Unusual Pregnancy Symptoms

  • Christina Weir MSc, Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management, University of Warwick, UK


Pregnancy is a remarkable journey that encompasses many physical changes as well as emotional and psychological transformations. This is a sensitive and very personal time for the pregnant individual so caution is vital; however, due to the nature of pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations can cause harmless symptoms to arise, many of them being well-known ones such as morning sickness and food cravings and extreme hunger (the mother is eating for two, of course!) The atypical signs and sensations, though less frequently discussed, are a testament to the complex and dynamic nature of pregnancy. Deficiencies and dehydration are amongst the many health-related issues that pregnancy can uncover or even create.

In this exploration of unusual pregnancy symptoms, we will delve into the lesser-known aspects of this transformative experience. Expectant mothers need to be enlightened, educated and supported during this journey.  By shedding light on these less-discussed symptoms, the aim is to empower pregnant individuals with knowledge and to have confidence in understanding what to look out for. 

Common pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy comes with many different symptoms that are already widely known and accepted to be harmless indications of pregnancy. Some of the more commonly known ones are as follows:

  • Nausea and Vomiting (Morning Sickness)
  • Breast Changes and Tenderness
  • Fatigue and Mood Swings
  • Food Cravings and Aversions

While these are a lot of commonly recognised pregnancy symptoms, there are some less known and unusual ones that it is important to keep a watchful eye on, especially when there are new changes.

Unusual pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy, a transformative phase in a woman's life, is often associated with well-known symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue. However, the intricate tapestry of pregnancy sometimes weaves surprisingly unexpected symptoms into the journey. In this segment, we'll uncover some less-frequented yet noteworthy manifestations that can arise during pregnancy.

Pica cravings (Eating non-food items)

A curious phenomenon known as pica cravings occasionally emerges during pregnancy, where women experience an irresistible urge to consume non-food items such as clay, chalk, or even paper.1 Although the precise cause remains unknown, there are strong links that suggest that such cravings indicate a deficiency in minerals and supplements such as zinc, copper and magnesium.

Excessive salivation (Ptyalism)

Experiencing excessive salivation, medically termed ptyalism or sialorrhea can be disconcerting for expectant mothers.2 Hormonal fluctuations are suspected to be the culprits for this symptom; however, adequate hydration can balance out the fluids in one’s body.

Skin changes (Melasma, Linea Nigra)

Pregnancy's hormonal dynamics may usher in skin transformations, including the onset of melasma, often referred to as the "mask of pregnancy", characterised by dark patches on the face. Additionally, linea nigra can be found on the abdomen as the tummy grows. While these changes are typically transient and fade postpartum. Implementing safeguarding measures by using sun protection and keeping the skin hydrated and moisturised can help mitigate these changes.

Chromhidrosis (Blue skin/sweat)

While chromhidrosis is not a direct symptom of pregnancy, the changes that the human body undergoes during pregnancy can trigger Chromhidrosis to become more evident. Some people report their sweat having a blue, yellow or even brown hue. There are many reasons as to why this manifests, ranging from hormonal fluctuations to the recent ingestion of certain supplements.

Nosebleeds and nasal congestion (rhinitis of pregnancy)

Nosebleeds and nasal congestion, collectively termed rhinitis of pregnancy,  occur due to the blood flow to the nasal region increasing and therefore causing this bothersome symptom. luckily, this is nothing that can't be remedied without some nasal spray or a humidifier. 

Dental issues (Gingivitis, increased tooth sensitivity)

Some expectant mothers encounter dental woes like gingivitis (gum inflammation) and heightened tooth sensitivity. Hormonal adjustments render the gums more vulnerable to irritation. Vigilant oral hygiene practices and routine dental check-ups are essential to manage these concerns.

Swelling of extremities (Edema)

Edema, marked by swelling of extremities; hands, feet, and ankles, often results from augmented fluid retention and increased blood volume during pregnancy. The pressure can result in difficulty with movement. Often this can be remedied by lymphatic drainage massages to ease the pressure and discomfort.

Emotional changes (depersonalisation, hallucinations)

Pregnancy can also introduce emotional shifts, encompassing experiences such as depersonalisation (feeling disconnected from oneself) and, although exceedingly rare, hallucinations. Such symptoms should not be disregarded and merit prompt discussion with a healthcare provider to rule out underlying conditions. Manifestations of psychotic episodes are not unheard of and can pose a danger to the mother and child due to the unpredictable nature of psychosis.

Potential causes and implications 

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations are at the core of many unusual pregnancy symptoms. The body undergoes a surge of hormones during pregnancy, including estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).3 Such hormonal changes are known to be the cause of food cravings, sickness in the morning and emotional dysregulation (mood swings). This is directly a result of hormone levels causing changes in the body and impacting neurotransmitters as well as other bodily functions such as digestion.

