The side-effects of pregnancy

From bursting into tears at the slightest thing to getting 'baby brain', pregnancy can cause some unusual side-effects...

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  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Crying all the time

    What is it? Bursting into tears for no particular reason: a TV advert, walking past an old person, seeing a beautiful sunset...

    Why? It's mostly hormone-related, but can also be down to feeling anxious or depressed about the pregnancy, and worried about the future. If it's really serious, it could be antenatal depression.

    Will it go? Most women find that once the baby's born, and your hormones are back to normal, this type of crying subsides. 

  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Darker nipples

    What is it? Your nipples get much darker. This can start quite early in the pregnancy.

    Why? Progesterone is the hormone responsible. It's not caused by you carrying a boy, as the old wives' tale goes. Some people think that the contrast in colour helps a weak-sighted newborn find your nipples more easily.

    Will it go? Yes, darkened areas usually fade soon after the birth.

  • The side-effects of pregnancy


    What is it? The desire to eat certain, sometimes rather odd, food. Among the most commonly craved are peanut butter, apples, melon, cheese, eggs, milk, olives or pickles and nuts. Pica is the technical term for wanting to eat non-foodstuffs, such as sand, earth or coal.

    What causes it? It may be your body's way of making you eat the extra you need, and making it nutritious foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

    Will it go? Cravings may occur infrequently or last the whole pregnancy, but they disappear once you've given birth. 

  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    The 'glow'

    What is it? Many women develop a healthy rosy glow and dewy complexion in the second trimester.

    What causes it? That faint blush and great-looking complexion isn't just because you're excited. Your body's increased volume of blood means your cheeks will look a little rosier. The skin's oil glands also secrete more, which gives your face a hint of a sheen.

    Will it go? Yes, your skin will return to normal.

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  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Linea nigra

    What is it? A dark line that appears from your belly button down to your pubes.

    What causes it? Some women get it and some don’t. Research suggests it could indicate a folic acid deficiency. So make sure you're eating plenty of wholegrains, green leafy veg, or take a supplement.

    Will it go? Yes, the darkening will fade within a few months after the baby's born.

  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Thicker hair

    What is it? Your hair may become thicker and glossier.

    What causes it? It's the hormone, HCG (human chorionic), the same one that pregnancy tests detect.

    Will it go? Sadly, yes. And the rate at which it falls out as it does can be alarming, but don't worry, you're not going bald.

    Click here for advice on haircare during pregnancy. 

  • The side-effects of pregnancy


    What is it? The 'mask of pregnancy' can appear as a mask-shaped patch of darker skin on some women's faces, more often those with dark skin.

    What causes it? Those pregnancy hormones cause increased pigmentation of the skin. You may have noticed your moles are darker too.

    Will it go? Most changes in skin colour during pregnancy will fade within a few months of the birth.

  • The side-effects of pregnancy


    What is it? Reddish streaks that appear on your bump, and maybe on your breasts, thighs and bum too, from about three months in. On darker skin they can be lighter than your skin. Technically known as striae gravidarum (Latin for pregnancy grooves!).

    What causes it? Fast weight gain makes your skin s-t-r-e-t-c-h, and the fibres within it tear. How fast you gain baby-weight affects your likelihood of getting stretchmarks, as does whether your mum or sisters have had them, and whether you got them at puberty. If you're carrying twins (or more) they may be worse. Opinion varies on whether stretch-mark creams can prevent them, but as your skin may feel dry, tight and itchy, rubbing in cream will help soothe that at least.

    Will it go? Not exactly, but they do fade to a pale silver colour within about a year.

    Click here for help on avoiding stretchmarks.

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  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Bigger feet

    What is it? Your dainty little tootsies may swell, and you might need to go up a shoe size.

    What causes it? Several things. Fluid retention is a common effect of pregnancy and gravity plays its part in ensuring that your feet is where it pools. If you've put on weight, your feet may have got fatter. And, thanks to the pregnancy hormone relaxin, your ligaments (which connect muscle and bone) are stretchier, which allows your foot bones to spread out.

    Will it go? Your ligaments will tighten up again, and excess weight and fluid will go within a few months. However, your feet may remain a size bigger.

  • The side-effects of pregnancy

    Porridge brain or baby brain syndrome

    What is it? You lose your keys, forget phone numbers, mislay your glasses, feel unable to make the simplest of decisions, miss appointments and so on.

    What causes it? When you're pregnant, levels of oestrogen and progesterone shoot up, and these are both linked to memory function. Some studies prefer the theory that your bump is a constant distraction and, while you're preoccupied with that, something's gotta give...

    Will it go? Tiredness after the birth can have a similar effect but it will pass and you'll find yourself like most supermums: able to remember the 1,001 things you need to in daily life, as you did before, but with all the baby's needs included now too...

Last updated on 18 September 2007


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