Everyone keeps asking me if the current pregnancy with my one baby is easier than the twins’ pregnancy and to be honest it isn’t. Not at all. For one thing, I’m now chasing after, wrangling, and lifting two 25+ pound screaming two-year-olds multiple times a day. I also wake up in the middle of the night anywhere between 1-3 times to help the twins (usually a lost pacifier, a bad dream, sick, etc.) and that’s on top of my pregnancy insomnia or this baby’s midnight kick fest or his midnight hiccups. Also, this baby has WAY more room and he kicks me hard! So yeah, I don’t know if this pregnancy is any easier because I can’t really compare apples to apples, but I do know that with both pregnancies, I’ve experienced (or am currently experiencing) a wide range of side effects, so I thought I would write a post about 34 Pregnancy Side Effects and What To Do About Them.
But first of all, I want to state that for the majority of women, pregnancy is a healthy, normal condition. A pregnant lady is NOT sick, but there are some major “side effects” that come along with pregnancy, most of which I had absolutely NO IDEA and was not expecting! I knew about morning sickness. I knew about stretch marks. I knew about having to pee 3-4 times a night. I did NOT know about insomnia, pelvic girdle pain, carpal tunnel, jaw pain, knee bursas, etc. So here is a list of what I experienced and what I did or the products I purchased to alleviate or fix the different side effects. And remember, every body is different, so what worked for me may not work for you!
I am not a doctor. Check with your doctor before taking any medicines during your pregnancy. Be especially cautious in the first trimester, a crucial time for your baby’s (or babies’) development.
If you have a pregnant friend or family member and you’re looking for ideas to make them a gift basket, a care package, or something for the future mom as a baby shower gift, a lot of these items would be very, very useful, but they’re kind of medical and not very pretty, so here’s a link to my DIY Pregnancy Survival Kit Care Package which includes a bunch of prettier, gift-like items.
34 Pregnancy Side Effects and What To Do About Them
Morning Sickness: With the twins, I had some morning sickness in the first trimester. I only threw up a few times, but I had all-day nausea that keeps you confined to the bed or the couch with a clenched jaw and a trash bag. I’m not a fan of ginger, so I didn’t try the Ginger Chews, but I know people who did and they say it helped. I tried the Sea Bands and I can’t really say whether they helped or not. I didn’t vomit while I was wearing them, but they didn’t cure nausea either. What helped me was just sitting in bed, watching TV, so if you want to help a pregnant mama, gift her a Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBO GO subscription so she can binge watch her favorite shows and movies.
Prenatal Depression: I can’t say whether I really experienced any prenatal depression when I was pregnant with the twins. I slept a lot during the first trimester. But with this singleton pregnancy, I went through a few bad weeks in the first trimester where it was really hard to get out of bed in the morning. I also stopped working and doing pretty much anything that I enjoyed. Watching TV wasn’t even fun. I didn’t really see it while I was in it, but as soon as that morning sickness wore off, I started to see the light and I think it was a pretty low-level prenatal depression.
Fatigue: In addition to the morning sickness nausea was the relentless fatigue. I swear I’ve never been so tired in my life. I’ve got nothing to recommend for this except for sleep and lots of it. You don’t even need an eye mask or earplugs because you’ll be able to sleep through ANYTHING! (Although I really do like my eye mask!) My husband was packing up our house while I had extreme fatigue and I often slept right through all the loud noises that come with packing boxes. I never even heard a thing!
Acne: Oh, the pregnancy acne sucks! I’ve never had perfect skin, but I do know that the acne I experienced was pregnancy-specific acne because it was in abnormal spots for me like around my mouth or on my chest and shoulders. There are all kinds of different face washes that people suggest, but this isn’t a hygiene issue, it’s hormones, so there’s not much to suggest really – just keep using your face wash and know that at some point in the second or third trimester, it will hopefully go away! My skin clears up in the third trimester and is awesome for those last 3 months!
Constipation: Some women experience constipation later in pregnancy, and I, unfortunately, experienced it early on due to the Progesterone pills I was prescribed after my IUI procedure. My recommendation is Miralax. The name brand is expensive, so if you can find the generic stuff at a pharmacy, stock up! I see on the pregnancy forums that Colace is recommended a lot! Also, two words: Squatty Potty. As soon as I found out I was pregnant with this one little boy, I jumped onto Amazon and ordered a Squatty Potty. I was not about to endure painful constipation again!
