You are currently viewing 10 things you didn’t know about pregnancy

10 things you didn’t know about pregnancy

I know what you’re thinking – how is it possible that you don’t already know everything about pregnancy? After all, there are dozens and dozens of books devoted to the topic, some so thick that you would have delivered your baby even before you finish reading it!

Not only that, there are loads of brochures from your obstetrician, parenting magazines, DVDs and Internet websites that give you so much information, not to mention well-meaning relatives and friends who want to share all their experiences of pregnancy with you. Yet, during those nine months, there will be things about pregnancy that will surprise you, that nobody ever mentioned to you.

It’s not because your obstetrician is negligent, nor is it because your friends are keeping secrets from you. But every woman and every pregnancy is unique, so what you are experiencing may not have happened to other women. Whatever it is, if you experience a condition or situation that makes you uncomfortable or worried, you should discuss it with your doctor, partner and friends. They may have some surprising advice for you as well. Here are the 10 things about pregnancy that nobody may have told you about:

No. 1: The nesting instinct

Just like a mama bird, you will want to prepare your “nest” for your baby. You may have a powerful urge to clean, organise and decorate your house, so that your baby will have a clean, beautiful and comfortable space when he/she is born. You may even want to do projects that you did not have time or inclination to do before, such as repainting the walls or organising the closets. For some women, the urge gets stronger nearer to their due date! While there is nothing wrong with light physical activity during the last trimester, be careful not to overdo it with heavy labour.

No. 2: Turning into Mdm Forgetful

 In the first trimester, morning sickness may make you feel tired and mentally fuzzy, so you are bound to find it difficult to concentrate and stay alert. But as you progress, even if you are well-rested and no longer experiencing morning sickness or any pains, you may find yourself becoming forgetful and unable to concentrate on simple tasks. This is partly due to hormonal changes in your body, and partly also to a preoccupation with the baby.

 So you may find yourself forgetting to pay bills, missing appointments or neglecting certain tasks. One way to overcome this is by making lists and jotting down something when you think about it, so that you don’t forget later. Use a diary or your mobile phone calendar to help you keep track of appointments. Explain this to your partner, boss and friends, so that they will understand your situation.

 No. 3: Mood swings

 Yes, while you may often feel a strong motherly instinct, there will also be times when you turn into dragon lady. Pregnancy causes your hormones to fluctuate, which affects your emotions. At one moment, you feel happy and contented, but the next moment, you feel like crying and raging. You may get irrationally upset with people around you, such as your partner, family members or friends. If all this sounds familiar to you, it may be because you also usually experience PMS. Women who have PMS are more likely to have severe mood swings during pregnancy.

 The mood swings tend to occur more frequently in the first trimester, and nearer towards your due date. Then there is pregnancy-related depression, which is more serious than simple mood swings. If you suffer from symptoms like sleep disturbance, a complete lack of appetite or conversely, an inability to stop eating, and exaggerated mood swings for more than 2 weeks, you should talk to your doctor. Don’t hide the symptoms – depression can be treated.

 No. 4: The need for new bras

 Of course, your doctor will have told you that your breasts will get larger during pregnancy. In fact, an increase in breast size is one of the first signs of pregnancy. Your breasts will become swollen and enlarged in the first trimester because of increased levels of the oestrogen and progesterone hormones. But what nobody may have told you is how many times you will have to replace your bras throughout your pregnancy! Your breasts will continue to grow throughout your pregnancy and your rib cage will also expand as your lung capacity increases to support you and your baby. So not only will your cup size increase, so will the broadness of your chest.

 No. 5: Skin changes

If people tell you that you have a pregnancy glow, it’s because your skin is affected by the changes brought on by pregnancy. When you are pregnant, you experience an increase in blood volume to provide extra blood flow to the uterus and to meet the metabolic needs of the foetus. The greater volume brings more blood to the vessels and increases oil gland secretion, which can also cause acne.

Some skin changes can turn out to be an unplasant surprise. Pregnancy hormones can cause the skin to produce more pigment in uneven patches, causing brownish or yellowish patches on the face. This is called chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”. The pigmentation may also appear as a dark line on the midline of the lower abdomen, or darkening of the nipples, external genitalia and anal region. These pigmentation, especially on the face, can be very unsettling for some women. Unfortunately, it cannot be prevented, but you can minimise its effects by wearing sunscreen and avoiding UV light.

You may also be surprised to find that you are more prone to heat rash, which is caused by dampness and perspiration, and itchiness, due to the stretching of your skin. These skin changes will usually disappear after you give birth.

No. 6: Hair, here and there

 Did you know that your hair and nails grow faster during pregnancy? Again, these are due to your hormones. Some women even grow hair in unwanted places, such as on the face, belly or around the nipples. Your hair may also change in texture, becoming drier or oilier. Similarly, some women find that their nails become stronger, while others find that their nails split and break more easily. These hair and nail changes are not permanent – most women will even lose hair after they deliver or after they stop breastfeeding.

 No. 7: Bigger feet, new shoes

 Your feet will swell up, due to the water retention caused by hormones. You may go up one or two shoe sizes and you’ll find that buying slip-on shoes are more comfortable. But what you may not know is that your feet may remain a size larger even after you give birth!

 No. 8: Loose joints

 During pregnancy, your joints actually become “looser”. This is because your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which is believed to help prepare the pubic area and the cervix for birth. Relaxin looses the ligaments in your body, making you less stable and more prone to injury. Make sure you don’t overstretch or strain yourself, especially when you exercise or lift objects. Go slow and avoid sudden, jerky movements.

 No. 9: Varicose veins, haemorrhoids and constipation

 Varicose veins are an inevitable part of pregnancy, because hormones cause the veins in the legs become enlarged and blood pools in the area. Reduce the discomfort by trying not to stand and sit for long periods of time, wearing loose-fitting clothing, wearing support pantyhose and elevating your feet when you sit. The veins in the rectum can also become enlarged, causing haemorrhoids (grape-like clusters in the veins of the rectum). This condition can be very painful, causing bleeding, itching or stinging during or after a bowel movement.

Hand in hand with that is constipation, which is also common during pregnancy because the hormones slow the rate of food passing through the digestive tract. As you get bigger, your uterus may push against your large intestine, making it difficult for waste to pass through. The best way to prevent these nasty conditions is to eat a fibre-rich diet, drink plenty of fluids daily and exercise regularly (but carefully). Don’t be shy to tell your doctor about your haemorrhoids, as he can give you a cream or ointment to shrink them.

No. 10: Things that will come out of your body…besides baby

The surprises don’t stop coming, even on the delivery date. You may be surprised by how much amniotic fluid (the water that breaks before labour) comes out – about 2.1 to 5.9 cups for a full-term baby. For some women, however, they only experience a small trickle because the baby’s head is blocking the flow. In some women, their water doesn’t even break at all, and the doctor has to rupture the amniotic sac.

Other unexpected things may also come out of your body during labour (besides your baby), including stool, flatulence (gas) and urine. You should not be embarrassed by these because it’s perfectly normal due to your body’s natural need to push. By the time your baby comes out, though, you will have forgotten everything else and you will have the nicest surprise of all!

The Star Newspaper, May 9, 2009
By Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar