Pregnancy is often portrayed as a magical and blissful journey, filled with glowing skin, adorable baby bumps, and the anticipation of meeting your little one. While these aspects certainly exist, they only scratch the surface of the realities of pregnancy. In this post I want to shed light on the unfiltered truth that is not often discussed openly. I believe that it is important for pregnant women to have a clear understanding of what to expect, beyond the typical narratives mentioned in the glossy pregnancy magazines, or romanticised Instagram posts.
The physical changes and discomforts
I personally suffered with extreme ‘morning’ sickness which lasted all day and into the night. For the first 13 weeks I couldn’t eat much, during the day just trying to keep down small amounts of food little and often. Eating cucumber for example, for the nutrients and as an aid to stay hydrated, then trying to keep down a small, savoury meal later on in the evening. I had to take a couple of months off work, which I found extremely demoralising- not to mention my bank account took a hit at a time when I really needed to start saving money. Even now at 16 weeks the nausea can linger throughout the day, leaving me feeling exhausted and unable to enjoy even the simplest of activities.
However for some women morning sickness can be a gentle wave of nausea experienced only in the mornings, some experience no symptoms at all.
Another uncomfortable reality is the ever-expanding waistline. As baby grows, so does the belly, and this can result in a range of physical discomforts. Back pain can become a constant companion, as the weight of the growing baby puts strain on the spine. Ligaments and joints throughout the body loosen to prepare for childbirth, which can lead to hip pain and difficulty walking or even sitting comfortably. And then there’s the issue of swollen feet and ankles. As the body retains more fluids during pregnancy, it can cause swelling in the extremities. This can make wearing shoes a challenge and leave us pregnant women feeling like we have balloons for feet. Compression socks and leggings can help. Drink plenty of water, avoid overly salty foods, and move around as much as possible.
As our bodies go through numerous hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy, it’s common to experience difficulties in getting a good night’s sleep. With our growing belly, frequent bathroom visits, and discomfort make it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can lead to insomnia and restless nights. The demands of pregnancy, both physically and emotionally, can leave us feeling exhausted throughout the day. The added weight and strain on the body can make even simple tasks feel like a herculean effort. I’ve found my new pregnancy pillow to be a big help for getting a good nights sleep, I can position it for back support and put it in-between my knees.
As pregnancy develops some women experience constipation, as baby gets bigger the back passages can be blocked, making it more difficult to ‘go’. Most midwives recommend taking a small dose of senna, if this doesn’t work or doesn’t agree with you try suppositories.
Oh yes, let’s not forget about the hormonal changes that wreak havoc on a woman’s body. Mood swings, bleeding gums, acne, and even changes in hair texture and growth are common during pregnancy. These changes can be frustrating and affect our self-confidence, as women. Please remember these changes are normal and you are not alone, seek advice from your midwife if you are concerned.
Hormones and moods
Mood swings are a common occurrence during pregnancy, and they can range from feeling on top of the world one minute to bursting into tears the next. For example, I now cry when listening to various songs, even if they are not sad or have no significant meaning to me. The other day a cried at a random dishwasher advert… I don’t know why! These abrupt changes can leave us feeling overwhelmed and confused. It’s important to remember that these feelings are a normal part of our pregnancy experience and are often caused by hormonal fluctuations. However, it is crucial to seek support if mood swings become excessive or start to impact daily functioning.
Alongside mood swings, mental health concerns can also arise during pregnancy. Pregnancy can bring about anxiety, depression, and even feelings of isolation. Hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and the anticipation of becoming a parent can all contribute to these emotional challenges. It is essential for us to prioritise our mental well-being. Addressing mental health during pregnancy is crucial not only for our well-being, but also for the healthy development of our baby. Research has shown that high levels of stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on baby’s cognitive and emotional development. Seek professional help if needed, talking to your midwife is always helpful. They have seen and heard it all before, there is no stigma attached to discussing your emotional and mental wellbeing.
In addition to seeking professional help, there are also self-care practices that can be beneficial in managing mood swings and maintaining mental well-being. Engaging in regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, and maintaining a support network can all contribute to feeling positive during pregnancy.
Not all women experience mood swings. However mental health challenges can occur during pregnancy. This is not a sign of weakness but a natural part of our journey. By acknowledging and addressing these feelings, we can navigate the ups and downs of pregnancy with greater ease and ultimately have a more positive and fulfilling experience.
