What no one tells you about pregnancy.
When I became pregnant, I thought I knew it all! I had a full 3 years of university training in Midwifery behind me, I had followed numerous women through their pregnancy, birth and postnatal journey. Worked on antenatal and postnatal wards as well as in birth suites. I knew all the wonderful, the wild, the wacky and the downright gross. At least I thought so, that was in fact, NOT the case. While you can learn and be told what to expect, each individual is just that…individual, unique, special. Often each woman will experience each pregnancy a little bit different, whether slightly or enormously so.
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So what did I learn about pregnancy that no one told me or prepared me for?
1. Mucous – OK I knew there was more, I knew it was thinner mucous to your normal cycle, but when I say thinner, I mean like water! Often there is LOTS! The amount of times I questioned whether or not my membranes had popped while walking around at work was numerous. It was embarrassing, I’m sure I had wet patches on my pants and if I didn’t I must have walked as if I did making me look like a weirdo. My advice for this part of pregnancy, have the panty liners on hand ready and available for exercise or days out and about, especially when it is hot! AND If in doubt, check it out!
2. Mask of Pregnancy (Melasma/Chloasma) – So you’ve all heard of “the glow”, “the beautiful flawless pregnancy skin”? Again, not always the case, as with my 3rd pregnancy, instead of a beautiful, flawless pretty face, I got acne and weird ass patchiness. About as far from pretty as possible. I enjoyed a facial with very little change. Keys to remember in improving (or at least making less bad) are diet, stress and being mindful of what you are and are not putting on your skin. It is more sensitive when pregnant so be more gentle with it.
3. Hair – So it could be thicker, fuller, flowing and shiny OR it could potentially be falling out or thinning. Great…if it’s your armpits, not so when it’s on your head. I would like to add this is extremely rare and I am yet to meet anyone that went bald from pregnancy. I can honestly say I haven’t experienced this. I have, however, experienced darkening hair with each pregnancy. Enough for my hairdresser to be able to identify I was pregnant each time without me telling her.
4. Toenails – Now this is something I had never heard of until I read an article on Libby Tricketts second pregnancy where she described her toenails falling out as part of her pregnancy. Odd! Her obstetrician seemed understandably interested. But more importantly, is this an isolated case? Is there a history behind her toenails that we are all unaware of that may have triggered their loss with the massive hormone shift of pregnancy? Who knows? Maybe we never will, but I would love to hear from anyone else who has experienced this phenomenon.
5. Pica – This is a condition that can occur outside of pregnancy but can arise during pregnancy due to hormones. This is a condition whereby a woman craves substances with little or NO nutritional value. It can be quite amusing for people who are friends of the woman to hear her describe soil or ice in extremely appealing language, however, it is often annoying and even life threatening for women who are experiencing this condition. Some common cravings include clay, stones, charcoal, coffee grounds, laundry powder, soap or sand. I had a very good friend who experienced this in her first pregnancy and craved soil and car tyres. She could describe the exact kind of car tyre and soil she wanted during these times even after her pregnancy was well and truly over. Luckily for us she never acted on these cravings and we all enjoyed a good laugh about the whole thing. It can be quite embarrassing for a woman to have to admit or discuss this kind of a problem which is why it is important to always be gentle when discussing anything pregnancy related with pregnant women.
If you are experiencing Pica, let me know as there are a number of tools and therapies that can assist with sypmtoms.
6. Heaviness – As you would expect, with pregnancy, comes weight gain. However, what is unexpected is how quickly (especially at the end) how quickly this weight is gained and how disproportionate it is and how it makes you feel. With a big belly out in front, your centre of gravity is shifted, you literally have a head in your pelvis pushing all the surrounding organs away (urethra, rectum) and pressure on your pelvic floor. With relaxin (the muscle relaxing hormone) running around loosening all of your muscles everything is loose, clicky and the strength you normally have is not there at the current time. All of this adds up to a very heavy, exhausting feeling especially the further on you get in pregnancy. It is these symptoms that prompt me to always suggest people look at safe ways to improve or maintain their body during pregnancy, in preparation for birth and the postnatal period. Yoga is great exercise for this period and taking part in relaxation each day, check out Mindful Birthing for the perfect mix of Yoga and Birth Prep!
7. Diaphragm Pain – This was a new one in my second pregnancy and something that bothered me so much I went out of my way to avoid it in my third pregnancy. Your diaphragm is the muscle that separates your lungs and your lower organs, it moves up and down with the movement of your breath and understandably begins to get squashed as baby grows. The only way I can describe it, is a pain like a rubber band around your entire mid section at the level of your lower ribs. It is tight, it affects your breathing and for me it felt debilitating by the time my son was born. I have since learnt that physio, chiro and exercise can help to loosen and stretch this area and used all of these religiously for my third pregnancy.
8. Linea Nigra – This is a fairly publicised oddity of pregnancy and is experienced more in some women due to the increased ability of skin types to pigment. It is the line that runs up the middle of your belly, it can be very light, it can be very dark, it can also be accompanied by a thicker more obvious trail of hair (always the hair I hear you saying!) It often fades quite quickly after birth but can take longer for some women depending on how dark, what number pregnancy and that womans individual hormone make up.
9. Crying – You will cry at everything! Your partner is 10minutes late from work, there is no chocolate left in the house, the radio ad about homeless children and every single baby ad on television! It becomes a little ridiculous after a while but it is all of those love hormones building up in preparation for the day they need to kick in and get this baby out. Enjoy the hugs and (hopefully) the spoiling from your partner during this time (and extra chocolate).
Hormones are responsible for a lot during pregnancy and if you want to know specifically which one to blame, click here.
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