Just think of them as the Rodney Dangerfields of the pregnancy world: pregnancy-related aches and pains that quite simply "don't get no respect." While complaints like morning sickness and Braxton-Hicks contractions manage to attract the lion's share of attention, you could make more than a few trips to labour and delivery before ever hearing as much as a whisper about palmar erythema or restless legs syndrome.
Unfortunately, the fact that you're never heard of these types of complaints doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to avoid them. (As you've no doubt noticed by now, Mother Nature has a rather nasty sense of humour when it comes to these sorts of things!) So, in the interests of preventing you from hitting the panic button at 3:00 a.m. when you find yourself confronting some new and unexpected symptom, here's a list of the pregnancy symptoms that seem to get left out of the pregnancy books.
Belly button soreness
I know, I know. It sounds like the most frivolous pregnancy complaint in the world, but it can actually be quite painful. Belly button pain is caused by the pressure of the expanding uterus on your belly button. It is most annoying at around the 20th week of pregnancy. After that, the tenderness starts to subside.
Increased vaginal secretions
Convinced that you've developed a vaginal infection because your secretions have suddenly become much wetter and more abundant? Chances are you're dealing with a little-talked-about side effect of the hormonal changes of pregnancy. It's normal to experience an increase in the amount of leukorrhea (the odourless clear or white mucous discharge produced by the female body) during pregnancy. (Of course, if you're experiencing soreness or pain or if your discharge becomes greenish-yellow, foulish-smelling or watery, you'll want to seek medical attention. You may have developed an infection or be leaking amniotic fluid.)
Have the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet suddenly taken on a reddish hue? You may be experiencing palmar erythema -- skin changes that are triggered by that unique hormonal cocktail called pregnancy. The good news is that palmar erythema is fully reversible. The bad news? You'll have to wait until after you give birth for your skin to return to normal.
As if palmar erythema wasn't enough to deal with, you may also develop skin tags -- tiny polyps that occur in areas of the body where the skin rubs up against your clothing or against itself (in the folds of your neck, along your bra lines, and so on). If these skin tags end up causing you a lot of discomfort, you might want to talk to your doctor about having them removed. If they're just mildly annoying, you may just want to wait for them to go away on their own -- something that typically happens a couple of months after you give birth.
Now let's talk about another skin change that may be calling you grief -- so-called spider nevi or spider veins. Hormonal changes and your increased blood volume may cause these spider nevi to pop out on your face or in the whites of your eyes if you push too intensely during delivery. These lines tend to become less prominent after delivery. If they don't fade to your satisfaction, you might want to talk to a dermatologist about having them removed.
Don't be alarmed if you happen to notice tiny nodules on your gums when you're brushing your teeth one morning. These nodules -- known as pyogenic granulomas (pregnancy tumours) -- are harmless, noncancerous growths that can occur during pregnancy. They tend to disappear on their own after you give birth, but if they're causing you a lot of grief, you might want to ask your doctor to remove them sooner rather than later.
This one seems too far-fetched to be real, but I assure you that it's legit. Fluid retention during pregnancy changes the shape of your eyeballs, leading to increased nearsightedness. At the same time, rising levels of estrogen can lead to a condition called dry eye, which is characterized by dryness and burning, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. Like many pregnancy complaints, your eye woes will correct themselves after you give birth. (Note: Since vision problems can also be a symptom of diabetes, this is one problem you'll definitely want to report to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.)
Carpal tunnel syndrome
You might not think to blame your pregnant state for the numbness or tingling in your hands, but chances are, that's just what to blame. Carpal tunnel syndrome is relatively common during pregnancy and results from a pinched nerve in the wrist. In most cases, the problem disappears after you give birth, but some women will require surgery to correct the problem. In the meantime, you can keep yourself comfortable by elevating the affected hand or wearing a plastic splint at night.
Find yourself waking up in the middle of night with aching hips? You've got something else to blame on those crazy pregnancy hormones! Hormonal changes cause the ligaments in your hips to stretch and the cartilage to soften, something that can lead to soreness when you're sleeping on your side at night. They're also responsible for that classic pregnancy "waddle."
Given the smorgasbord of pregnancy-related aches and pains that will be available to you during the next nine months, why settle for something so painfully ordinary as morning sickness? After all, the more exotic your complaint, the better your prenatal class bragging rights!
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting. You can contact Ann via her website at www.having-a-baby.com.