9 unexpected pregnancy symptoms and how I’ve coped with them

I’m So Pregnant: An illustrated look at the ups and downs (and everything in between) of pregnancy by Line Severinsen
Source: I’m So Pregnant: An illustrated look at the ups and downs (and everything in between) of pregnancy by Line Severinsen

For some reason, it seems like our female relatives and friends don’t always spill the beans about all of the strange and unpleasant pregnancy symptoms they experienced, leaving first-time moms in the dark about what to expect when they’re expecting.

Sure, the women in our lives talk about the agony of childbirth but they tend to gloss over the details of the 9 months that lead up to their labor or focus mostly on the warm and fuzzy aspects of pregnancy.

This lack of knowledge transfer combined with the pressure to look as flawless as Beyoncé one month after giving birth can make any first-time mom feel overwhelmed and confused when certain pregnancy symptoms strike.

In this post, I’ll share 9 unexpected symptoms I’ve encountered so far in my first 21 weeks of pregnancy and how I’ve coped with them.

1) Gagging/vomiting while brushing my teeth

The symptom: This was one of my first unexpected symptoms and boy was it a nasty one. Early on in my pregnancy, I started gagging, coughing, and throwing up every time I brushed my teeth. Sometimes I would throw up 4-5 times while brushing my teeth and this happened nearly every day until I was a few weeks into my 2nd trimester.

The cause: When I asked my doctor about this symptom, she said that our gag reflex is more sensitive when we’re pregnant. When we brush the teeth near the back of our mouth it can stimulate our gag reflex and potentially cause us to throw up.

The cure: My doctor suggested that I try to avoid brushing the teeth near the back of my mouth and rinse my mouth out with alcohol-free mouthwash after brushing. This strategy seemed to help sometimes but I still struggled with this symptom occasionally until it finally just stopped happening out of the blue. I also have a theory that the nasal congestion brought on by pregnancy could have been contributing to this symptom, so blowing my nose before brushing my teeth seemed to help a little.

2) Food aversions

The symptom: You always hear so many people talk about food cravings during pregnancy, so I was really surprised to experience many food aversions during my 1st trimester. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with most kinds of meat and turned my nose up at food that I loved and ate frequently before pregnancy (popcorn, peanut butter, onions, and anything that had too strong of a flavor in general).

The cause: Raging hormones, nausea, and a heightened sense of smell can lead to food aversions.

The cure: At first, I was concerned about my lack of appetite but my doctor reminded me that I was in “survival mode” during the 1st trimester and encouraged me to just eat whatever I could manage. So, I simply ate as much as I could of foods that weren’t repulsive at the time. By the time my 2nd trimester rolled around, my appetite improved quite a bit and I was able to resume eating certain things like meat, popcorn, peanut butter, etc. I still haven’t had any consistent cravings, but there’s still time left for that. 🙂

3) Spontaneous gagging

The symptom: Besides vomiting while brushing my teeth, I’ve only had one encounter with morning sickness (at 3:00 am on Mother’s Day…go figure). However, I did have a lot of spontaneous gagging during my 1st trimester. For example, one morning as Brian and I were getting ready to leave for work, I grabbed something out of our pantry, walked into our kitchen, gagged, and nearly threw up for no apparent reason.

The cause: Raging hormones, nausea, and a heightened sense of smell are also culprits for spontaneous gagging.

The cure: I tried to avoid bad smells from the garbage can, leftover food in our fridge, etc. Sometimes, my gagging was accompanied by an unpleasant thick feeling in the back of my throat and I discovered that chugging some La Croix (a sparkling water drink) helped tremendously.

4) Constipation

The symptom: I started experiencing constipation during the 1st trimester. For me, this wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill constipation, it was pretty severe. 

The cause: During digestion when you’re pregnant, your bowel muscles slow down their motions in order to provide all of the nutrients they possibly can for your baby. It’s also a result of the extra progesterone in your system, which helps to make delivery easier.

The cure: In an embarrassing act of desperation, I called my doctor’s office to ask them how I could cope with this symptom. They recommended that I start taking stool softener and reassured me that it was safe for me to take, even on a daily basis. So, I’ve been taking Colace Clear stool softener, sold in my local grocery store, and it has made a huge difference.

5) Car/motion sickness

The symptom: This was another 1st trimester symptom that really surprised me since I’ve never struggled with car/motion sickness. In fact, before my pregnancy, I could even read a book in a car for hours without it bothering me.

The cause: I’m not exactly sure what caused this symptom, but if I had to guess I’d say it was a combination of being more susceptible to nausea, those crazy hormones, and my husband having too much fun driving his new sporty car.

The cure: If my husband was driving, I asked him to go slow around turns, roundabouts, etc. If I was driving I had more control over the situation and could avoid driving habits that made my car/motion sickness worse. I also avoided reading or scrolling through my phone in the car during that time. This symptom eventually went away on its own.

6) Heartburn

The symptom: This symptom started near the end of my 1st trimester or beginning of my 2nd trimester. I’ve never had problems with heartburn or indigestion so this symptom caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure what it was at first.

The cause: The pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes your smooth muscle tissues, preventing your esophagus from keeping your stomach acid down where it should be. Your sluggish digestion during pregnancy also leads to heartburn. Later on in pregnancy as your baby grows and crowds your abdominal cavity heartburn can also occur or worsen.

The cure: I’ve tried to identify the types of food that tend to give me heartburn more than others and avoid them (heavily fried food, spicy food, etc.). Eating a few Tums also helps quite a bit.

7) Bloating/gas

The symptom: I didn’t put this symptom on the list because it was new to me, but because it’s been more frequent and severe during pregnancy. At times, I’ve been so bloated that it felt like my belly could literally pop and the double-whammy of having trapped gas doesn’t help the matter.

The cause: You guessed it, progesterone! As this hormone slows down your digestive system it creates excess gas and fluid in your abdomen.

The cure: A winning combination of Tums, La Croix, and movement/activity seems to help. One memorable night this week I woke up at 2:00 am with a bloated upset stomach. My loving husband fetched me some Tums and La Croix and stayed awake with me while I watched an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show (to get my mind off of feeling crappy) and walked laps around our bedroom until the bloating subsided.

8) Hip pain

The symptom: Being the overachiever that I am, I started training myself to sleep only on my sides starting on day 1 of my pregnancy. Needless to say, now that I’m 21 weeks along, my nights are filled with lots of tossing and turning from side to side due to sore hips.

The cause: Hip pain is caused by side-sleeping at night and a hormone called relaxin that widens your hips later in pregnancy.

The cure: I’m actually still searching for the magical cure for this one. Sleeping with a body pillow between my legs has helped a little as well as flipping sides when one hip starts to get sore.

9) Nasal congestion and snoring

The symptom: I just started struggling with these symptoms during the past few weeks. During the night my nose becomes congested causing me to snore like a bear and wake up with a sore throat.

The cause: Those pesky pregnancy hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are to blame again! They increase your blood flow, make your tissues softer, and constrict your blood vessels which can lead to congestion, bloody noses, and snoring.

The cure: I’ve started sleeping with nasal strips on my nose which has kept me congestion and snore free for most of the night.

I hope this post helps first-time moms that may be feeling a little in the dark about the symptoms they’re experiencing.

Have any strange pregnancy symptoms or cures of your own to share? Leave a comment below!




The “Symptoms Lookup” feature in the Ovia pregnancy app



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