8 Embarrassing pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy isn’t always pretty, but with our handy hints you’ll be ready to tackle any side effect that is thrown your way

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  • 1) Bladder weakness

    You used to joke about sneezing or laughing and letting out a bit of wee, but it’s not so funny now you’re pregnant. It’s due to muscle changes and hormones, says Sue Thompson, young women’s midwife at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

    “Oestrogen and progesterone make all the soft muscle in your body relax – that includes the muscle around your bladder,” says sue. “The urethra can get bent too, leaving pockets of wee and stopping your bladder emptying fully.”

    What you can do:

    • Exercise your pelvic floor (you should be doing this anyway!).
    • Always using the loo when you need to.
    • Wear a pad – nobody will know but you, and you’ll feel much more in control.
  • 2) Bloating

    When you’re pregnant, your progesterone levels rise. And that increases bloating. “Hormone changes make the bowel sluggish,” says Vani Lingham, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent. What’s more, bacteria can then make any undigested food ferment – so on top of the bloat there’s the risk of wind.

    What you can do:

    • Eat little and often.
    • Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat and when you’re bloated can help you avoid the main food culprits.
    • Avoid fatty foods and fizzy drinks. “Lots of mums think the answer is only fibre, but fluid intake (two litres of water a day if you can) is important and it helps in battling constipation, too,” says Vani.
  • 3) Piles

    Progesterone has a lot to answer for! Not only is it busy bloating and blocking you up, it also puts extra pressure on the blood vessels in your bottom.

    “One of the knock-on effects of constipation is straining when you go to the loo," says Vani Lingham, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent.  "That puts pressure on the veins in your bottom, which then prolapse. That’s piles,” she explains. Look out for itching, pain or bleeding from your anus and lumps (only small ones, don’t panic) protruding from your bottom too.

    What you can do:

    • Wash your bottom when you’ve been for a poo to keep it clean and infection-free.
    • Use an ice pack if it’s painful.
    • Lie on your side for 10 minutes a day to relieve the pressure from the baby.
  • 4) Itching and Thrush

    You may have experienced thrush, that burning itching sensation all around your vagina, before. “When you’re pregnant, the ph of your vagina changes,” says Vani Lingham consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent, explains. “As it gets more alkaline, you’re prone to thrush as the good bacteria are suppressed,” she explains.

    Another possible itchy problem is BV – bacterial vagniosis. It’s an infection that can create a strong smell, burning sensation and itching. 

    What you can do:

    • Ask your GP to prescribe creams or vaginal pessaries, which can help the itching. There are specific creams for bacterial vaginosis, too.
    • Limit your sugar intake, as this promotes the growth of yeast (which then causes thrush as it comes out in your wee).
    • Wear loose cotton underwear and always wiping front to back after you’ve been to the loo.
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  • 5) Snoring

    Being worken up by snoring used to be solved with a dig in your partner’s ribs. Now you’re the one letting out nasal rumblings. It’s progesterone again, this time thinning the nasal passages, which then swell and block the airways. Muscles that are too relaxed contribute to snoring. “Because there’s soft muscle in the throat, that adds to the problem,” says Sue Thompson. “A bit like when you’ve had a few drinks, you get that throaty rumbly snore!”

    What you can do:

    • Sleep on your side rather than your back.
    • Speak to the pharmacist about nasal strips to ease the problem.
    • Burn myrtle oil (safe in all trimesters) in the room before bed may help your breathing, too.
  • 6) Bladder Infections

    You may well have had a UTI (urinary tract infection) when you weren’t pregnant - that cystitis-like burning sensation when you wee. It's caused by bacteria multiplying when your bladder becomes enlarged and it’s down to progesterone, again. “The pockets of urine that might appear in your urethra also make you more prone to infections,” says Sue Thompson, young women’s midwife at Liverpool Women’s Hospital

    What you can do:

    • See your GP straight away as having a UTI is really miserable – and dangerous as it can develop into a kidney infection.
    • Drink lots of water.
    • “Emptying your bladder after sex will help avoid infections, too,” says Sue.
  • 7) Leaking Breasts

    As your boobs get bigger and you approach the end of your pregnancy, you might find they start to leak. This isn’t breastmilk, it’s called colostrum.

    “Colostrum is a thicker solution, full of antibodies and special cells that encourage brain development in babies,” says Sue Thompson. “Don’t worry – leaky boobs don’t mean you’re ‘losing’ milk before the birth.”

    What you can do:

    • Wear breast pads – your new best friend – when you’re out and about.
    • Try to keep leaky nipples dry as they can get sore and rub if they’re wet.
    • Keep your (non-wired) bra on.
  • 8) Varicose Veins

    “Veins take your blood from the peripheries (your legs, for example) back to your heart,” says Vani Lingham. “As the uterus expands, it blocks the blood flow, which causes pressure to build up. The result is swollen, or varicose, veins.” You’ll know if you have them because they stick out. They should improve after the birth, but sometimes you might need surgery to remove them.

    What you can do:

    • Cover up a vein by wearing tights or leggings if you’re feeling self-conscious.
    • Try to avoid excess weight gain while you’re pregnant, and putting your feet up when possible.
    • Not crossing your legs or standing in one spot for a long period of time.
    • Wearing flight socks or support tights.


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