn't the type of congestion that you get when you have a cold, at least for me anyway. That is a painful and exhausting type of congestion. The earplug in the nostril can be irritating but oh well.

Then there is the saliva-gravy type of congestion, that has woken me up on occasion, coughing and gagging. I have never experienced that before. It is quite bizarre.

I was beginning to wonder if I was losing it a bit, so I asked my obstetrician about this ear-plug and gravy congestion and she said that it was real.

The real dilemma: how to function despite disabling pregnancy symptoms

Most of these symptoms are minor and can be dealt with. They can also strike people who aren't pregnant and most reasonable people know that at some point, every living and breathing human body produces odors and/or discharge that is out of our control. Flatulence, metallic breath and frequent urination fall under that general problem. Unless your boss or co-workers are complete creeps, these things are embarrassing and annoying but I suggest forgetting about it.

Some of these symptoms when experienced intensely, are disabling and if you have no way out of going to work, I really, truly and profoundly empathize.

Morning, noon, late-afternoon and evening sickness is extremely difficult to deal with on its own and if you have to hold down a job it is horrible. There are a couple of medications for it. They are very expensive if you don't have medical insurance with a good prescription plan on it. I tried one and it worked only a bit. It certainly was no "magic bullet."

The ear thing is also just plain aggravating. I have spent many nights pondering just how bad it would be to have a job in something like customer service, or even worse, at a call center, with an echo in the ear.

Adding insult to injury would be having a bully of a boss, and no way of making ends meet if you were to quit this job.

The restless legs thing is awful, again, especially if you have to be at work at 9 am. Losing several nights of sleep in a row is crippling and frankly, dangerous if you have to drive or work with machinery.

On a final note, these things become particularly challenging if these symptoms are seldom discussed or recognized. I am not saying that we need to spend every waking hour dwelling on them, or bringing them up at company cocktail parties. But when I have done internet searches on some of these symptoms, I have noticed that some of them have the sufferers very surprised, as they type questions into discussion forums about them.

Telling a hostile boss that you are experiencing a pregnancy symptom is difficult enough ... if it is an uncommon one then there is that shade of doubt which makes it even more obnoxious.

I also would not underestimate the compassion of men and/or overestimate women in that department. I would not assume that your boss will be either "understanding" or "not understanding" on the basis of gender alone. In my own life I have dealt with women who were veritable battle-axes, and men who could fill the shoes of Mother Theresa.

And the real kicker is that there are indeed many woman who have been pregnant but have not even a shred of compassion or empathy. They are hardened and mean and experience so much pain in their own lives that they are immune to yours. They figure that if they can handle it, so can you.

God save us from THOSE types!

Sadly I can not end on a "positive" note but it is not all negative. Experiencing physical and mental challenges can be seen as growth opportunities for the mind and spirit. If we grow more empathetic through our pregnancies that should turn us into more compassionate mothers and less judgmental members of the community. And although people don't discuss these things in normal and polite conversation, if you do find the right time and place to ask another woman about them, you would be surprised at how many bumps in the road she experienced, in order to bring her own kids into the world.


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