From bigger everything to mood swings, learn interesting facts about your pregnant body your doctor won’t tell you about.

When Abigail Wong, 32, was six months pregnant, she felt a sharp pain in her buttocks all the way down the right side of her leg.

Wong says, “At times, I couldn’t even stand or walk as the pain was so intense,” When she visited her doctor, she was told that it was sciatica, a painful but temporary condition. “I was stumped. I’ve never even heard of sciatica,” she adds.

Don’t want any pregnancy surprises to sneak up on you? Then be prepared for what’s to come.

1. Leg pain

You experience a sharp, shooting pain in the back or buttocks that radiates all the way down the back of your leg. Sciatica, which usually occurs in the second and third trimesters, is caused by the bulging of an intervertebral disc, which compresses the sciatic nerve. The pain also increases when you gain weight, if there’s fluid build-up or when baby starts shifting and his head rests on the nerve.

To relieve pain, use a pregnancy girdle to lift your uterus and distribute weight evenly. Do your pelvic tilt exercises or go swimming. Place a pregnancy pillow between your legs to better align the pelvis. If your condition is severe, see a chiropractor.

To prepare for vaginal delivery, the hormone relaxin softens the cervix and the pelvic ligaments... This causes your joints to become less stable and more prone to injury.

2. Less stable joints

To prepare for vaginal delivery, the hormone relaxin softens the cervix and the pelvic ligaments (tissues that connect bone to bone). This causes your joints to become less stable and more prone to injury. So, go slow when exercising and avoid any heavy lifting.

But if you experience a crippling pain in the lower back and pelvis, you may have pelvic girdle pain. This happens when the bones become misaligned at the pelvic joints. This makes climbing the stairs and even walking painful. See a physiotherapist for pain management solutions.

3. Varicose veins, haemorrhoids and constipation

Varicose veins, swollen veins that are blue or purple in colour, are most likely to appear on your legs, but can appear in your rectum as haemorrhoids (bluish-coloured lumps) or on your vulva.

During pregnancy, your expanding uterus presses on the large vein on the right side of your body, increasing pressure in the leg veins. So, avoid crossing your legs to prevent varicose veins when you sit. Walking helps to keep the blood flowing. Prop up your feet or wear compression stockings whenever you can. Sleep on your left side to avoid putting pressure on your main blood vessels.

Haemorrhoids, which happens to about 35 per cent of pregnant women, usually occur either in the first trimester or the last. These occur as a result of excessive straining during bowel movements (constipation) or during labour. Symptoms include anal itching and burning, as well as pain and bleeding. Minimise straining and avoid heavy lifting to prevent haemorrhoids.

To alleviate constipation, eat more fibre-rich foods, drink plenty of fluids and take probiotics.



4. Burgeoning bra size

One of the first signs of pregnancy is your blossoming bustline. Your breasts can continue to grow throughout pregnancy because your hormones work hard to pack on extra fatty tissue, increase blood flow, and trigger other changes to your chest, to prepare you to feed your baby.

Your lung capacity also increases as you take in extra oxygen for you and baby ― another reason for your expanded chest.

To keep you comfortable in the coming months, buy a supportive maternity bra with wide shoulder straps and a deep band underneath the cups. Avoid underwire ones as these restrict the growth of milk glands.

5. Bigger shoe size

While losing the baby weight is what many mums look forward to after giving birth, there’s one part of your body that no post-baby diet will shrink — your feet.

Studies show that women’s feet do get bigger, especially if it’s their first pregnancy. The hormone relaxin can affect the looseness of the joints and ligaments, which makes the foot structure more malleable.

This, together with the extra weight and fluids that pregnant women carry, all add greater stress to the feet and arch, and can make the feet go up a size permanently.

“My feet grew from size 5 to 6 — and it stayed at 6! I was so heartbroken when I had to give away my collection of Valentino stilettos!” laments Ng Su-Lyn, 37.

Also, avoid eating too much salt as it causes mild oedema (swelling of feet and ankles). When choosing shoes, get those with good arch support to reduce the pressure placed on the feet. Pick non-slip soles and low heels instead of high heels.

See your doctor if your feet, hands and face swell suddenly, as it signals preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication with symptoms of high blood pressure).

Mood swings are caused by pregnancy hormones, fatigue, stress and changes in your metabolism.

6. Mood swings

Mood swings are caused by pregnancy hormones, fatigue, stress and changes in your metabolism. Mood swings occur in the first trimester and again in the third trimester, as your body prepares for childbirth.

Beat stress by giving yourself a treat, like a prenatal massage, or taking a nap. Have small, frequent meals as drops in blood sugar can also increase your mood swings. Talk to your husband or doctor about your pregnancy worries.

If you’re frequently anxious, see a doctor. Untreated emotional health problems can increase risks of preterm labour and postpartum depression.

7. Pregnancy brain

Yes, mummy brain is real! Hormones, the lack of quality shut-eye, fatigue and anxiety, as well as a decrease in the brain-cell volume, can affect a pregnant mum’s ability to concentrate. Pregnant women also have less oxygen in their blood, which causes forgetfulness or pregnancy brain. But this condition is only temporary — the brain will bounce back a few months after birth.

If pregnancy brain is interfering with your life, write notes or set reminders on your phone. Delegate responsibilities to ease your workload and eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, choline and antioxidants to support healthy brain function.

8. Nesting instinct

It’s a powerful urge to clean and organise the home for baby’s arrival. Many believe that women develop an urge to nest out of pregnancy boredom and wanting to create a safe environment.

“I was obsessed with cleanliness,” says Janet Raj, 30, mum to Kieran, 1. “I was constantly dusting or clearing clutter to create a dust-free home for my baby!”

Nesting usually peaks in the third trimester ― during this time, you may experience bursts of energy. If you do, don’t wear yourself out as you should try and get enough rest.

Stay safe with these tips

i. Avoid lifting heavy objects or climbing ladders.

ii. Avoid strong cleaning products. Wear gloves and make sure you have good ventilation if you need to use these.

Photos: iStock

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