Mother and Baby

17 pregnancy side effects explained and how long it takes for them to 'go back to normal'

The sheer amount of pregnancy side effects and symptoms a woman can have during gestation can wreak havoc on her body and soul, so it’s no wonder that one of the most popular questions pregnant women ask is, “how long will this last?”

Although nine months seems like the most logical answer, this is definitely not the case.

While it can feel like you will be in this state forever, thankfully most pregnancy side effects subside immediately after giving birth, but some surprising ones may hang about longer than you'd like.

From haemorrhoids and water retention to dark nipples and skin tags, what pregnancy side effects are permanent, and which will be nothing but a memory before you can say "acid reflux"?

We go through 17 common pregnancy side effects and let you know how long they are likely to stick around.


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 1. How long does pregnancy sickness last?

 Pregnancy sickness, also known as morning sickness, is usually present only in the first trimester of pregnancy, but, unfortunately, it can last longer. If you are suffering from acute pregnancy sickness, you could be diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is a whole other ball game.

In the best HG cases, symptoms can start to die down around the 21-week mark, with the worst cases having sickness and nausea right up until birth. Thankfully, HG is rare (only around 2% of pregnant women are affected) and for most women, pregnancy sickness usually subsides around the 12-week mark.
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2) Water retention – How long will I be swollen?

Pregnant women usually have a lot of water retention during the last trimester of pregnancy due to all that extra water they’re carrying.

In some cases, however, swollen ankles and other body members (such as arms, wrists, lips, and even the vagina) can become swollen throughout the whole pregnancy. The good news is that in only around a week post-birth, you’ll be able to fit back into your favourite shoes and finally remember what it feels like to have your normal feet back. If your swelling hasn’t gone down within a week, see your doctor.
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 3. Will this acid reflux ever end?

 Almost half of all pregnant women complain of heartburn during their gestation. Acid reflux, heartburn and pregnancy indigestion are due to the hormone progesterone relaxing the flap of skin in your oesophagus that is supposed to prevent acid coming back up. Thankfully, as soon as the placenta is out of you, progesterone levels immediately drop which means that progesterone-related symptoms, such as heartburn, will abate straight away.
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4. Do haemorrhoids ever go away?

There’s no gentle way to say this. The haemorrhoids (or piles) that you can acquire during pregnancy can last forever. In some instances, they can shrink and disappear on their own, but in more severe cases, piles stick around to keep you company.

Haemorrhoids start to make their appearance in pregnancy due to all those hormones that make your veins relax, but they can really make an entrance with a bang during labour thanks to all that pushing. Unfortunately, once they’re out, they’re out, and in most cases, you’ll need medical treatment to get rid of them.
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5. Will my enlarged and dark nipples go back to normal?

 Although not the most attractive thing (“Mine have turned the colour of Oreos and look like coasters,” says Angie), your areolas tend to grow and get darker during pregnancy for a really cute reason. Babies are practically blind at birth and can only really differentiate between light and dark, so your enlarged and much darker nipples will help your baby find them easier. A few weeks after you give birth, your nipples will start to go back to their normal shade and size, perhaps quicker if you stop breastfeeding.
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6. When will this dark line on my belly subside?

 The same melanocyte-stimulating hormone that has likely been making your nipples darker is created by the placenta and is responsible for giving you that noticeable dark line going all the way from your belly button down to your groin. This line, the Linea Nigra (Latin for “dark line”) hangs about for quite a few months after you have your baby but is not permanent and usually has completely faded within the first year post-partum.
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7. When will I finally find relief?

 The increase of progesterone in pregnancy can make you seriously constipated throughout the whole duration of your pregnancy, so as soon as these levels go back to normal post-birth, you’ll happily find that you are able to do a number two again with ease. This is, of course, dependant on your diet also, so make sure you’re eating healthy, getting enough fibre and drinking plenty of water.
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8. Are these skin tags here forever?

Due to the changes in hormone levels, unsightly skin tags can appear in every crevice of your body during pregnancy, including the neck, armpits, eyelids, thigh joints, vagina, and anus. Even though you can’t imagine how, these usually disappear a few months post-partum, either by shrinking up or falling off on their own. In the case of some larger, well-developed skin tags, they might be inclined to hang around but you can get them easily removed at your dermatologist.
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 9. Do I get to keep my luscious, thick hair?

