Pregnancy for Dummies (Wiley Publishing).
Buy it here.

Ch. 19
“Ten Things Nobody Tells You”

Don’t worry. We know of no conspiracy keeping you from knowing all there is to know about pregnancy. But your friends, sisters, cousins – whoever tells you what to expect with your pregnancy – often forget the little details, especially the more unpleasant ones. Furthermore, other books often gloss over this stuff, perhaps in the interest of decorum. Well, at the risk of being indecorous, we’re going to give it to you straight in this chapter.

1. Pregnancy Lasts Longer than Nine Months

Patients always ask, “How many months along am I?” and we have trouble giving them a precise answer. Pregnancy is said to last nine months, but that number isn’t exactly accurate. The average pregnancy lasts 280 days, or 40 weeks, starting from the date of the mother’s last menstrual period. (You think 40 weeks is a long time? Just be glad you’re not an elephant, which has a gestation period of 22 months!) If a month is four weeks, that calculation comes out to ten months. On the calendar, however, most months contain four weeks plus two or three days, so nine calendar months often do contain close to 40 weeks. Practitioners speak in terms of weeks when measuring gestational age because it’s more accurate and less confusing.

2. Other People Can Drive You Crazy

Friends, relatives, acquaintances, strangers, and even your partner give you unsolicited opinions and advice and want to share with you every pregnancy horror story they’ve ever heard. They may tell you your rear looks big, you’re too fat (or too thin), or you shouldn’t be eating whatever you’re putting in your mouth.

We realize these people usually have only good intentions when they tell you how their sister’s pregnancy ended badly, or about the trouble a friend of a friend had. They don’t realize that they’re increasing your anxiety. Don’t pay attention. Try to politely smile and ignore them. Tell them you really don’t want to hear this story right now. If you have any real problems or concerns, talk them over with your practitioner.


3. You Feel Exhausted in the First Trimester

You may already have heard that you’re going to feel tired during the first trimester, but until you go through it, you really have no idea how overwhelming the fatigue can be. You may find yourself looking for every possible opportunity to catch a few winks – on the bus, on the train, at work, or even on the exam table waiting for your practitioner to come into the room. Rest assured this fatigue does go away, usually by the end of the first trimester (at about 13 weeks), and you do get your usual energy back. Look out, though. Around 30 to 34 weeks, the physical stress of pregnancy may overwhelm you again, and you may go back to feeling pretty washed out for several weeks. Frequent naps either in the first trimester or at any time are always a good idea if you’re feeling tired.

4. Round Ligament Pain Really Hurts

The round ligaments run from the top of the uterus down into the labia. As the uterus grows, these ligaments stretch, and many women feel discomfort or pain on one or both sides of the groin area, especially at about 16 to 22 weeks. Practitioners tell you this symptom is only round ligament pain and it’s nothing to worry about. And they’re right – don’t worry. But you deserve some sympathy (you have ours) because this pain can be fairly intense.

You can probably ease round ligament pain a bit by getting off your feet or changing positions, thereby taking the pressure off the ligaments. By the way, if you’re having twins or more, the round ligament pain may begin earlier and last longer. The good news is that round ligament pain usually diminishes by about 24 weeks.


5. Your Belly Becomes a Hand Magnet

After your stomach protrudes noticeably with pregnancy, you’re likely to find suddenly everyone presumes touching it is okay – not only your friends, family members, and the people you work with, but also the mailman, the cashier at the supermarket, and other people you’ve never even met. Although some women appreciate the extra attention, many find it an invasion of privacy. You can either grin and bear it or discover how to say, “Hey, hands off!”

6. Hemorrhoids Are a Royal Pain in the Butt

Your best friend may say she’s told you everything about her own pregnancy. But has she remembered her hemorrhoids? Believe us, hemorrhoids happen pretty often, and when they do, you’re in for some very noticeable pain and discomfort. Hemorrhoids are dilated veins near the rectum that become engorged because of the pressure on that part of the body or because of pushing during delivery. Some women notice hemorrhoids during pregnancy, others don’t have any problem with them until after delivery, and some very lucky women never have them at all.

If your hemorrhoids are significant, be prepared for some discomfort after vaginal delivery. Most hemorrhoids go away within a few weeks. If you’re fortunate enough not to have them, realize how lucky you are – and have sympathy for all the other new mothers who do have them.


7. Sometimes Women Poop While Pushing

Our patients frequently ask us about having a bowel movement during labor, so although it may not be the most genteel subject to bring up, we’re going to anyway. Pooping while pushing doesn’t happen every time; however, it’s fairly common. In all likelihood, you and your partner aren’t even aware of it happening because your nurse quickly wipes away any mess and keeps you clean throughout the pushing process. If it does happen, don’t give it a thought. No one, including your doctor or your partner, is going to be grossed out.

8. The Weight Stays On after the Baby Comes Out

Most women can’t wait to weigh themselves after delivering 10 pounds or so of baby, placenta, and fluid. Contain yourself. Wait at least a week. After delivery, many women swell up like dumplings, especially their hands and feet. This extra water retention adds pounds. If you step on the scale right away, you may be very disappointed at the number that comes up. The swelling generally takes about a week or two to go away.


9. Hospital Pads are Relics from Your Mother’s Era

At some hospitals, the nurses offer you sanitary napkins from the 1920s – and a cute little elastic belt to hang them on. If you’re a time traveler or if for some other reason you prefer this kind, great. But if you want something a little more contemporary, bring your own box of large-size pads with side tabs (along with some fairly sturdy underwear – no thongs), or ask your practitioner what you can expect to find at the hospital.

10. Breast Engorgement Really Sucks and Breast-feeding Can Be a Production

Of course you know your breasts fill up with milk after you deliver your baby. But what you may not have heard is how painful and cumbersome this engorgement can be if you aren’t breast-feeding, or when you decide to stop breast-feeding. Your breasts may become rock hard, tender, and warm, and they sometimes seem to grow to the size of blimps. Fortunately, the discomfort is temporary; this intense period of engorgement lasts only a couple of days.

We encourage all of our patients to breastfeed due to the benefits for the baby, but keep in mind it may be harder than you think. Needing some extra help and assistance is very natural. Fortunately, most hospitals have lactation specialists that can help you milk the process along.


How come nobody tells you about the unpleasant details?

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