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Pregnancy Symptoms: The Good, The Bad, and The Nasty

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What’s normal and what’s not? There’s comfort in knowing what you’re experiencing is actually very common.

This list started out small with a conversation in our office, and then we cast the net out wider to our online community for its say. Now it’s big. But so are the changes happening to your body (and mind) during pregnancy which can leave you feeling quite freaked-the-f out and Dr Google just makes things worse.

Growing, Swelling, Puffiness

Many women in our office talked about “puffiness” as a general theme of their pregnancy body experience. Puffiness — or swelling and fluid retention— literally everywhere. Feet, bum, hands, cankles (f.k.a calves and ankles) nose, lips, tits. Vulva. Fun fact: during pregnancy your body begins to store fat in preparation for breastfeeding. Normally around the stomach, hips and thighs. Personally, my feet went up a full shoe size and have not returned to pre-pregnancy size. R.I.P shoe collection.

Sore and tender breasts and nipples

It seems as though your boobs (and nipples) are the first things to grow and often the first sign of pregnancy. To quote someone in our head office: “if you’re like me, your areola might go from the diameter of a raspberry to a pepperoni”. Wow. Hormones are firing up all those breastmilk-making glands which can make the breast tissue and nipples feel tender.


Literally no one talks about this. Why? It was one of the most common responses when we asked our Instagram community about their pregnancy symptoms. It can be very uncomfortable. There are over the counter laxatives that are safe during pregnancy (pro tip: also very handy for your first postpartum poop), drink a tonne of water and of course, a high fibre diet helps. If that fails, classic prune juice is the OG and very effective.

Glowy skin, stretch marks and other weird skin things

Growing, stretching skin all over your body will feel itchy, dry and tight which is why you’ll be reaching for luxurious creams and oils to help. The Belly Oil by Pure Mama is heaven. It might say belly oil on the label but you could marinate your entire body in it post-shower. Stretch marks might pop up on your tummy, hips, breasts or thighs. At first they will appear purplish-red and then will gradually fade to silvery thin lines.

Possibly the best symptom of all is that the change in hormones, extra sebum production and increase in blood volume can enhance luminosity in your complexion by pumping extra oxygen and nutrients to the skin. On the flip side: these fluctuations can also mean pimples and breakouts. When looking for a pregnancy-safe routine we recommend a simple ritual with a cleanser, serum, oil and moisturiser by Habitual Beauty.

The main active ingredients to avoid are Retinol/Vitamin A, Hydroquinone (found in brightening products), Minoxidil (used for hair growth), and Tretinoin (prescription retinoid acid to treat acne). A comprehensive list can be found here.

You might notice a darkening of pigment too. From spots and moles to scars and even nipples darken due to an increase in oestrogen levels which stimulate melanin. Melasma might pop up, commonly known as ‘the mask of pregnancy’ which causes brown or grey patches to appear on the cheeks, forehead, upper lip, chin and nose. Darker or more olive skin types may be more likely to experience melasma due to the high amount of active pigment-producing cells. Your skin will calm down and melasma will fade as hormone levels return to normal and melanin production reduces, but not always.

Shiny, voluminous hair (everywhere)

One of the best things is that pregnancy hormones can impact hair health and you might find yourself with shiny, thick hair. And not just on your head. A thick, winter-like coat might cover other areas of your body too. Such as (and not limited to) face, chin, arms, belly, legs and so forth. One woman described transforming into a Sasquatch during pregnancy and many of us can relate.


Don’t be surprised if you find yourself belching with the deep vibrato of a 150kg Italian opera singer. Gas escapes your body (from any outlet) without warning and with such ferocity that you may frighten yourself and your partner.

Body odour

Pairs perfectly with the heightened sense of smell you’re probably experiencing and extra sweat you’re producing. The Fresh Mama Deodorant by HATCH is perfect as it’s designed for hormonal skin and is all-natural. Importantly, it’s free from aluminium which you should avoid while pregnant. Instead, arrowroot is used to help absorb moisture and neutralise bacteria-causing odour.


The sister symptom to gas. As your uterus grows (to 500 times its normal size) it is squishing the other internal organs so much that it can feel as though your stomach is in your oesophagus. It will most likely get worse as you grow and it may be wise to carry a bottle of Gaviscon on your person (and on the bedside table) at all times.


Staying hydrated is key during pregnancy for a number of reasons and dizziness is number one. It’s also best to slowly get up from a seated or lying position and particularly first thing in the morning. What’s causing it? Well, during pregnancy the body’s blood volume increases by roughly 50%. Plus, you’re creating a foetus and an entirely new organ (the placenta) and you will feel much better if you keep hydration levels high.

Staying on top of how much water you’re having each day is easy with the Bink Bottle with the measurements on the exterior to help you keep track. And if you get sick of plain water you can keep things interesting and more nutrient-rich with different hydration powders from Mini and Me.

Blocked noses and ears

Fluid retention impacts every part of your body but is very frustrating when it hits the nasal passage which connects to the ears. A team member at The Memo had one blocked ear for half of her pregnancy.

Blood noses and bloody gums

As mentioned above, your blood volume is increasing and just generally there’s a lot more blood pumping around from head to toe. Random, out-of-the-blue blood noses and bloody, sensitive gums are completely normal. Hormones are again to blame as they are responsible for making your gums more sensitive to bacteria so staying on top of brushing and flossing is key. Your doctor might bring this up and advise you to go to the dentist at some point during your pregnancy.

