What I wasn't told about pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause symptoms you'd never imagine - but chances are, they're all perfectly normal.
Pregnancy can cause symptoms you'd never imagine - but chances are, they're all perfectly normal. Photo: Getty Images

When Clancy saw those two pink lines she was elated. The 29-year-old had been clucky since her wedding day in August 2012, and although the pregnancy was not exactly planned, it was welcome. She was ready to take on motherhood and excitedly awaited the pregnancy glow.

And she waited, and waited. But there was no glow.

Instead, she got headaches and sciatic pain. Then cramping, lack of libido, forgetfulness, severe fatigue, and, of course, the cravings – all in the first trimester.

“I had so much going on in the first trimester that I wasn't expecting: really bad sciatic pain, wanting to eat everything, cramping (like your period), which scared me because I thought I might have a miscarriage; complete forgetfulness, breathlessness and full on dizzy spells when standing up,” says Clancy.

Clancy was surprised by some of the symptoms as she’d grown up hearing about how wonderful pregnancy was from her own mum. Naturally, she thought she’d inherit those glowing pregnancy genes.

“I've had my mother in my ear for years telling me how great pregnancy is; nobody told me their pregnancy horror stories until I was pregnant. I thought I would actually glow,” she says. “I think I was naïve.”

Also not glowing during pregnancy was American pop star, Kelly Clarkson. Kelly recently gave birth to a daughter but she spoke openly during her uneasy pregnancy.

Kelly claims to have vomited up to “a dozen times a day” and didn't feel beautiful during pregnancy.

Of course, pregnancy affects women differently – and a woman’s pregnancy can be wildly different to the next time she's expecting.

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Donna, a mum of two, had her first pregnancy go off without a hitch. She assumed her second would be much the same … but it wasn’t.

At 34 weeks, Donna developed painful carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by nerve compression, which she’d never had before.

“It was a strange sensation; it began with minor tingling and numbness in my right hand and worsened over a week. It was agonising and kept me awake at night,” she remembers. “Eventually, I had to have both hands and wrists fully strapped.”

“The doctor said it was a by-product of pregnancy and the only cure was to have the baby. He told me ways to manage it, with strapping and elevation. I also had my arms, hands and wrists massaged to help relieve the pain,” Donna says. “It disappeared three weeks after having the baby.”

Dr Andy Stamatiou, obstetrician and gynaecologist with City Fertility Centre and The Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, says approximately 7 per cent of women will experience carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy.

“It’s due to increased fluid retention and hormonal changes so it’s more common in the second half of pregnancy and in warmer months. Women often wake with burning, numbness and tingling in the hand, and report shaking the hand to relieve the discomfort. In 75 per cent of women it affects both wrists,” says Dr Stamatiou.

When American social worker Natalie Guenther and her friends Celeste Snodgrass and Kim Schenkelberg found themselves pregnant at the same time, they decided to write a book about their experiences.

The book, It's Really 10 Months: Delivering the Truth About the Glow of Pregnancy and other Blatant Lies, is a series of emails the ladies shared to vent, moan, question and cry to each other about their pregnancy woes.

Now the mother of three children, Natalie says she suffered from many odd symptoms in pregnancy.

“I had terrible hip/groin pain, which is called symphysis pubis dysfunction; Kim had it too. Celeste suffered from varicose veins 'down there', if you will, which I don't think anyone would expect, and we all had leg cramps,” she says.

Dr Stamatiou says leg cramps are common in the third trimester, adding, “They’re due to a build up of lactic and pyruvic acids in muscles, but the exact cause is not known.”

Other common but often unspoken and embarrassing “joys” of pregnancy include heartburn, stretch marks on your breasts, acne, mysterious brown spots, mood swings, belly hair, increased vaginal discharge, flatulence and constipation – oh, and let's not forget hemorrhoids.

Clancy says if she had educated herself prior to falling pregnant, she may not have been so surprised at some of her symptoms.

“If my pregnancy was planned, I would have read more and had a better understanding of all the possible symptoms. I'm reading lots now,” she says.

Now in her second trimester, Clancy says she’s feeling better. Maybe even glowing.