Hemorrhoids: Another joy of pregnancy! Hemorrhoids. I didn’t know what hemorrhoids felt like before getting pregnant. Now I feel like I should buy stock in Preparation H and Tucks. I recommend the Prep H with Aloe!
Dehydration: Not a side effect I’ve actually experienced, but something to just be aware of. When your body is making a baby or babies, it’s making a lot of blood and other fluids, so you need to stay hydrated! Because I knew early on that we were having twins, I knew that my body was making extra, extra blood and fluids, so I made sure to keep my Hydro Flask with the Hydro Flask Straw Lid filled and nearby at all times. A Hydro Flask makes it easy to measure how much you’ve had to drink in one day – I have the 40 oz size, so I simply fill the 40-ounce size Hydro Flask twice a day and boom, I’ve had 80 ounces. Plus, the straw lid makes it easier to drink since you naturally drink more when using a straw!
Bleeding Gums: Bleeding gums are totally normal due to all the extra fluids your body is making like saliva and blood. Just try and use an Extra Soft Toothbrush with your favorite sensitive toothpaste. Since being pregnant, I totally just made the permanent switch to Sensodyne.
Stuffy Nose: Remember what I said about your body making extra blood and fluids? Well, those fluids also mean more mucus – snot in your nose! Yeah, your nose can get “stuffy” during pregnancy. In the beginning, I was lucky to be gifted a Humidifier for my baby shower which we started using early (and obviously for mama, not for the babies), but towards the last few weeks of the pregnancy, I started snoring at night and had I been nice and thoughtful, I might have purchased some Breathe Right Strips so my husband could have slept better … but I wasn’t nice and thoughtful.
Pregnancy Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears. I had it a few times with the twins’ pregnancy and with my singleton pregnancy, I’ve only experienced hearing my own heartbeat in my ears (which is also SUPER annoying.)
Heartburn: The first time I had heartburn, I didn’t even know what it was. I started experiencing back heartburn (shooting pain in my left, back shoulder area) early on and wow does it hurt! Then later in my pregnancy during the third trimester, I began to experience acid reflux where I couldn’t breathe at night laying down because there was so much bile/acid/junk creeping up my throat. And then I experienced a burned esophagus. So I started popping Tums like candy and eventually began to take Prilosec nightly.
Back Pain: This is one of the worst. With the weight gain and body thrown off balance, it puts a lot of pressure on your hips and back. I purchased a Pregnancy Pillow with the twins’ pregnancy and luckily saved it in case I ever got pregnant again. It’s the only thing that really allows me to get comfortable and sleep. With the current singleton pregnancy, I splurged and got a cover for my pregnancy pillow because the original that came with it was a bitch to get back on and the new one (Pregnancy Pillow Cover) has super easy zippers!
And because I’m picking up the twins and wrangling them every day, I’m definitely feeling more back/shoulder pain and sciatica pain with this pregnancy and I was lucky enough to find a really good place for a Prenatal Massage (Sparrow’s Nest if you’re local to Los Angeles.) I don’t like massages that just rub your skin and relax you for an hour, I need my massage to hurt in order to alleviate the pain the next day and beyond.
Round Ligament Pain: Have you sneezed or tried to stand up from a lounging sitting position and had a sharp pain in your abdomen? It’s probably round ligament pain. Your round ligaments are cordlike structures that support the uterus by connecting the front of the uterus to the groin region. As your uterus grows or as you move, these ligaments might spasm, causing you pain. I had round ligament pain during the twins’ pregnancy and I thought that it wasn’t going to be as bad during my singleton pregnancy, but it was actually worse. I’ve screamed out in pain several times after sneezing or trying to get up from a rocking chair or couch.
Pelvic Girdle Pain: This one is sometimes still referred to as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and honestly, most of the websites that come up when you google it are in the UK or Australia which makes me feel like doctors in the US just don’t give a shit about this. But it really fucking hurts! It’s caused by the misalignment of your pelvic joints (thanks to the hormone Relaxin which is prepping your hips for childbirth by loosening up all your joints) and can cause pain in your pelvic area, back, butt, etc. I purchased this Belly Belt when I was pregnant with the twins and I can’t really say if it helped or not. I was in a LOT of pain. And with this singleton pregnancy, the same thing. I might get this pelvic belt to see if it helps, but it’s a lot of money so I might just suffer the next couple of months.
