These days, most people know the common things to expect when pregnant. But what about the things no-one tells you about?
Morning sickness, tiredness and weird and wonderful cravings top the list of what to expect when you’re expecting. But what about all the hidden surprises that lie in wait over the nine-months till your baby is born?
We speak to some mums-to-be to find out about their pregnancy experience – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
Let’s be clear – falling pregnant can be a wonderful joy.
For me, it was after a solid three years of trying, both naturally and through IVF, that our first daughter was conceived. So even feeling sick, tired and emotional was greeted with a hallelujah. One positive and unexpected pregnancy benefit I experienced was a glowing complexion, but when summer kicked in, I was a sweat master.
Some women head back to their teenage years during pregnancy.
Acne can rear its head again due to raging hormones, which can also colour your nipples a dark brown and cause the veins in your breasts to bulge like bulbous roots under the skin.
Hormones can also cause crazy hair growth, and not just on your head – it may grow on your breasts, tummy or face.
After childbirth, some women lose chunks of hair while brushing, although don’t panic as most of it grows back within a year.
And what about how women become public property when their bellies begin to protrude?
Abby Futcher has three children, aged five, four and 18 months, and she remembers strangers approaching her to touch her stomach – mostly in admiration, but it felt intrusive.
“Who owns our bodies? We do – just because we’re growing a baby doesn’t make our bodies a free-for-all.”
Futcher also developed Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), an irresistible urge to move the legs, which is described as feeling there are insects crawling inside your pins.
“It used to happen at night, [which] was super annoying, and had no cure other than having the baby.”
And what about all those extra bodily fluids?
I remember being 25 weeks pregnant, sitting in a cafe for a work meeting and suddenly feeling my nose run. The look on my colleague’s face suggested it was more than a mucus overflow. My nose began to bleed profusely, and I continued to enjoy random nosebleeds for the rest of the pregnancy.
Oh, and did I mention excessive vaginal discharge? During pregnancy your vagina secretes more mucus than usual, especially when you’re preparing for labor in your third trimester. It’s totally normal but, if you have vaginal bleeding or spotting call your doctor straight away.
Fiona Taylor has two children, aged eight and six, and her memory of unexpected pregnancy symptoms features heartburn, which she suffered in the last trimester.
“After almost every meal I felt a burning pain. Also, during my second pregnancy I noticed my shoes had jumped up a whole size – must have been all that extra weight my poor body had to lug around over the years.”
If you get heartburn you can try simple things like eating smaller amounts and sleeping with your head slightly raised. If it continues speak to your doctor or pharmacist as there are some medications you can take to help relieve symptoms.
Ready for the full-on pregnancy stories rarely spoken about at the dinner table?
Hormones can take a toll on your digestive system. Fiona Taylor suffered from heartburn, but constipation and gas are also common side effects, as well as having to dash to the toilet for number ones every five minutes. In some cases, women experience haemorrhoids, thanks to all the vigorous attempts to be regular, hormonal changes, and the pressure in your pelvis as the baby grows.
In the final months, I developed diastasis symphysis pubis, which is when the gap in the pubic joint widens too far (it’s meant to widen a little in preparation for birth). The symptoms? Pain in the pubic and hip areas and down the insides of your thighs, which is made worse by walking up and down stairs or walking for long periods.
And let’s not forget melasma, when brown patches happen to good skin. Pregnancy hormones cause cells in the epidermal layer to produce more melanin, resulting in irregular dark blotches that can be permanent.
Despite the negative nature of these pregnancy side effects, when your longed-for baby finally arrives, all that discomfort goes out the window and love wins. Until you fall pregnant again.