What To Really Expect When You’re Expecting
Words: Nam Kiwanuka
At this point in our lives, we know about the birds and the bees and where babies really come from. But these 11 things are rarely talked about.
For many first-time mothers or women who want to become moms "some day," pregnancy is kind of an abstract concept. We know where babies come from. We know that the baby grows inside of you for nine months. We know about (and shudder at the thought of) labor and delivery. But unless we have a sister or friend go through the experience in detail, we don't really know what happens during pregnancy.
It's way more complicated than we could imagine. As past mater mea mom Jamyla Bennu said best, "Pregnancy is a complete science-fiction experience. It’s crazy. My body changed in this accelerated phase and became a whole ‘nother shape."
Below we list some aspects of pregnancy that are rarely discussed. Note that every pregnancy is different, and that a few of these symptoms are (thankfully) temporary.
1. You might not fall in love with your baby at first sight... and that’s okay. Many new mothers have difficulty bonding with their baby for a number of reasons which might include a traumatic birth, exhaustion, or other factors.
2. Some women glow during their pregnancy and can eat anything they want. But others suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, or excessive vomiting, which can lead to hospitalization due to dehydration. According to the American Journal of Perinatology, it affects about 2% of pregnant women.
3. During your pregnancy, your nose and feet might grow bigger and you might get itchy skin and bleeding gums. There’s also the chance you’ll develop acne, and instead of experiencing incredible hair growth, your hair could fall out or grow in places it’s never been, like your chin.
4. Forget that birth plan. In fact, delete it from your tablet. You might plan to have a natural birth without drugs, but you could end up needing an emergency C-section or another type of medical intervention. Read up on how forceps are used during a delivery and educate yourself on what an episiotomy is. It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for whatever happens. After all, information is power.
5. You might have difficulty breastfeeding. There’s a perception that once you have your baby, breastfeeding is as easy as placing your baby to your chest. Not so. Breastfeeding can be challenging because of latching issues, cracked and sore nipples, and having a baby who has ankyloglossia or tongue-tie, a condition that restricts the tongue’s movement. Some babies who are tongue-tied have no problems latching while others do. If you’re having problems breastfeeding, ask for help immediately and don’t blame yourself.
6. Your baby may be born sick or prematurely and he or she will have to spend some time away from you in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). This is not to scare you, but to raise awareness of what some mothers go through. It’s important to have a support system in this crucial time.
7. After giving birth, you might have “the baby blues” or develop postpartum depression. This is normal. Between 60-80% of new moms have the baby blues while one in seven moms develop postpartum depression. It’s important to see your doctor right away if you’re experiencing symptoms of either forms of depression.
8. Your stomach muscles could separate during your pregnancy, leading you to develop diastasis recti, a condition that affects two-thirds of pregnant women. It’s sometimes called “mommy tummy,” but that description diminishes the health challenges that it can present post-pregnancy, such as chronic back pain and incontinence. It’s important to see a doctor before you start any exercises after you give birth because some, like stomach crunches, can make the diastasis recti worse.
9. When you look in the mirror, don’t be surprised if it looks like you have a blotchy tan. Chloasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy, appears on some women’s skin. It can be anywhere on the face and is most commonly seen on the cheeks, forehead, and nose. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that 70% of pregnant women develop the mask of pregnancy.
10. Skin tags are probably one of the least known side-effects of being pregnant. Some mothers-to-be develop extra pieces of skin that hang. These polyps usually grow in places where the skin rubs together or on clothing. The skin tags should disappear after pregnancy, but if they don’t, you should consult with a dermatologist.
11. And finally, yes, labor hurts. But when you look back, you’ll barely remember what it felt like... until the next time.
Nam Kiwanuka is a broadcast journalist and writer. She's reported for the NBA, ET Canada, CNN and has written for the BBC, xojane and Huffington Post. She is the former editor of the African Business Journal. You can follow Nam on Twitter @namshine.