Depression and anxiety

Prenatal anxiety and/or depression is common and is often triggered by the change in progesterone and oestrogen hormones. It is often something you may not have control over during this time. The Royal Women’s Hospital states that 15 percent of women will have depression or anxiety during pregnancy and an even larger number in the postnatal period.

If it’s feeling unmanageable via everyday strategies (exercise, eating well, mindfulness) then there are solutions and medications that are safe during pregnancy. Your GP will be able to help you with a mental health plan and Medicare covers up to three 30 minute+ sessions with a psychologist per pregnancy. Panda offers symptom checklist information, education and support with a helpline service if this needs to be explored.

Morning sickness and nausea

Morning sickness in the form of vomiting and loss of appetite is the most common and usually the earliest pregnancy symptom. Not all women experience nausea or sickness during their pregnancy, but it is common and not reserved for mornings. It can come at any time of the day. It’s caused by a change in hormones (high levels of oestrogen is thought to be a potential factor), fluctuating blood pressure and other physical and chemical changes happening during pregnancy.

It’s generally the worst during the first 6-12 weeks of pregnancy and most people start to feel better once they hit the second trimester. Ginger is an age-old herb to help, whether it be in tea form, or boosted in pregnancy supplements - it can be a great way to kick this feeling. If you’re experiencing ongoing and severe nausea you may have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)- you can seek medical advice as there are treatments. Around 1 in 100 pregnant women will experience HG.

Varicose and spider veins (plus haemorrhoids)

More visible and enlarged veins happen because there’s an increase in your blood volume, while the rate at which blood flows from your legs to your pelvis decreases. Plus, increased progestin can open up the veins. Usually you will see them on your legs, but they may also pop up on your vulva or bottom (haemorrhoids). Fun fact: Haemorrhoids can also be made worse by pushing during labour. You can manage them with over-the-counter creams at the pharmacy however, if this doesn’t help then your GP can prescribe a stronger cream.

Varicose veins are normally harmless and will go down after giving birth. You can stay on top of them with movement, hydration, and using compression socks while keeping your legs elevated when you can. Get them checked out by your GP if they are painful or if there are red areas on your calf.

Pelvic girdle pain and lightning crotch

Pelvic girdle pain is very distinct: as you walk it limits the range in your walk, and is a deep pain in your pelvis area. It’s caused by a stiffness of your pelvic joins or the joints moving unevenly at the back or the front of your pelvis. You may hear or feel a clicking or grinding-like sensation in that region. The pain might be worse if you’re walking long distances, going up or down stairs, standing on one leg or even just turning over in bed.

What can help? A physiotherapist that specialises in pregnancy will be able to provide techniques to relieve the pain and improve muscle function. Crutches as well as pelvic support belts can help reduce the weight and pressure weighing down on the pelvis and a pregnancy pillow for sleep can provide important support. Pain relief via paracetamol (Panadol) is safe, however, anti-inflammatory drugs such as Nurofen are not suitable.

Whereas lightning crotch stops you in your tracks: a short, sharp and intense pinpoint pain in your crotch that strikes at any time. It’s most common in your third trimester when the baby is heavier and its head is lower in the pelvis.

Strange dreams and horny sex dreams

This was a very common response when we asked our Instagram community for the symptom that no one talks about. Interesting, and kinda nice. Was it your partner in the dream, though? Keen to know…

Sciatica and lower back pain

Many women experience sciatica for the first time when pregnant. It’s a distinct feeling. An uncomfortable and tight-feeling ping of the sciatic nerve running from your lower back down your leg. It will usually be more intense on one side. A belt or band can be helpful to provide more support in that area and take the load off the lower back. A physiotherapist will be able to provide pregnancy-safe exercises to keep your strength up and help manage the pain. Chances are, they will tell you to spend more time moving or laying horizontal, and less time seated as this adds more pressure to that region.

Increased discharge

Not fun but completely normal and again, changes in hormones can be blamed. Also, during pregnancy your cervix softens and your body can produce more discharge to prevent infections. Typical discharge is thin, clear, or milky white and during pregnancy may vary in consistency, thickness, frequency and amount. You may need to bulk-buy some liners or pads to keep comfortable.

Extreme fatigue and insomnia

Heightened levels of progesterone can make you feel fatigued in the first trimester, which usually balances out by the time you hit the second. As you become bigger, it’s harder to find a comfortable position to sleep in (again, pregnancy pillow is a necessity) which doesn’t help this situation. And also, you might find that the baby moves and kicks you in the ribs at night while you’re trying to sleep. That’s because it’s been soothed and rocked to sleep all day while you’ve been running around. Topping up whenever you can is important if you’re feeling empty and supplements might just be the ticket.

Hormonal headaches

Hormonal headaches feel heavy, strong, throbbing. As one colleague who is currently dealing with it says: “it’s so bad, it’s like a headband being tightened and tightened.” This is her third pregnancy and her first time dealing with this symptom. By way of pain relief, you can take paracetamol such as Panadol at any point of your pregnancy. Being dehydrated makes them feel worse so your water bottle will be the most essential product in your pregnancy kit.

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