Sciatica Pain: Sometimes I don’t know where the pelvic girdle pain stops and the sciatica pain begins. Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body – it stretches from your lower back and splits into both legs and runs down to your feet. Bodily changes during pregnancy can put a lot of weight on the nerve which can then cause a mild ache or a sharp pain. I didn’t experience too much sciatica pain when I was pregnant with the twins, but WHOA BABY with this single baby pregnancy! I think it’s because I’m picking up the twins and that coupled with the weight of the baby I shift my weight around a lot. I feel the sciatica pain mostly on my right side, sometimes a mild ache in my butt muscle and down my leg, other times (like towards the end of the day) it’s more of a sharp pain. Not much to do about it other than pick up the kids better (with my knees, not with my back), use my Pregnancy Pillow, and get pregnancy massages.
Hands/Feet Swelling: Be ready to take those rings off! I had to take mine off a bit early with my twin pregnancy due to a summer heatwave. Our AC quit working, it was HOT as hell, and my fingers just started swelling and then never stopped, I actually had to get my rings resized from like a 3.75 to a 4.5 size. With my singleton pregnancy, I take off my rings on hot days or when we’re going for a walk (because that’s when my hands swell.)
Postpartum Feet Swelling: My feet also swelled (I mean SWELLED UP LIKE BALLOONS) on the way home from the hospital after the C-section with the twins. I asked my doctor about it and she said it was normal, that the fluid looks for somewhere to go after the kidneys are full and gravity just drains it into the leg tissue. I believe she called it tertiary edema. With this next C-section, I’ll be wearing some tight ass compression socks in the hospital and on the way home.
Weight Gain: Oh the weight gain! With a twin pregnancy, the weight gain starts early on, so just embrace the Maternity Clothes! I kept it simple with some Jeans (size Medium), Ruched Tanks (size M/L), Super Soft Sweatshirts (size M and L), and Leggings (size Medium) from Target and then some Maternity Underwear (size Medium and eventually Large throughout the pregnancy) from Motherhood Maternity (also, it never hurt my C-section scar). Towards the very end, I was living in these Hanes Slim Fit XL Men’s Shirts and Large and Extra-Large Men’s Sweatshirts and Sweatpants from Target. They were the only things I was really comfortable wearing. If I had to leave the house, I squeezed into my jeans, tank top, and a sweatshirt, but I could only wear them for 1-2 hours before becoming extremely uncomfortable.
(And to be honest, the Maternity Underwear has now become my regular underwear. It’s so comfortable.)
Peeing ALL THE TIME: Stock up on toilet paper! Also, make sure you can easily walk from your bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night with no potential for tripping on anything. Because our cat liked to get up with me and fly off the bed and run right in front of me, I got a few of these motion-activated night lights to use so I wouldn’t trip and fall over her. And I use it with the current singleton pregnancy because we have baby-proof locks on the toilets so I need to be able to see in order to open the toilet lid at 4 am.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Have you peed when you sneezed? That’s pelvic floor dysfunction and don’t let society tell you it’s normal after your pregnancy! I didn’t experience any pelvic floor dysfunction while I was pregnant with the twins or even after their birth; however, with my singleton, I pee when I sneeze ALL THE TIME! I don’t know what happened or changed to make this occur, but I asked my OBGYN about it and she told me I could do physical therapy about 4 months after giving birth.
Urinary Tract Infection: I’ve experienced early first trimester UTIs with both pregnancies. As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on your bladder and ureters which traps bacteria and leads to an infection. Basically, you don’t empty your bladder and urethra all the way and bacteria have a party up in there. With both situations, the doctor simply put me on an antibiotic that was safe during pregnancy and the UTI went away!
Insomnia: I can’t really explain insomnia. Sometimes it was because I was so uncomfortable. Sometimes it was because someone was kicking me. Or had the hiccups. Or my mind was just too busy planning and prepping for the babies. But I would often just get up and go into the other room and read until I felt tired, the kicking stopped, or the hiccups stopped. Here’s what else helped me: loose, comfortable pajamas, Pregnancy Pillow, and Unisom. Here are the pregnancy books I would read in the middle of the night: When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins (this was my favorite and most useful), Baby Wise, The Happy Sleeper.
Skin Tags, Heat Rashes, Hives: I was not prepared for all the skin tags, heat rashes, and hives which mostly appeared under my boobs. One of the theories for skin tags is that they are caused by increased friction, so with the increase in weight gain comes increased friction, so lots of skin tags mostly in the folds of your neck, armpits, breasts, and groin area. It could also be caused by all the hormones. They aren’t dangerous and there isn’t much you can do about them. The only thing that helped me was applying some Baby Powder in those areas to help with the friction and discomfort. I would also get heat rashes and hives, again, mostly under my breasts because it’s a dark, damp area (thanks to boob sweat), and again, applying the baby powder helped. For hives and heat rashes in other areas, I would use Hydrocortisone Cream.
Leg Cramps: With the twins’ pregnancy, I experienced one charley horse, my first one ever. Hopefully my last ever. It hit me in the middle of the night during our babymoon and I woke up screaming, clutching my leg. My husband knew exactly what was wrong and he just casually helped me to stand up which is apparently what helps make the charley horse go away (it stretches out the muscle that is contracting). Fingers crossed I don’t experience any with this singleton pregnancy because damn they hurt.
Joint Pain: Tarsal Tunnel, Knee Bursitis, Carpal Tunnel: My doctor recommended getting Ace Bandages to wear at night to ease the carpal tunnel and I tried Compression Socks for the slight swelling in my feet and to ease the ankle pain, but I can’t really say either helped. I still had both carpal tunnel and tarsal tunnel about a month postpartum, but it eventually went away.
I also experienced some pain with knee bursitis which is inflammation of a small fluid-filled sac located near your knee joint. It was probably due to the excess weight on my knees, the hormone Relaxin, and just all the excess fluid that your body makes while you’re pregnant.
Braxton Hicks Contractions: With my twin pregnancy, the only type of Braxton Hicks contractions I felt were just an overall tightening of my belly. In the morning, my belly would be normal and by the end of the day, it was super tight and uncomfortable. And while that is considered to be a form of Braxton Hicks contractions, I never experienced what I would describe as “contractions.” My doctor told me it’s because I was too big.
So far, I’ve experienced a tight belly at the end of the day with my singleton pregnancy, too. I wonder if this pregnancy will be different and I’ll actually feel “contractions” at some point.
Leaky or Sore Nipples: I didn’t really experience any leaky boobs with my twin pregnancy, just a bit of colostrum on my nipples just before giving birth, but at 28 weeks, I’ve experienced leaky nips with my singleton pregnancy. For that, I’m simply keeping some washable breast pads on hand. And wow are my nipples sore. I swear if the showerhead hits them in a certain way, I am screaming in pain. Not much to do about it, but if yours are dry or perhaps friction is irritating them, I recommend some Motherlove Nipple Cream.
Vulva/Labia Swelling: Yup, here’s another fun one I didn’t expect. With the twins’ pregnancy, thanks to all the increased blood flow to my pelvic area, my vulva swelled. Sometimes it made walking uncomfortable. Just one of those things I wanted to add to the list because it’s apparently “normal.”
Jaw Pain or My Bite Was “Off”: Again, thanks to the hormone Relaxin, my jaw bite was “off” with the twins’ pregnancy. I can’t really describe it other than if you clench your jaws or clench your back teeth shut, you know what feels normal … I would clench my back teeth shut and it felt like it didn’t line up anymore. So weird. It eventually went back to normal, but that was an odd month.
Stretch Marks: And last, but not least, stretch marks. I didn’t get any stretch marks until my last month (34 weeks) during my twin pregnancy. I just so big so quickly and my skin had no choice. Apparently, they say you can’t stop stretch marks by using cocoa butter or oil and that some women are more genetically predisposed to stretch marks, but I still used some Palmer’s Cocoa Butter on my belly (not as often as maybe I should have) and it made my stretch marks more comfortable in the moment. I also got some Bio Oil and used it postpartum. Honestly, my stretch marks weren’t that bad and I can’t really see them anymore. They faded within 2 years.
And here are 5 other Pregnancy Side Effects that I did NOT experience, but I wanted to mention them because they can be quite serious or cause extreme discomfort and require medical attention.
Are you experiencing any weird pregnancy side effects that I did not mention? Let me know in a comment!
Again, I am not a doctor. Check with your doctor before taking any medicines during your pregnancy. Be especially cautious in the first trimester, a crucial time for your baby’s development.
Photos by Ilene Squires of Ilene Squires Photography.
Want to keep reading the story? Find my maternity photos, C-section birth story, and fertility after infertility stories below:
Tuesday 3rd of March 2020
Gestational hypertension! - almost delivered at 26 weeks but made it to 37! They kept me for 4 days because they could not get it to go down. I am a walking miracle - doctor's words.