fbpx Weird and Wonderful Things That Happen to Our Bodies During Pregnancy

Weird and Wonderful Things That Happen to Our Bodies During Pregnancy

From carpal tunnel to hyperpigmentation, these are some lesser-known changes you can expect.
Britany Robinson
Written by

Britany Robinson

The ubiquitous photo series of a pregnant woman's growing bump, taken month after month, can make the physical changes of pregnancy seem downright adorable. Their belly grows, their cheeks get plump and their skin takes on that pregnancy "glow."

It is spectacular how our bodies adapt and change from the inside out, to support the growth of another human. But those who have been pregnant themselves will tell you—not all of the changes are cute. Many of the physiological changes of pregnancy present surprising, challenging, sometimes painful symptoms. The body's miracles can at times feel more like practical jokes.

Everyone talks about weight gain, backaches and indigestion. Here are some lesser-known bodily changes you can anticipate if you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant. The good news? For the most part, these all go away once your baby arrives!

Carpal tunnel
Illustration by Josh Christensen

Elizabeth King, a certified fertility coach and mother, didn't think to tell her OB-GYN about carpal tunnel symptoms for months. "It just didn't seem relevant to my pregnancy," she said of the tingling and numbness in her hands.

But when she finally did tell her doctor, she learned carpal tunnel is actually a common side effect of pregnancy. This is because during pregnancy, your blood volume increases anywhere from 20 percent to 100 percent, which likewise increases swelling and pressure throughout the body. Just nine veins and one nerve pass through the carpal tunnel area of your wrist, so it doesn't take much swelling for that nerve to be compressed, causing the telltale tingling.

Wearing wrist braces at night and using a keyboard designed for proper ergonomic positioning of your hands can help alleviate symptoms.

Plantar fasciitis

Increased blood volume and swelling affect your feet, too. Most women will experience swelling and pain in their feet—and about 10 percent will develop plantar fasciitis, a sharp pain in the heel caused by the inflammation of a thick band of tissue connecting your heel and your toes. This is due to the weight gain of pregnancy adding pressure to your heels when you stand, and is often experienced first thing in the morning or after you've been sitting for some time.

Custom orthotics or shoe inserts can give you more arch support and alleviate the pain of plantar fasciitis. Regular exercise will help promote circulation, reducing swelling and pain. And if you do find yourself sitting for long periods, it's helpful to get up regularly to move and stretch your legs and feet.


Perhaps you've heard about the areola becoming darker during pregnancy. This is a form of hyperpigmentation, caused by an increase in progesterone and estrogen. Hyperpigmentation can also show up as melasma (patches of darker skin, common on your face, as it's exacerbated by sun exposure).

"Women often develop a 'linea negra,' or a dark line that extends horizontally from the pubic area over the belly," added Kecia Gaither, an OB-GYN and director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.

Hyperpigmentation is purely an aesthetic concern and does not pose any risk to you or your baby. And since hyperpigmentation can take several months to fade after delivery, the best approach is prevention—don't spend too much time in the sun and always, always wear sunscreen.

Round ligament pain

The round ligament is one of several ligaments that surround your uterus, connecting the front of the womb to the groin. As your baby grows, this ligament expands and can cause pain in the lower belly or groin area.

King explained that everything is moving and shifting during pregnancy: "Your ribcage gets wider, your ligaments loosen and stretch to make space for the baby. And it's all intertwined and related."

Round ligament pain can feel like a sudden spasm, and usually goes away quickly. It's another normal symptom of pregnancy—uncomfortable, but a sign your body is making a home for your baby.

Prenatal yoga or your preferred method of exercise can strengthen the muscles around the abdomen and help prevent this kind of pain. If round ligament pain is giving you trouble, ask your doctor about taking over-the-counter pain medication.

Illustration by Josh Christensen

That "pregnancy glow" you've heard about is real—but so are the pimples it might cause. Even if you've never had acne in the past, an increase of progesterone can cause pesky pimples to show up during pregnancy. Progesterone causes the skin to secrete more oil, which can give you the glow and/or acne. Most prescription acne treatments are off-limits during pregnancy, so you'll want to keep it simple: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, drink plenty of water and maintain a healthful diet with minimal sugar.

Back pain

Back pain is a very common and uncomfortable side effect of pregnancy, typically starting around month four or five. Weight gain, hormones and your adjusting posture can all contribute to the discomfort.

Spinal lordosis, or an excessive inward curving of the spine, is accentuated as your abdomen expands, your ligaments stretch, and all of your muscles and bones adjust to the presence of your growing baby.

"The spine, in effect, has to adjust itself to a new center of gravity," Gaither explained.

"The situation is temporary, but some women may require a physical therapist's input to alleviate pain, and to strengthen hip, pelvic, and back muscles."

Regular exercise, stretching, hot/cold compresses, acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment have all shown to be effective in alleviating back pain associated with pregnancy. It's also a great reason to ask someone for a back rub.


"I'm someone who goes to the dentist every six months," King said. "And I couldn't believe how bloody my gums were during pregnancy."

King's physician told her there's a direct connection between your dental health and pregnancy. Again, it's those pesky hormones (namely progesterone), this time intensifying your body's response to bacteria.

Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen gums and bleeding while brushing. Taking good care of your teeth, including flossing, leading up to and during pregnancy can help—but some people who have excellent dental hygiene will still develop gingivitis. Talk to your dentist about toothpaste and mouthwashes that can treat it.


The extra blood flow that causes swelling in your hands and feet can also cause the swelling of veins in the rectum and anus, known as hemorrhoids. Weight gain and increased pressure from the uterus weighing down on the pelvic area exacerbate the issue. About 50 percent of women will develop hemorrhoids by the third trimester of pregnancy, experiencing itchiness, discomfort and bleeding.

Eating plenty of fiber can help. It's also important to avoid straining yourself when trying to have a bowel movement. Just take the extra time in the bathroom when needed. Kick your feet up and give things time to pass.

Hair growth—and loss
Illustration by Josh Christensen

If you've ever wished for more voluminous hair, pregnancy might be your time to shine. This is thanks to an increase of estrogen causing hair to grow faster and less of it to fall out.

Gaither said her patients are aware of the increase of hair volume during pregnancy, but are often surprised what happens next.

"After delivery, when the pregnancy hormones have dissipated, those hairs that weren't previously shed may all shed at the same time," Gaither explained. "It's a temporary loss, and hair will return to its normal state in 6 to 12 months."

Whatever weird, wonderful or seemingly unrelated bodily changes you experience during pregnancy, it's important to keep your doctor updated. These changes are perfectly normal, but communicating them with your doctor can help you find helpful information and treatments—and identify any symptoms that might become problematic.

Your body is doing great things! And there are often ways to relieve the not-so-great symptoms.