A lot goes through your mind when you get pregnant for the 1st time. It’s a new experience not only for you, but also your partner and the rest of the family. While you can learn from credible sources about the things to know about pregnancy for first-time moms, what to expect while being pregnant, what you need to know about having a baby, or what to expect when giving birth, this is still a new position for anyone to be in.
You’ll also get a lot of solicited or unsolicited advice from friends, family, workmates, neighbors, and even strangers. But you don’t get to learn everything. There are things that no one will tell you about pregnancy and childbirth, the kind you’ll always hear about when it’s “too late.” We shall highlight some of them and equip you with the knowledge you need to empower yourself through this remarkable journey.
What does it feel like to be pregnant?
Whether this is your 1st pregnancy or not, you can’t pinpoint or predict how it will feel. Each pregnancy feels different depending on several factors. All 3 of my pregnancies were utterly new experiences affected by my age, environment, underlying conditions before and during pregnancy, or the gap between them. I would always make time to acquaint myself with pregnancy must-knows for each of my pregnancies.
If this is your 2nd time, the assumption is that you practically know everything you need to know about childbirth. Your doctor will give you more than a heads up on the things to know about 2nd pregnancy despite your prior experience. He can either tell you that it will be easier or more difficult. The good thing is you already know what to expect because you’ve gone through this before, but you still can’t know everything.
Although sometimes people share almost similar experiences, what you feel when pregnant may differ from another pregnant woman’s experience. Pregnancy may feel like a walk in the park for some moms-to-be while it may take a toll on others. But whatever you feel, know that it’s valid. That’s what makes it unique.
Things no one tells you about pregnancy
There are things that you discover as you go along with your pregnancy. And then there are those things no one tells you about that leave you shaking your head, wondering how different your pregnancy would be if you just knew. Grab a pen and a notebook, we’ve got you!
- Salivating is real. Ptyalism or excessive salivation is very common in the 1st trimester or if you have hyperemesis gravidarum. Remember that your hormones are still to blame. So grab those tissues and wipe the saliva off. This will be over as soon as you’re through with your 1st trimester, or maybe not for some.
- The bathroom will be your friend. You will find yourself going for bathroom breaks quite often when you’re pregnant. Frequent urination is typical in expectant moms because your kidney filters the increased amount of blood in your body and removes excess waste and water to produce urine, which ends up in your bladder. You should note that frequent urination is also a symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI), common during pregnancy. Often easily treated with excellent outcomes, UTI accounted for 3.5% of antenatal admissions in one study.
- Bigger feet or smaller shoes? You might wonder why your pre-pregnancy shoes don’t seem to fit these days. Your feet have grown bigger, most probably because of the swelling brought by the extra weight you now carry. This happens to about 60-70% of all expectant mothers. I had to get myself new pairs of shoes after giving birth because my shoe size never went back to its original size.
- The itch is unbearable (every time). Do you feel itchy all the time or is there a specific time you have to scratch yourself to ease the skin’s itchiness? You may be having the pregnancy rash or the PUPPP. While the reason behind the rash is still unknown, it has been linked to excessive weight gain. Keep your skin moisturized all the time and especially at night before bedtime, to alleviate the itchiness.
- Your face may darken. Skin changes happen when you become pregnant. Some of the skin issues you may face include acne, stretch marks, and varicose veins. But most pregnant women of African, Asian, or Latin American descent like myself experience skin darkening around the forehead, chin, cheeks, and nose called melasma or chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy.” Melasma is caused by the hormonal changes your body goes through while pregnant. As much as you can’t entirely prevent the skin from darkening, you can help prevent it from getting worse. Avoid direct exposure to the sun by covering up and making Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunscreen your best friend. Just make sure the sunscreen doesn’t contain oxybenzone which permeates your skin and allows chemicals to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Things no one tells you about childbirth
Giving birth can be one of the most painful experiences in your life, yet the long-term effects of birth trauma on new moms are rarely mentioned or largely ignored. Here’s what you should know about childbirth:
- The media glamorizes childbirth. You see many celebrity moms looking their best a few hours after leaving the delivery room, but this might not be the case for so many mothers, including you. The media often portrays childbirth as either glamorous or dramatic, a far cry from reality, leaving huge gaps in how people perceive the birthing process. Accept that you may not look like a goddess during a typical birth and expect to have your care providers in the labor and delivery room when your D-Day comes.
- Anticipate last-minute change of (birth) plans. Birth plans were introduced to expecting moms to make the most of their birthing experience. This has become even more popular these days among pregnant women who want to stay in the loop regarding their pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. While it’s always good to have a birth plan to communicate your expectations, you must make room for adjustments. Not everything will go as planned, so go with the flow. Seeing your little one for the first one will make all the sudden changes worth it.
- You can literally get a cut. An episiotomy has been a routine part of vaginal childbirth thought to prevent more extensive vaginal tears, but that’s no longer the case right now. The rate of pregnant women getting the “snip” has decreased over the years because health care professionals no longer see its usefulness and are leaning towards a new approach to avoid the risk of infection. Be open to all possibilities and discuss with your doctor to know the safest option for you and your baby.
- Your placenta is coming out. If you think it’s only your baby who needs to come out during childbirth, you’re wrong. Your body needs to expel the placenta as soon as your baby comes out (3rd stage of labor). Approximately 35.1% of pregnant women expelled their placenta less than 30 minutes after their baby’s birth.
- That belly won’t shrink fast. After giving birth, I thought that my belly would instantly shrink because the baby had come out. The truth is your pregnancy belly won’t shrink because it has fluids and fat cells you can’t expel right away. To eliminate the extras in your mid-area will require time, a lot of patience, and setting realistic weight loss goals by eating healthy, well-balanced meals and exercising when your doctor approves.
Things dads need to know about pregnancy
If you think that you’re the only one who has to learn things about pregnancy and childbirth, think again. Your partner should also familiarize himself with this new phase of life. It’s best to discuss what you’re feeling or going through so he can better understand this journey. Among the many things your partner should know about being pregnant are:
- Food craving is real. While some people believe it’s just in your mind, pregnancy craving is real and can be a game-changer throughout your pregnancy. Around 50-90% of pregnant women experience food cravings during pregnancy. However, your partner should always be cautious of your food intake while pregnant because if left unchecked, these cravings can make you gain more weight and retain it after birth.
- The crying spells will come. You can be susceptible to sudden mood swings that can make your partner wonder what on earth they did wrong this time. Let him know your hormones may take over and cause emotional and physical changes during the pregnancy.
- The “sexpectations” in pregnancy. A sudden increase or decrease in your sex drive may leave your partner with so many questions. During the 1st trimester when morning sickness has kicked in, about 20% of pregnant women experience a decrease in libido. Your sex drive will then increase as you approach your 2nd trimester when you’ve already regained your energy but this may slow down again during your 3rd trimester because of factors such as weight gain, body pains, and exhaustion.
Pregnancy and childbirth are very precious moments for you and your family. While you cannot entirely be ready for what might happen during the 40 weeks, it’s always good to be on the positive side of things and savor every moment. After all, the real challenge begins when your baby is born.
What didn’t you expect while you were pregnant and wish you knew before? Share your experience with other parents-to-be.