Increased blood volume and circulation

Pregnancy prompts a remarkable increase in blood volume and circulation. The body works diligently to provide adequate nutrients and oxygen to the growing fetus. While this adaptation is essential for the well-being of the baby, it can occasionally manifest as unusual symptoms.

Swelling of extremities, for instance, occurs due to the increased fluid retention and blood circulation. The body's circulatory system changes to accommodate the demands of pregnancy, which can lead to noticeable physical changes and sensations.

Pressure on nerves and blood vessels

As the fetus grows, the expanding uterus exerts pressure on surrounding nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to a variety of symptoms that, while unusual, are a result of the physiological adjustments necessary for pregnancy.

Nosebleeds and nasal congestion, often observed as rhinitis during pregnancy, occur due to the increased blood flow to the nasal passages, leading to sensitivity and congestion. Similarly, swelling or oedema of extremities is a consequence of pressure on blood vessels, causing fluid retention.

Psychological factors

Pregnancy is not solely a physical journey; it profoundly impacts one's emotional and psychological well-being. The psychological factors that can influence unusual symptoms include stress, anxiety, and the emotional adjustments to impending motherhood.

Emotional changes, such as depersonalization and, though rare, hallucinations, can occur as a result of these psychological factors. While many people are aware of postpartum depression, not many understand the psychological struggles a woman can endure during the pregnancy itself.

Potential health risks associated with unusual symptoms

While many unusual pregnancy symptoms are transient, it is essential to understand the risks that they have the potential to cause. For instance, pica cravings can be hazardous to health if non-food items are consumed and may be indicative of nutritional deficiencies. Identifying and addressing these risks promptly through consultation with healthcare providers is paramount.

When to seek medical attention

It's essential to be aware of certain "red flags" that warrant immediate medical attention during pregnancy, even for symptoms that might seem unusual but not necessarily alarming. These include:

  • Severe Pain: ectopic pregnancy and placental issues often present as severe pain, not only in the vaginal/abdominal region but also along the back and shoulders. Such situations are very serious and can be fatal if not treated.
  • Vaginal Bleeding: miscarriage or placental issues can be some of the more serious causes of bleeding.
  • Reduced Fetal Movement: the lack of or decrease in fetal activity could indicate distress and must be assessed by a professional.
  • High Fever: A high fever during pregnancy must be addressed swiftly to avoid harm to the mother and baby.

Monitoring and self-care:

  • Keep a Symptom Diary: Maintaining a written record of your symptoms for your doctor to look at.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can sometimes present itself as various symptoms. Ensuring that you remain hydrated avoids this.
  • Rest and Self Care: Adequate stress management techniques can aid in symptoms that present as fatigue and poor sleep.


In the realm of pregnancy, understanding and acknowledging unusual symptoms carry profound significance. While the journey to motherhood often comes with well-known experiences, these lesser-discussed manifestations can have a considerable impact on both the expectant mother and her growing child.

Expectant mothers may be hypervigilant and may anticipate symptoms and other discomforts, it is important to know that pregnancy presents itself very differently for different individuals and often, the symptoms that the mother experiences are benign. Having said that, unusual symptoms such as pica can indicate an underlying issue so it is vital to keep track of such symptoms and inform your doctor of all changes. This is vital for mitigating any complications for the baby or the mother herself. As with anything, the sooner they are spotted, the better the outcome.

The emotional well-being of the mother plays a crucial part in pregnancy and should not be underestimated. Pregnancy is an intimate journey between the mother and child, so awareness of uncommon but harmless symptoms is crucial as it can provide reassurance and peace of mind for the mother. Building a strong partnership with healthcare providers through regular prenatal visits and open communication ensures comprehensive care and guidance. Therefore, informed decision-making is of utmost importance.

In summary, recognising unusual pregnancy symptoms is pivotal for early intervention, emotional well-being, and informed decision-making. Coupled with a commitment to prioritise health and well-being, it paves the way for a safe, informed, and ultimately joyous pregnancy experience.


  1. Walker, R. P., Walker, B. F., Sookaria, F. I., Cannan, R. J., & Cannan, R. J. (1997). Pica. Journal of the Royal Society of Health. https://doi.org/10.1177/146642409711700503
  2. VAN DINTER, M. C. (1991). Ptyalism in Pregnant Woman. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 20(3), 206-211. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1552-6909.1991.tb02532.x
  3. De Ziegler, D., Pirtea, P., Andersen, C. Y., & Ayoubi, J. M. (2018). Role of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), progesterone, and estrogen in luteal phase support after hCG triggering, and when in pregnancy hormonal support can be stopped. Fertility and Sterility, 109(5), 749-755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.03.006
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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