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13 Things About Being Pregnant No One Talks About, but Everybody Should Know

by Claire Litton Cohn Mar 29, 2016

1. Morning sickness doesn’t go away if you eat less.

For many pregnant folks, nausea in the first trimester is a symptom of plummeting blood sugar. I have never been so hungry, so quickly in my entire life: I couldn’t go an hour and a half without eating. I left it too long coming back on the bus from my first OB appointment, staggered into my house crying and shaking, and ended up shoving cheese into my mouth with the refrigerator door open. Moral of the story: always carry small snack. Babybel cheese, trail mix, whatever. Never get between a pregnant person and some hummus, I can tell you.

2. You will pee yourself. Sorry.

Eventually, you will start leaking a little pee every time you sneeze or cough…or jump or, sometimes, walk vigorously. I got adept at crossing my legs whenever I had a cold throughout pregnancy. This can also continue postpartum; your pelvic floor and muscles surrounding the urethra get loosened up and change place, so you may experience peeing while sneezing for a few years after. Doctors do say you can visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist for help with this, though.

3. Nipple twiddling is the only scientifically-shown way to induce labour.

When I started rounding week 41 of pregnancy and looked like I was smuggling five basketballs, I would have done literally anything to get the baby out. People were full of helpful suggestions: pineapple juice, climbing stairs, doing squats, taking a bath, having sex, eating curry. Despite a lot of research on “natural” labour induction, the only one that is anything more than folk wisdom is playing with one’s nipples. The downside is that it has to go on for at least half an hour before it does anything. I was so cranky at the end of my pregnancy that if anyone had tried to do anything to me for 30 minutes at a time, I would have thrown them out a window.

4. Pregnant people can lactate long before they give birth.

While milk may not fully “come in” for up to a week after a baby is born, mammary glands can produce milk even in people who have never been pregnant. Some people lactate regularly during their menstrual cycle; I know someone who was doing a breast check right before her period and surprised herself by shooting a stream of milk across the room. Also, milk letdown — milk spraying or leaking from the nipples — can be caused by a baby crying or thinking about your baby or, actually, even something unrelated to your baby, if it is emotional enough…one woman reported having a milk letdown when she thought about the refugee crisis.

5. It’s okay to drink wine and coffee, eat soft cheese, and change the cat litter.

Emily Oster’s book “Expecting Better” is one of the best resources for pregnant people that I have ever seen. As an economist, she was surprised and frustrated by the lack of information backing up the common things doctors tell you during pregnancy, so she read all the research and the results were pretty conclusive: everything is okay in moderation. Wine? Ignore the patronizing CDC announcement, most research on the effects of alcohol on fetuses didn’t distinguish between heavy drinkers and those who had the occasional glass of wine with dinner…or those who also took recreational drugs with their tequila shots. Soft cheese? The danger of that is from the bacterium listeria, which can be found in raw vegetables as easily as a hunk of Brie. Cat litter? Toxoplasmosis is not a risk unless you have an outdoor cat…gardening is a higher risk than changing the cat litter. But by all means, stop changing the cat litter; after a few months, it’ll get awkward to bend down, anyway.

6. Amniotic fluid is mostly baby pee, snot, and spit.

Babies start producing urine after only a few months of gestation; they drink the amniotic fluid and then pee it back out, which is why fluid in the sac doesn’t diminish in volume (ick). Drinking the fluid and, later, fetal breathing add other bodily secretions to the amniotic soup, as this journal article states: “Production of [amniotic fluid] is predominantly accomplished by excretion of fetal urine…and the secretion of oral, nasal, tracheal, and pulmonary fluids.”

7. Blood volume increases by 50% while you’re pregnant.

Your heart will actually increase in size by 40% in order to handle the immense volume of blood pumping through your system: half again as much as non-pregnant women. Cuts and scrapes bleed more during pregnancy — not arterial fountains, just a larger volume — and gums will bleed more easily from flossing. Your skin will look great from all the fluids circulating around, though.

8. Pregnant bodies can easily overstretch…and not go back.

One of the hormones released during pregnancy is called “relaxin”, and it is responsible for loosening up your ligaments and tendons to allow hips to open and the baby to come out. The upside is that flexibility increases substantially; if you never had a yoga practice before, you may want to start one now, just because it will never again be this easy to touch your toes. The downside, though, is that you can strain your ligaments. Ligaments are designed to protect joints through limiting movement, and stretching too far can weaken your joints permanently.

9. You should just ignore everybody giving you horror stories about when the baby comes.

Sure, it seems to be commonly accepted wisdom that you never sleep again after you have a baby…or that you might as well lock up your genitals and throw away the key, because you won’t be having sex until your kid is a teenager and finds it, like, totally gross. But, you know what? For people making those comments: every expecting parent has heard that information before and are worried about it, so maybe don’t bring up something that might be causing someone anxiety. And for expecting parents: you really have no idea what things will be like. You might get a baby that sleeps huge chunks of time from the beginning. You might find that seeing your partner be a parent shows you a whole new side of their personality to find attractive.

10. Skin does some weird stuff.

3 out of 4 pregnant people develop a linea negra, which is a dark line starting at the pubic bone and going upwards towards the diaphragm. It’s caused by an increase in melanin, as the body basically floods itself with extra hormones of every variety, just in case you (or the baby) need them. The quality and color of your skin may change; many pregnant folks (me included) report their skin getting darker, and lips and nipples changing color. Some people get Chloasma faciei, or mask of pregnancy, which is a brownish splotchy discoloration over their lower face. Finally, you get a ton of skin tags and pimples along with your stretch marks. The good news is that most of these things go away after the pregnancy is over, although some can continue through nursing.

11. The baby industrial complex wants you to buy a bunch of useless stuff.

Shockingly, a bunch of corporations are trying to sell you a bunch of stuff, most of which you may never use. Before rushing out and buying six different wraps and slings, or bouncy chairs, or baby rockers…why not wait until the baby is actually born, so you can see what its personality is like? The main things you need for a newborn are a place for it to sleep (usually on you), a way to feed it (boobs or bottle), things for it to wear (diapers and onesies are popular choices), and that’s about it. They don’t need super stimulating special toys — everything is stimulating when you’re three weeks old. Same for maternity clothes, actually: I wore stretchy harem and yoga pants until I gave birth, and added tunics and my husband’s t-shirts.

12. Your water usually doesn’t break at the beginning of labour.

I was in labour for a looooong time before my water broke; it happened right after they gave me an epidural and dripped all over the hospital table. Despite what you see in movies, you don’t get a dramatic warning that baby’s on the way that involves clutching your stomach and feeling like you peed yourself in a taxicab. Only 15% of people have their water break before labour begins, so you’ll have time to prepare yourself.

13. Vivid sex dreams. Surprise!

I had fantastic, vivid dreams all through my pregnancy. About 75% of them were excitingly porny. You might as well just enjoy it!

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