Oftentimes, women can sense they're pregnant before they even get a positive test, based simply on how their body feels. That's partly because there are several body parts that are more sensitive during pregnancy, some of which can be noticeable in even the earliest days.
While it's easy to chalk up every strange new feeling or behavior to hormones, child birth expert Rena Koerner, CLD, tells Romper that when it comes to body sensitivity, oftentimes it has more to do with blood flow. Hormones definitely play a factor, but, she says, "the volume of blood increases by 50%" during pregnancy, which results in a lot of sensitivity, swelling, or even painful sensations.
Sensitive breasts, however, can usually be blamed on hormones, as Megan Davidson, Ph.D., tells Romper. Not only are they one of the first body parts to become sensitive, she explains, but the sensitivity is a "good sign" if you're planning on breastfeeding because it indicates "that your milk ducts are growing" and preparing themselves to feed the baby when it's time.
Beyond those early days, as pregnancy continues, the body can start to feel all sorts of sensitive or painful sensations in a variety of different areas. There's no hard and fast rule on what you can experience, and Koerner says "each pregnant person will experience symptoms differently." So, while your best friend may suddenly have very sensitive skin, you may experience a change in something else, like your gums. That said, even though it's a case-by-case situation, there are some sensitivities that seem to affect more women than not.
As your blood flow starts to increase, you might notice some swelling in your sinuses. As the Nationwide Children's Hospital website explained, this has to do with enlargement of the veins in your nasal passages (thanks to the increased blood flow). This can last for several weeks, make you feel pretty crummy, and might even disrupt sleep (as if your growing belly weren't doing enough of that). Thankfully, once you have the baby and your body's overall swelling decreases, your nose will start to feel much better as well.
The study "Pregnancy and Skin," published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India, found that about 90% of women will experience some kind of skin change during pregnancy. Koerner mentions that one of those changes may be that pregnancy glow everyone talks about (something you can actually thank hormones for!). Aside from that beautiful glow, you may also notice greater sensitivity in the sun and some dark spots start to appear. Additionally, the study also found that many women experience increased itchiness during pregnancy.
Davidson says you may notice a "marked increase in sensitivity in their breasts/chest and their nipples," especially during the early days of pregnancy. She goes on to explain that you may also find your breasts change size and your "nipples potentially growing larger and/or darker in color." Koerner explains that this is "because of the higher levels of estrogen and progesterone" going through the body during pregnancy to prepare you for lactation.
4. Tingling Hands
You might also experience tingling hands during pregnancy, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health. Essentially, much like gestational diabetes, this is a form of carpal tunnel syndrome that you only experience during pregnancy. This is a result of swelling in the tissue of the wrists, which makes it harder for blood to flow through to the hands and fingers. Thankfully, this is another condition that will alleviate itself once pregnancy swelling starts to go down after delivery.
Once again, all of that increased blood flow can cause a lot of swelling, even in your mouth. The March of Dimes explained on their website that it's not uncommon for women to experience swelling and sensitivity in their gums during pregnancy. In fact, they might even bleed whenever you brush or floss. As if that's not enough, as your body prepares for delivery, it starts to naturally relax your muscles, which includes the ones in your gums that hold your teeth in, so you may notice that your teeth feel loose.
An article by Texas Children's Hospital noted that it's not uncommon for a pregnant woman to have some new sensitivity and sensations in her vulva during pregnancy. Thanks (once again) to the increased blood flow throughout the body, combined with the weight of the growing baby, you may feel "pressure" in the area or feel like it's "swollen." This increased blood flow can also result in color changes in the area and possibly varicose veins. Koerner says that women experiencing pelvic pain can work with a pelvic floor specialist during pregnancy to help them find some relief from the discomfort.
The body undergoes a major transformation both inside and out during pregnancy, so feeling new sensations, sensitivities, or even pains is to be expected. Still, Koerner advises women to "check with their care providers" if those feelings are bothersome enough to affect their day-to-day life. Some women may be (extremely) lucky and never experience any of these feelings, while others may feel something else entirely. No matter what, keeping an open dialogue with your healthcare professional will put your mind at ease and allow them to help you manage any pain.
"Pregnancy and Skin" Sumit Kar, Ajay Krishnan, and Poonam Varma Shivkumar, The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of India. 2012 Jun; 62(3): 268–275. Published online 2012 Aug 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444563/#!po=73.8095
Rena Koerner, CLD, CPD, CLE, CCCE, Doula at Integrative Childbirth Services and Trainer & Speaker and OB Care Coordinator at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center