10 Things No One Tells You About Pregnancy
Let's talk about nausea, pee, and... shoe size?! Here are 10 of the little "surprises" we hear about most often at BB from our expecting mamas.
There is much about motherhood that really can't be put into words. That newborn smell. The sensation of labour contractions. The realization that you might not use the bathroom by yourself again for 4 or 5 years. It's all sort of a mystery until you've been through it yourself, and the mystery starts in pregnancy.
From someone who has been there a few times, and who sees pregnant and new mamas daily in our BB classes, let me fill you in on a few of the little mysteries of pregnancy. I've sprinkled some mama-to-mama advice in there for you, too.
It's 10 months, not 9
Gestation starts with the last period you'll have for a long time. The baby is not conceived for a couple weeks more, when you ovulate & the egg is fertilized [insert porn music here], but technically, if you become pregnant, you will be considered already 2-weeks pregnant. Your estimated date of delivery (EDD) will be 40 weeks (that's 10 months, ladies) from that last period. Weird but true. Since the average first-time pregnant mama carries to an average of about 41 weeks gestation, you'd better expect 10 months PLUS before baby arrives.
You can't go poo
It's pretty normal to experience constipation in pregnancy - about 60% of us go through it at some point in those 10 magical months. Hormones cause a ton of changes and one of them is to slow digestion. Try not to rush a BM and, on the other hand, try not to postpone it if you do have the urge to go. You can help ease digestion and keep things "moving" by:
Eating lots of whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes & whole grains.
Drinking plenty of fluids, focusing on water while minimizing caffeinated bevvies (I drank coffee in all 3 of my pregnancies, but I took my all-day habit down to 1-2 cups).
Laying off the sugar & white flour, as well as excessive amount of animal protein.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals if you tend to be the skip-breakfast-giant-dinner type.
Adding fibre-rich whole foods "supplements" like ground flax meal, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and oats to your smoothies, shakes, salads and and entrees.
Walking & strength training most days per week to encourage circulation & alignment.
If constipation persists, talk to your OB/midwife about remedies.
You definitely can pee, though!
Great news! While you're backed up in one sense, you're like the little naked peeing boy statue at the same time. You can go all. the. time. Especially when you laugh, sneeze, cough or jump. It's normal to have a little leakage at the end of pregnancy -- things are getting cramped in there and your bladder is feeling the pressure, as are the pelvic floor muscles that hold up all those peeing and baby making organs.
Incontinence doesn't need to be a 10-month struggle. You can stop trying to hold in your sneezes if you know your pelvic floor muscles are functioning properly -- here's how to keep them long & strong so you can laugh in public right up to your 40th (41st?) week.
It's all-day sickness, really
They say it must have been a man who termed it "morning sickness" because he was only around at that time of day to witness his partner in anguish. Sounds about right. Some of us might get that made-for-TV hour or two of queasiness &/or vomiting in the mornings. Many of us find it can strike any time of day, and last much longer than just the morning. Evening sickness is actually another normal pattern for mamas-to-be.
Typically it's an early pregnancy struggle, but nausea/vomiting can last right up to delivery in extreme cases. If your nausea/vomiting is interfering with regular life, talk to your OB/midwife, as medications do exist to help with extreme pregnancy-induced vomiting causing weight loss & dehydration (known as "hyperemesis gravidarum"). Try not to fall in the all-carb, all-the-time trap and try to add protein to your days to help level out digestion & blood sugar to minimize nausea.
Your eyesight might change
Blasted hormones! You might find you need glasses for the first time in your life, or that your prescription changes and you need new glasses or contact lenses midway through pregnancy, or even after baby is born. My eyesight deteriorated slightly with each pregnancy. Sometimes extreme headaches can occur from this vision disturbance. Before you convert your RRSPs to Tylenol shares, have your vision checked.
Everyone else knows what you're having
You might be waiting until the big day, but every co-worker, friend, relative, bus driver and stranger on the street knows exactly what the gender of your baby is. And they're going to tell you. You're having a boy because you're SO big. You're having a girl because your skin is breaking out. You're having twins. For sure the ultrasound was wrong...you're definitely having twins. Her cousin had twins and she looked exactly like you.
