When I first found out I was pregnant, I thought I knew what I was in store for: weight gain, weird cravings, and the dreaded morning sickness.
After all, I've seen my fair share of rom-coms and being the youngest daughter of four sisters, I've heard a scary tale or two.
But there were a few things that I was certainly not expecting. Like vaginal massages (yes, it’s a thing). Or the awkwardness of pregnancy sex. Or, more importantly, the sometimes overwhelming sense of isolation that can come with the territory.
1. Put down that extra bowl of pasta
I’m sorry to break it to you, but that old adage joke about “eating for two”? It’s complete nonsense. In fact, your calorie intake doesn’t have to increase at all in the first trimester, and only 300 and 500 extra calories are needed in the second and third trimesters, respectively. Doctor Charlotte Elder of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists puts it like this: “You’re not eating for two, but you do have to eat enough nutrients for two.” Dr. Elder also suggested, “pregnant women should take a pregnancy vitamin to cover the key nutrients they might not be getting in their diet.”
2. Vaginal massages
There are a lot of things women are encouraged to do during pregnancy so it all goes smoothly: oils to avoid stretch marks, regular exercise and avoiding risqué foods, to name a few.... Oh, plus, perineum stretching, AKA vaginal massages. Many women are terrified of the tearing that can occur during labour from pushing - and with good reason. It’s not pretty, but it is normal. Perineum stretching is one way to potentially prevent this. “You can either do perineum stretching manually or purchase a device that gradually increases in size,” Perth based Registered Midwife, Sarafine Nichols explains. She also points out "the jury is still out on whether or not it actually helps reduce tearing." From my personal experience, it doesn’t work. You get the picture.
3. You’re not going to get any sleep. Re-read that three times.
Surprise! Babies aren't born the best sleepers - unless you're one of those few lucky parents whom the rest of us naturally hate. But what they don't tell you is, the sleeplessness kick in way before your baby actually arrives. Between indigestion (which is worse when you’re lying flat because stomach acid climbs up your throat – yay!) and the nocturnal football matches being played in your uterus, kiss the idea of a good night’s sleep goodbye. Dr. Elder says “sleeplessness is usually worse towards the end of pregnancy, but morning sickness during the early stages can also make it difficult to fall asleep.”
4. The awkwardness of pregnancy sex
If you’re not going to be getting any sleep anyway, why not try having some one on one time with your partner, you say? Let’s just take a second to remember the scene in Knocked Up when Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl fail miserably at trying to get their freak on. Got it? Good, because that’s scarily accurate. I will clarify that no, you can’t squash your baby while in the act, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be all kinds of awkward. There aren’t many things more disturbing than feeling your baby kick whilst you are doing the deed. Even thinking about it now, I cringe.
5. Your attitude to sex will change
However ridiculous it may be (and look) some women can’t get enough sex when they’re pregnant. “Some of it is to do with hormones - when you’re pregnant the level of estrogen and progesterone are very high which makes them feel sexy,” Dr. Elder says. At the other end of the spectrum, some women find they have almost no libido at all. It’s not uncommon for the changing shape of your body to be a little too much, and a lot of women just don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Hills star, Whitney Port, shared her experience with this, telling E! she hadn't had sex with her husband for quite some time because “ she didn’t feel sexy.” Preach, sister.
6. Weird Dreams
Just when you thought your sacred sleep couldn’t be meddled with anymore, pregnancy goes and throws a knock out punch. With all those extra hormones reeking havoc on your body, it shouldn’t come to a surprise that they can also affect your mind. Cue: really strange dreams. Early on in my pregnancy, before I even knew I was expecting, I had a dream that I was attacked by a swarm of wasps. Upon Googling, I discovered that this was actually an Iraqi pregnancy omen. Spooky, right?
7. Pregnancy aches and pains
You get it; you’re going to be tired! But there are a few more things you need to watch out for. A major one is back pain. “Because you grow out towards the front when you’re pregnant it changes your center of gravity, tilting your pelvis forward and your lower back can develop a sway, causing a strain on your hips and your back,” Dr. Elder says. Another thing is, weakened immunity. Normally your immunity looks out for invaders. But you don’t want it to reject the pregnancy, as it would do to any potential risk to your health, so it shifts a bit to protect your baby. Often this leads to more coughs and colds which might last longer and may be more severe."
8. Varicose veins and hemorrhoids
Pregnancy IS a beautiful thing, but there are a couple of things that don’t feel quite so magical. Varicose veins and hemorrhoids are incredibly common “due to more pressure on the veins during pregnancy. These can appear in all sorts of places, from your legs, to your face, and anywhere in between (think boobs and vagina). When you’re pregnant your have more blood in your veins, this means they get swollen,” Dr. Elder explains. She also recommends compression stockings to help with varicose veins. But don't panic, these usually goes away!
9. (Pre) Baby Blues
Last, and most certainly not least, anxiety and depression are extremely common during pregnancy. In fact, Dr. Elder explained that it's “ more common in women who are pregnant than those who have never been.” She says there are two contributing factors to this mental shift: “One, hormones - some people are very sensitive to hormonal changes and it makes a huge difference to their mood”. The other is circumstantial, “as major life changes can be a time of stress." Dr. Elder also stated, "The number one time for women to suffer from domestic violence is during pregnancy which is big risk factor for mental health”.
If you’re suffering from perinatal depression or anxiety, contact PANDA on 1300 726 306.