The myths vs. realities of pregnancy cravings and food aversions
When it comes to pregnancy cravings and food aversions, there are countless myths and misconceptions floating around. Lets separate fact from fiction and uncover the unfiltered truth about these common experiences during pregnancy.
Myth: Pregnancy cravings are always for pickles and ice cream.
Reality: While the image of a pregnant woman devouring strange food combinations may be amusing, cravings can vary widely from person to person. Some women may indeed have unusual cravings, but others may simply desire familiar foods or have no cravings at all. It’s essential to remember that every pregnancy is unique.
Myth: Cravings indicate a nutritional deficiency.
Reality: Cravings are not necessarily a sign that the body is lacking specific nutrients. They are more likely related to hormonal changes and the body’s natural response to pregnancy. However, it’s still important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet throughout pregnancy to support both the mother’s and baby’s health. Taking a daily pregnancy vitamin can help, I take Seven Seas 400 mg Folic Acid Pregnancy Multivitamin For Women, 28 Tablets, All Stages .
Myth: Food aversions disappear after the first trimester.
Reality: While it is true that many food aversions decrease or disappear after the first trimester, some women may continue to experience them throughout their pregnancy. Certain smells or tastes that were once enjoyable may suddenly become repulsive. It’s crucial to listen to your body and find alternative options that provide the necessary nutrients.
Myth: Giving in to cravings is harmful.
Reality: Indulging in occasional cravings is generally harmless, as long as it is done in moderation. However, it’s essential to make healthy choices when possible and not rely solely on indulgent or unhealthy foods. Finding a balance between satisfying cravings and nourishing the body is key.
Myth: Food aversions and cravings predict the baby’s gender.
Reality: There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that food aversions or cravings can predict the gender of the baby. These experiences are primarily driven by hormonal changes and individual preferences, rather than indicating any specific aspect of the pregnancy.
The impact on relationships
One of the lesser-discussed aspects of pregnancy is its impact on relationships. While the excitement and anticipation surrounding the arrival of a new baby can bring couples closer together, it can also introduce new challenges and strains on relationships.
The physical and emotional changes that occur during pregnancy can sometimes disrupt the dynamics between partners. Hormonal fluctuations can lead to mood swings and heightened sensitivity, making communication and understanding more challenging. Additionally, the physical discomfort and fatigue experienced by mothers can result in a decreased desire for intimacy, which may require adjustments and understanding from both partners. I think its important for both partners to remember intimacy does not just mean having sex. Things like cuddling or holding hands, can help keep you feeling close to, and loved by each other.
The shifting roles and responsibilities that come with impending parenthood can cause friction and disagreements. Decisions about parenting styles, financial planning, and even mundane tasks like household chores can suddenly become sources of tension and conflict. It is crucial for couples to openly communicate feelings, concerns, and expectations. This includes discussing fears, uncertainties, and any issues that may arise. Seeking professional support, such as couples therapy, can also provide a safe space couples to navigate these changes and work through any challenges that arise.
It’s important to acknowledge that while pregnancy can strain relationships, it can also serve as an opportunity for growth and strengthening of relationships. By staying committed to open communication, empathy, and mutual support, couples can navigate these adjustments and emerge even stronger while embarking on the journey of parenthood together.
I want to end this section by stating that I’m lucky to have a loving and supportive husband who is very understanding and lovely, we have been married for seven years. However my previous relationship of ten years was… not good. I constantly felt very unsafe to say the least, and even after I found the strength to end the ‘relationship’ it took a long while for me to recover. If you feel ‘unsafe’ in your relationship physically, emotionally and/ or mentally, please know that this is not ‘normal’.
USA – The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.787.3224
UK– National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 – www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ (free phone run by Refuge)
Lesser-known pregnancy complications and risks
There are several lesser-known complications and risks that are rarely discussed but can significantly impact a woman’s pregnancy journey. One of these complications is gestational diabetes, a condition that affects around 10% of pregnant women. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels during pregnancy. This condition can increase the risk of preterm birth, preeclampsia, and the development of type 2 diabetes later in life.
Another lesser-known risk is placenta previa, where the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix. This can lead to bleeding during pregnancy and delivery, requiring careful management and potentially necessitating a caesarean section.
Remember, every pregnancy is unique, and no matter what challenges arise, the joy of bringing a new life into the world makes it all worthwhile. Wishing you a safe and fulfilling journey through pregnancy and beyond.