13 things I wish I had known before I got pregnant | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 10.09.2021

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13 things I wish I had known before I got pregnant

From mood swings to cravings — you've heard it all. But there's other stuff in pregnancy we don't hear so often. DW's Anna Sacco lists her personal top 13.

A pregnant woman holds her unclothed belly gently

For such a wonderful thing, pregnancy will do some strange things to your body

I'm pregnant. Again. And to be honest, I'm surprised myself. Not too long ago, I was the one telling my best friend — a mother of two — that if you've been through childbirth once and decide to have another child, you've got to be a masochist.

Did I just forget what it was like? Perhaps.

But there are things about my first pregnancy that I will never forget because I wrote them down. Some are bizarre, some are weird and some surprising for a first time "preggo." And some may even be useful. So, I thought I'd share them.

If you're pregnant or thinking about having babies or maybe just curious, here are 13 things (from a list of over 30) that few people talk about, but I wish I'd known before I got pregnant.

Watch video 09:49

Real Talk Baby: The perfect age to have babies

1. Getting pregnant can happen a lot faster than you think ...

... even in your late 30s. Even if you were planning to have a baby, holding that positive pregnancy test in your hands can still come as a shock. Doubts about whether it's the right time or the right age come up every time. But is there ever a perfect time to have a baby?

2. You'll feel your organs shift — very early on.

"The uterus, which is usually tilted forwards or backwards, straightens due to its growth," explains gynecologist Anke Richter. "This may cause slight discomfort or a pulling sensation in the lower abdomen."

3. You will get so tired sometimes ...

... you'll want to lie under your desk at work. That's because your body has to produce extra hormones in pregnancy — hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and the pregnancy hormone hCG. That process contributes to morning sickness … which is more like an "all-day sickness" by the way. But you will feel less sick after your first trimester.

A pregnant woman sitting on a floor, practicing muscle relaxation and breathing

Pregnancy can be exhausting — you'll want to sleep under your desk at work

4. Every time you pee, you will feel an intense need to check your underpants for blood stains 

In the early stages of pregnancy, there is always a chance you might have a miscarriage. Between 10% and 20%, or as many as 1 in 4 known pregnancies, end in miscarriage. And that's perfectly natural. But even a light spotting of blood — harmless if it's what's known as "implantation bleeding" — can be frightening.

5. People are honestly happy for you

You will be trying to process the fact that you are growing a little person inside your own body, while people around you compliment you on this "achievement" — almost as if nothing you ever achieved in life before really mattered.

6. Feeling sudden movement in your bowels at odd times during the day?

Yup, that's your baby kicking. It's tough telling the difference between a kick and flatulence when your baby is small. But you will fart a lot more (and a lot smellier) than you ever did before. Richter says: "The increased production of progesterone and estrogen reduces muscle tension and may lead to more gas in the intestine." Your growing uterus will also put pressure on the intestines … squeezing out every bit of gas.

A fetus as seen by ultrasound

Kick inside: Babies need space — and they will make sure you know it

7. Your hair will look amazing ...

... before it all falls out. It's true that some women "glow" during pregnancy. Increased hormone levels clear your skin and lead to more stable and longer hair growth. But once you give birth, your estrogen level drops and after about 3 months, your hair can start falling out. So try not to get too used to your stunning mane — it won't last.

8. In pregnancy, you grow an additional organ

The placenta, which serves as a "sustaining station" for your baby, has finger-shaped branches that penetrate the tissue of your uterus to connect with the body via its veins and arteries. It provides the fetus with oxygen and all the nutrients it needs to grow, and can even produce its own hormones. What a weird and fascinating super thing is that?

A placenta in a medical container

The placenta sustains your baby — and comes out after you give birth

9. Babies do pee in the womb ...

... inside of you. The baby absorbs nutrients via its umbilical cord connected to the placenta, processing them and excreting the waste, such as urine, just as people after they've been born. But in the womb, a baby's pee has nowhere to go. So, the baby drinks or breathes it back in (babies don't breathe air in the womb) and the cycle starts all over again. It's a funny thought. And a bit gross.

10. If you hear a baby cry, your breastmilk may appear at the ready ...

... even if it's not your own child crying. Midwife Peter Wolf describes this common reaction as a "nervous highway." Your body quickly stores the information chain: Crying child, needs milk, produce milk. After birth, your breastmilk may flow at the simple sight of them in a photo or if you sit in a chair where you usually feed them. 

Watch video 02:54

What happens during a pregnancy?

11. You'll have about 40% more blood in your body than usual

Towards the end of pregnancy, blood flow to the uterus increases tenfold, from 50 milliliters per minute to 500. And that's not the only thing growing with increased blood flow: Your nose can get bigger because of something called pregnancy rhinitis. Richter says 30% of pregnant women get it. But it's unclear how it is triggered: "It may be that the hormonal change leads to a swelling of the mucous membranes," she says. On the plus side, your sense of smell improves.

12. Your sex life may change dramatically ...

... but not always for the better. Your sex drive changes constantly in pregnancy due to hormones. Wolf says that "libido in the first few weeks is dampened by a knockout feeling, nausea and dizziness," but in the second trimester things can stabilize. In addition, fluids in your body will increase, such as around the vulva, the clitoral complex and various erectile tissues around the vaginal canal. "Many pregnant women feel very lusty and easily aroused during this time," says Wolf.

A man and a pregnant woman, snuggling on a bed

Your sex life will change too — more than once

13. It's cute when pregnant women stroke their bellies with pride

But I've discovered that the reason for all that stroking is rather less cute: It's probably because of heartburn or reflux. It could also be that your baby is pressing or kicking against your stomach. So, the stroking can be basic pain relief.

In case you were wondering, the kicking sometimes can feel like that scene in Aliens. But it's also nice in a weird way. You really are growing a brand-new human inside of you. And how wonderfully crazy is that?

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