Try to avoid throttling.
Also, your belly is not your private property anymore
The first random hand on your squishy, first-trimester belly will come as a shock. Gradually, you might get used to your growing belly attracting touches, pats and even conversation from the people around you. I never really did warm up to it.
Another warning: sometimes they don't even ask first. A pregnant woman feels like everyone's property. You're propagating the species, and they're grateful. It's always an act of love and admiration but sometimes it's just pretty freaking annoying. Remember you're allowed to say no. Or maybe touch their belly at the same time and make it awkward, just for kicks.
You look bloated before you look pregnant.
You'll notice your waist expanding before anyone else, probably. You might have one of those mystical office psychics who can tell you're pregnant before anyone else, but most people will probably not notice your changing shape for quite a few weeks or even months. Before the uterus gets very big and moves up out of the pelvis, you'll feel the fat in your abdomen seems to be a little more obvious than it used to be. It's being displaced, along with your other organs. Bloat and water retention in pregnancy are also normal and contribute to that swollen waist.
For the first few months, you might just feel a bit "thicker" and anyone who notices will probably only assume you've gained a few pounds... and hopefully they know well enough to keep their mouths shut about that. Once baby & uterus are a little bigger, probably around 4-6 months, that tummy will get big, full and firm. Then people will start confidently asking whether you're expecting instead of speculating behind your back in the lunch room.
Your feet are in a growing competition with your belly.
PSA: Friends don't let pregnant friends wear high heels. I mean, date night for a couple of hours? OK. Every day to, at, and from the office? A great way to strain your abdomen, pelvic floor and low back so much it may increase your odds of Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) and postpartum recovery issues. In fact, no one should wear high heels. I feel confident one day they'll be in natural history museums everywhere, displayed as archaic instruments of female bondage.
Even if you relish Friday night with the girls and a few hours in peep-toe pumps, chances are you'll be sporting a muffin-top of the foot variety at some point during those 10 months. As the hormones in your body relax soft tissues to prepare for baby's growth and birth, they also allow other parts to, um, "spread." This includes your hips, your ribs, and -- yes -- your feet. The arches will often collapse, spreading the foot and making it temporarily wider. It usually will "shrink" back in the months after baby is born. Sometimes feet stay permanently wider. It's a small price to pay for a whole human. Invest in some great, supportive flats and hold off on that next pair of heels until you've delivered.
You might hate it. At least sometimes.
Some women are all radiant and calm from the moment they conceive, while you are cranky, bloated and can't hold down your lunch. It's okay. You have to get through it, but you don't have to like it. As one of those mommies who was blessed with relatively easy pregnancies, I can assure you that we all have moments of "What have I gotten myself into?" Even without pain, vomiting or other terrible symptoms, I struggled sometimes to not be terrified at the thought that another human being had pitched a tent inside my gut. Pregnancy is wonderful, but also weird.
Try some journaling and join some sort of moms-to-be fitness class, labour prep course or social network(or all of the above) to meet others of your kind who can understand your love/hate relationship with this time of your life. At the same time, stay in touch with the things and people that remind you of who you are, independent of the little person growing inside of you. Honour yourself and your needs, and do what feels right for you, not what society tells you a pregnant lady SHOULD do.
If you feel sad, stressed, anxious or angry in a way that is unlike you, interferes with your job, relationships and/or daily productivity, consider reaching out to your OB/Midwife for a counselling or group support referral.Prenatal Depression & Anxiety is a real condition that affects many mamas-to-be. Support is out there.
By the way, that love/hate relationship is good preparation for the love/hate relationship you're going to have with motherhood. You might hate puking, shopping for elasticized pants and acting as official spokesperson for all of pregnant kind, just like you might hate night feedings, explosive poops and sore nipples a few months from now. But I guarantee the love is all worth it. Enjoy the ride, and feel free to pull out the "pregnant" card when you just can't take it and need to cry/scream a bit. It might not be all sunshine and roses, but there is rarely something worthwile that comes easily.