The pregnancy side-effects NO-ONE talks about

iVillage editor Alana House confesses …

Remember the '80s song, 99 Luftballons? That was the theme song for my pregnancy. Except the balloons were purple. And they were in my pants.

I have never written these words until now. In fact, I will need to take several deep breaths before I do … OK, I’m ready … no, I’m not …

Ah, bugger it, I’m just going to type them and be done with it.

Vulval varicose veins.

Ever heard of them? I hadn’t until I was six months pregnant.

I'd complained to my obstetrician about terrible pains DOWN THERE when I got up in the morning. It felt like my nethers were going to explode whenever I got up from a sitting or lying position.

Presumably all vaginal examinations had ceased by that stage. The obstetrician simply listened to my symptoms and gave his verdict: symphysis pubis disfunction. Or was it diastasis symphysis pubis?

I can’t quite remember.

This is how Baby Center describes the pubis stuff: “The two halves of your pelvis are connected at the front by a stiff joint called the symphysis pubis. This joint is strengthened by a dense network of tough, flexible tissues, called ligaments. To help your baby pass through your pelvis as easily as possible, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens the ligaments.

“As a result, these joints move more during and just after pregnancy, causing inflammation and pain, known as symphysis pubis dysfunction or SPD.

“A related condition is diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP), in which the gap in the pubic joint widens too far.”

Whichever it was, I was given a referral to be fitted for a special belt to hold my pelvis together.

So off I waddled to the belt maker who expressed concern that perhaps I wasn’t a candidate. But, as a non-medical practitioner, she wasn’t keen to take a peek. No worries. I wasn’t all that keen on a strange, non-medical practioner peeking either.

The belts were pricey so I decided to waddle back home and get my husband to take a look. I had an ENORMOUS belly by that point, so there was no chance I’d be getting a stickybeak.

He remains quite scarred by what he saw. My nether regions were in quite a state. Gigantic and PURPLE. He faintly suggested it might be better if we never had sex ever again.


That was totally fine with me because I didn’t feel like having sex ever again. Those mothers were excruciating.

So I waddled back to the obstetrician, who correctly diagnosed me this time with the aforementioned vulval varicose veins.

Or vulvar varicosities. I can’t decide which sounds better/worse. Maybe I should just go with “BlueGina” or “Pant Snakes” as I’ve seen them referred to by horrified husbands (during my subsequent Google searching).

The closest I ever got to it on my blog, HouseGoesHome, was a post called "The elephant in the room (plus the one in my pants)"

Upon hearing the words "vulval varicose veins" I felt a lot like Kate over at Scary Mommy, who confesses she was an “emotional mess” after a midwife explained her condition: “Did she say vulvar? The latent 13-year-old girl inside of me screamed, “Eww!”

“Lucky me. I had varicose veins in my vulva. My midwife explained the varicosities were caused by extra blood flow Down There as well as the pressure my growing uterus was putting on the area.

“She assured me I was not alone and that other pregnant women were suffering, too.

“What other women? Besides me and my midwife, I knew no one with this problem. Pregnant women could discuss nausea and cravings as if they were badges of honor, yet no one talked about vulvar varicosities. Did Angelina Jolie suffer from vulvar varicosities? Beyoncé? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I lumbered around in silence with thick elastic bands between my legs for the rest of my pregnancy.”

She’s right. NOBODY talks about it.

So, if you’re out there suffering in silence, know that you’re not alone.

It's a surprisingly common condition – around 10 per cent of women pregnant with their second child get them. And they go away pretty quickly after your baby’s gigantic head stops pressing on them. I promise.

Now, about my 72 other luftballons … Actually, I think that's probably enough about my nether regions for one day, so I'll pass over to my colleague to reveal the pregnancy symptoms she'd rather forget.

iVillage writer Jo Abi confesses …

When I was pregnant I put on almost 30 kilos and carried most of it on my top half and pregnant belly. It was just a matter of time before my lower body gave way. Instead of knee issues and sore ankles my sciatic nerve became pinched.

For those who don't know, you have sciatic nerves just above each butt cheek. I pinched only my right one so my last trimester was totally lopsided. I spent months sitting propped up on my left butt cheek. I looked like I was farting. It was terribly embarrassing but the pain of putting pressure on my right butt cheek was way worse.


And speaking of wind…

I had absolutely no control. A trumpet section had taken ownership of my colon and farting punctuated my every move. I was grocery shopping one day and had to bend down to get a jar of pureed tomatoes. I farted on the way down, and then farted on the way up. It was MORTIFYING, but what could I do? I had no control of my bodily functions.

I could barely make it to the toilet in time to wee.

To achieve the aforementioned grocery shop I'd have to wee as soon as I got to the shops, then wee mid-way through the shop, abandoning my trolley and then hoping it was still there when I got back. Then I'd have to wee before I left the shop and then by the time I drove the 10 minutes home I was busting again and would have to run into the house for another wee before I could even think of unloading all my grocery bags.

There's just so much strain and pressure involved in pregnancy so normal bodily functions can become difficult to control. It's totally normal but totally embarrassing. The weight gain didn't help. I did much better in my second and third pregnancies. I was just overwhelmed. I didn't know what to eat for a healthy pregancy so I ate some of everything.

I come from an Italian background too so feeding me became my parent's obsession. I'll never forget the day my dad walked over to me and scrapped the contents of his plate onto mine, ordering me to eat it. With parents like this I didn't stand a chance of putting on only 10 kilos. I ran the risk of putting that on with one meal.

There is no dignity in pregnancy so it's lucky my children are so damn cute. They were worth every discomfort, every painful episode and every flatulant month.

Oh, and I got me some MASSIVE hemorrhoids which actually became worse in the weeks AFTER I gave birth, but Alana wins that award. My little bunch of grapes can't even compare to what she went through!

My husband thought it was all very funny. This from a man who acted like an ingrown toenail meant loss of the function of his foot. My loss of mobility was apparently more of a sitcom than a drama.

I eventually deflated, no thanks to the flatulance. The wife he knew returned. And she remembered every single thing he'd said and done. Every, single, thing.