 This is a pregnancy side effect we wished lasted forever but alas, more often than not, not only does your hair not remain thick and luscious, the opposite then happens with massive amounts of hair falling out after you give birth.

All the lovely hair that remained on your head during pregnancy (thanks to oestrogen levels) decides to fall out all at once from around three months after the baby comes out to approximately nine months post-partum. Thankfully, the hair loss does eventually stop but if it continues to fall out after the nine-month mark, see your doctor.
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 10. How long does this fatigue last?

 This is a bit of a trick question. Pregnancy fatigue only lasts up until you give birth. So far, so good. However, all sorts of other fatigue can kick in afterwards, i.e. fatigue from the whole ordeal of giving birth and your body trying to recover, fatigue from lack of sleep while dealing with a newborn, fatigue from running around after a toddler all day, parental fatigue, etc., etc. You get our drift.
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 11. Is my increased libido permanent?

An increased sex drive is another one of those pregnancy side effects that not only disappears immediately after giving birth, it makes a whole U-turn in the opposite direction. Post-partum women generally have a low libido due to physical, emotional, and hormonal changes (some believe this is nature’s way of trying to make sure that you don’t get pregnant again too soon). Your partner might not be too pleased about this but who has time for sex in those first few weeks anyway?
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12. How long till my period comes back?

 The lack of menstruation is called amenorrhea. During pregnancy, women do not have a period although they could have some bleeding, but this is not due to menstruation.

Amenorrhea could last anywhere from two months to even a couple of years, although usually, the menstrual cycle will start to regulate within six to nine months post-partum. The breastfeeding mother’s period might take longer to return since prolactin (the breast-milk stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland) causes ovarian production to temporarily stop.
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13. Will I always have urinary incontinence?

Don’t want to disappoint you here but urinary incontinence can stay with you for years and years. Women who have had tough vaginal births and have weak pelvic floor muscles might have it for longer than those who have had caesarean sections or women who make sure to do their Kegel pelvic floor exercises every day. Even though this is not something that instantly goes back to normal, the good news is that you can, with some effort, squeeze back into shape (quite literally).
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 14. How long will I have all this discharge?

The increase in vaginal discharge that pregnant women produce during pregnancy, especially towards the end, is completely normal and prevents any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb. Although it’s hard to tell from all the post-birth bleeding which could last for six weeks, increased vaginal discharge halts immediately after birth. In fact, the lower levels of oestrogen might even mean that you’ll have less discharge than normal for a few months after giving birth.
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15. When will my hips stop hurting?

 If you are one of the one in five pregnant women who suffers from the painful pelvic condition during pregnancy known as PGP (pelvic girdle pain), you’ll be forgiven for wondering when it will end.

PGP is caused by the joints in the pelvis moving asymmetrically, as well as weakness of the pelvic muscles and it’s really quite uncomfortable and painful. Pregnancy-related PGP usually goes away fairly quickly after birth but some women continue to have it for a few months. If this happens to you, make sure you see a doctor.
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16. When do contractions actually stop?

Pregnant women can have Braxton Hicks contractions as early as seven weeks into their pregnancy right up till the birth, but that doesn’t mean that contractions stop when the baby comes out. Yes, that’s right. Your womb can contract for a few days after you’ve given birth. Breastfeeding causes you to cramp as it stimulates your uterus to contract and is nature’s way of helping the uterus go back to its original shape and size.
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 17. Will I have these stretch marks forever?

This is, unfortunately, a forever one. Stretch marks are extremely common in pregnant women (50-90%, in fact) and although they may fade over time, they don’t disappear completely. There are creams and treatments that you can get to diminish the appearance of stretch marks, but the general consensus with these “war scars” is that they will serve as little reminders of the time you were growing your lovely little bundle(s) of joy.

Now read:

'Pregnancy sucks!' and 25 other things you're not meant to say when pregnant

15 'embarrassing' pregnancy problems that are a lot more common than you think

Hair growth in pregnancy: why you might need that razor more often

  • Author: Kat de Naoum Kat de Naoum
  • Job Title: Freelance Writer

Kat is a freelance writer based in the UK and Greece. She has written for many publications, and, as an advocate for female empowerment, loves to write about women’s issues, and helping fellow mothers feel supported and less alone.

She has birthed one child and written two books. She can read and write and tends to spend most of her (non-parenting) time doing that, as well as taking care of her several pets.

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