6 pregnancy side effects I didn't expect

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The abundance of literature available on pregnancy expectations weighs down shelves in bookshops. If there were online shelves, they'd be bowing under the strain too. Before falling pregnant, most of us expect to be tired, have strange cravings of squash and orange juice smoothies, be emotional, and would not find it surprising to demand our partners drive to 7-Eleven at midnight to get us a salted caramel Magnum. It's all to be expected when you're expecting.

Without frightening anyone who is yet to navigate the pregnancy path, here are some things I didn't expect when I fell pregnant.

Swollen vulva

Try repeating that five times. Got your attention, didn't I?

I am speaking on behalf of a friend, of course, whose identity and therefore her lopsided vulva shall remain anonymous. She confided that at the end of her pregnancy the baby's head seemed to be wedged on a nerve which was increasing blood volume to one side of her labia. She naturally had a complete freak-out that her body, and her lady garden, would never ever be the same. She was correct, but not because of the swollen bit - that calmed down once the baby was no longer resting its heavy head on a nerve pillow.

Just a head's up (or down), there is a related condition called vulvar varicose veins. Don't google it because you cannot wash your eyes of those images.

Hormonal breakouts

All those damn books tell us that our skin will be glowing when we are up the duff, but the only glowing I had was from excess oil thanks to hormonal breakouts. Pimples or acne are very common in pregnancy. Hormone surges, namely progesterone, around the six week mark can cause overproduction of oil provoking a flare up. Some women unfortunately have an entire nine months (and more) of hormonal acne, that can extend from chin and neck to chest and back. There are limited treatments available which are pregnancy-safe. Speak to your doctor about the options if the breakouts are making you want to break out.

Maybe don't whisper to your baby bump, "I've got hormonal acne because of you. You'd better be worth it."


Everything smells

I have a sizeable nose so it could just be me, but I found my sense of smell during pregnancy was superhuman. I could have worked for the CFA detecting smoke smells from 100km away. It also worked against me given anything that had a slightly off scent had me hurrying off to the toilet bowl to vomit.

On a tangent, your nose can "spread" thanks to elevated oestrogen levels that soften the cartilage, along with excess fluid and blood flow. Don't stress, it's not permanent. Just another joyful side effect of growing a whole person.

You realise you're a messy eater

Blame pregnancy clumsiness, a case of the "dropsies" or the realisation I am an incredibly messy eater, but my baby bump was fantastic at catching all the drips and spills from my food. I attended many an occasion donning a lovely maternity outfit showcasing a Pro Hart painting of bolognaise sauce. It was great practise for when the baby was out and I exchanged sauce for baby spew.

The positive of this was my bump came with a cleavage which stopped some of the crumbs that would have fallen to the floor pre-pregnancy.

Heightened attention to names

Your pregnancy brain may fail you when it comes to remembering your own name, where you live or the answer to a simple Trivial Pursuit question, but it will be as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel when it comes to searching out a baby name.

I'd fall asleep during movies but wake up at the final credits, watching names roll down the screen, mentally noting any potential candidates. I've never been so interested in who (or what) the gaffer was in a film.

Crazy dreams

We all think we have crazy dreams. How often have you started a sentence with "I had this really weird dream last night…"?

When you're pregnant, your dreams will make you wonder if you are seriously unhinged. There's plenty of science to back up why the dreams are nutball; you can blame all those raging hormones again, or the desperate fatigue therefore sleeping more and dreaming more, and the stress and apprehension around the life changes a new baby will bring.

Dreaming about your baby's gender is common, but usually that dream will involve your baby coming out with a penis and devil's horns. Don't read anything into it. A nightmare about labour, when Bradley Cooper is your obstetrician and you're worried you haven't groomed well enough to be showing your bits, is also common. That's what I've told myself anyway.

What did you NOT expect when you were expecting?