It’s the only period in your life when you’ll positively relish a growing belly. But your pregnancy is also a time when your body goes completely nuts. Every week brings a different symptom — morning sickness, puffy ankles and backache get all the attention, but there are others that aren’t so easy to drop into conversation at your prenatal class. We’re talking about leaking body parts, gross biological functions and wild mood swings that make PMS look sweet and innocent.
YIKES! My husband made me laugh and I peed on the kitchen floor.
RELAX Laughing, sneezing, coughing — they can all make you lose control of your bladder.
“One in three women who go through childbirth suffers some kind of incontinence,” says physiotherapist Professor Kari Bo. “The fact that you’re carrying a growing baby for nine months puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor — the muscles that hold up your uterus, bladder and back passage. This can result in some slackening. Keeping active helps, but avoid high-impact exercise like aerobics or running, as these put more strain on the area. Swimming is ideal as the water supports your body.”
Simple pelvic floor exercises can keep these muscles strong and help you regain bladder control. “Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and your flow of urine mid-stream at the same time,” Prof Bo says.
“The feeling is one of ‘squeeze and lift’, closing and drawing up the front and back passages. Don’t pull in your tummy, tighten your bottom or hold your breath. Do these exercises 10 minutes a day during pregnancy and resume them hours after you’ve had your baby.”
YIKES! I’m producing so much discharge I’m getting through two panty liners a day.
RELAX Increased vaginal discharge is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy, caused by increased pressure on your pelvic floor and changes to the acidity of your vagina. The normal, harmless kind is watery, odourless and pale-coloured. Many women panic that it’s amniotic fluid leaking from the uterus, but your baby is safely sealed in with a mucus plug.
Yeast infections, such as thrush, are more common in pregnancy, so if your discharge is lumpy and accompanied by itchiness, see the doctor. It can’t harm the baby while you’re pregnant, but any infection in the vagina can pose a risk at birth.
If your discharge is bloodstained, has a green tinge or an offensive smell, see your gynae immediately.
YIKES! I’m in my second trimester and having very kinky dreams. Am I turning into a pregnant pervert?
RELAX “Many women report more frequent and vivid erotic dreams when pregnant,” says sex researcher Dr Petra Boynton. “We don’t really know why they happen, but it’s probably the increase of hormones and the extra blood flow to your genitals that are making you think sexy thoughts.”
Should you act on your fantasies, though? If your gynae has advised that your pregnancy is high-risk and sex is a bad idea, don’t. Otherwise, go for it!
YIKES! I’m terrified of doing a poop during labour.
RELAX “Don’t be embarrassed, we’ve seen it all before,” says UK midwife Brenda Van Der Kooy. “Birth incontinence happens because as your baby’s head descends into your pelvis, there isn’t room for a full bowel, too. Doing a poop during labour poses no risk to you or your baby. In fact, it can be a sign that your baby’s head is progressing well.”
That said, it’s probably not something you want your husband to see, so you may want to ask him to stay at the top end. “Mother Nature often solves the problem for you by giving you a little diarrhoea in the early stages of labour,” Van Der Kooy says.
YIKES! I’m happy to be pregnant but I occasionally feel a bit numb and tearful. Am I depressed, or is it “just the hormones”?
RELAX Most people are aware of postnatal depression, but it’s also possible to suffer from depression while you’re pregnant. A 2007 survey at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US, found that prenatal depression could affect up to one in five women.
“Fluctuating moods are entirely normal during pregnancy,” Lisa Barnwell, pregnancy therapist, says. “But depression is different. It can range from feelings of numbness, detachment and self-doubt to obsessive thoughts and, rarely, thoughts of suicide. If you’re suffering from depression, these feelings don’t change day to day, don’t go away, and can worsen. Don’t keep a lid on those emotions because you feel guilty about them — it’s important to talk to your gynae as soon as possible.”
YIKES! I’m only 31 weeks pregnant but my nipples are leaking fluid. What’s more, they’ve changed colour and shape.
RELAX Colostrum — your first breastmilk — may start to leak as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy, showing as tiny wet patches on the inside of your bra. The hormone oxytocin is preparing your body for breastfeeding, just get special pads to soak up leaks.
Your nipples could darken and become larger and more sensitive, too. It’s also common for breasts to become lumpy during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Almost all lumps are caused by blocked milk ducts and should disappear if you gently massage the area with your fingertips. A lump that doesn’t go away should be checked by your doctor.
YIKES! I seem to have grown a beard and my bikini line is halfway to my knees and up to my navel.
RELAX An increase in body hair is completely normal during pregnancy. “When you’re expecting, your body is flooded with male as well as female hormones,” obstetrician Dr Donald Gibb says. “It’s this surge that can lead to more hair on your neck, face, bikini line, and even around your nipples. This is not a sign that something is wrong with your pregnancy and there’s no risk to your unborn baby. The safest ways to remove it is to tweeze, wax, shave or use a depilatory cream. Laser hair removal is not safe during pregnancy.”
Don’t worry — the extra hair isn’t permanent. You should be back to normal a couple of months after giving birth.