Want to learn all you can about being pregnant and delivering your baby? Learn 11 pregnancy secrets you didn’t know about (but should!).
I had been so afraid of labor. Even before I thought about having kids, I assumed the hardest part of being a parent was the physical pain of giving birth.
When I finally decided to have kids, I still focused so much on labor I didn’t think about the nine months I still had to go through to get to that point. (Never mind the real challenge of parenthood and raising kids.)
I learned during those nine months that a lot went on leading up to giving birth—and that labor turned out to be the least of my worries.
Instead, pregnancy was filled with surprise after surprise. Many of the lessons I learned demystified my misconceptions of pregnancy, and others were completely new to me.
Pregnancy secrets you didn’t know about
Thing is, no one talks about these pregnancy secrets. We either forget (or have selective memory!) about what it was like, or we assume others won’t care to know what we went through. Other topics could be too touchy to talk about, depending on whom you talk to.
Well, I’d like to be that person to tell you what I wish I knew about pregnancy. Below are my top 11 pregnancy secrets no one tells you about:
1. You can’t sleep on your back
I’m the type that tosses throughout the night, trying to find that comfortable position to fall back asleep. And the position I love the best is to sleep on my back.
Turns out that after a few months of being pregnant, we can’t sleep on our backs any longer. The weight of the baby and the placenta bear down too much, causing us to wake up short of breath and anxious.
Instead, the ideal sleeping position is to sleep on your left side, which is the optimal way to get blood and oxygen to the baby and placenta.
I thought sleep deprivation only happens after the baby is born. While restless sleep isn’t the same as waking up to a crying baby, I was still surprised to learn sleep issues started long before the baby even arrives.
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2. You pee a lot
This is one of the side effects of pregnancy that nearly every pregnant woman feels. Throughout your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, you’ll use the bathroom—I’m not kidding—about an hour every day.
We’re already so large by that point that waddling to the bathroom is no easy feat, even for the healthiest of pregnant women. But because the baby is by then so large, our bladders are pushed down and can’t keep the same amount as another woman not carrying a baby.
Plus, pregnant women are supposed to drink tons of water to reduce potential early contractions and swelling. Drinking extra water without the bladder capacity to handle it explains why pregnant women pee often.
3. Your hands and feet will swell
Before having kids, I pictured pregnant women as increasing in size only in the belly area. After all, that’s where the baby grows, not anywhere else. So, imagine my surprise when I learned we also swell in other parts of our bodies, especially our hands and feet.
Not everyone swells, and each pregnancy is different. When I was pregnant with the twins, my fingers got so large I removed my wedding rings for fear they’d get stuck (I wore them on a necklace chain instead). And my feet got so big I couldn’t wear closed-toe shoes any longer.
If your body happens to swell, drink plenty of water and prop your feet up higher than your heart. For instance, lie on your side on the couch and place your feet on the arm rest.
4. Morning sickness is no joke
I had pictured the typical pregnant woman crouched over a toilet seat but didn’t understand too much about morning sickness. For anyone who has ever felt hung over after a wild night of drinks, that’s pretty much what it’s like, but every day.
You have no appetite (once favorite foods are now revolting), feel dizzy with slight movements, and have the urge to throw up all the time, even if you never do. And I’m not sure who came up with the “morning” part of morning sickness, but we’re talking the whole day, too.
Imagine feeling that way, every day, for several weeks (and for some unfortunate few, their entire pregnancy). That’s morning sickness.
5. You’re only eating an extra 300 calories
I’m sure the phrase “eating for two” meant eating for two people, but not two people of the same size. I assumed pregnant women needed to eat a lot considering how much we grow, but it turns out, we only eat an extra 300 calories per day.
In fact, breastfeeding women need more calories (an extra 500) than pregnant ones.
If you want a picture of what 300 calories looks like, imagine a bowl of cereal with milk, or a baked potato—not exactly a buffet feast.
Pregnant women need to gain weight by eating healthy food in a slow and gradual way, not by gorging on unhealthy food thousands of calories galore.
6. Your hair and nails will look fantastic
We don’t have many perks and comforts from being pregnant, but one of them is having beautiful hair and nails. Prenatal vitamins contain extra calcium for your baby’s growth that also makes their way to your hair and nails.
Another vanity perk of being pregnant is you’ll have larger breasts, too. Your body will produce milk glands and prepare itself to nurse your baby. Then once the baby is born, your breasts will increase even more as it anticipates producing the milk (for a grand total of two size increases for me!).
7. You’ll experience pelvic pain toward the end of your pregnancy
I had coasted along pretty well with my first pregnancy, but around the eight-month mark, my bones were feeling crushed. It was as if a massive boulder were trying to pummel my pelvic bones from above.
No wonder pregnant women waddle, especially during that last month. The weight of the baby and all your bodily fluids are bearing down, causing you to feel pain that you may have been able to avoid for much of your pregnancy.
This is the time to lie down as much as possible, easing the weight off your pelvis and distributing it to the rest of your body.
8. You probably won’t go to the hospital right away
I blame television and movies for the inaccurate images of a pregnant woman rushing to the hospital the minute she feels a contraction. Not true!
You’ll start your labor at home and will stay for several hours before heading to the hospital, especially if this is your first pregnancy. (Labor during later pregnancies tend to proceed quicker than your first.)
I’d heard of quick labor, the kind where you’re rushed to the hospital because the baby is coming any minute now, but those are rare. You’ll likely instead have plenty of time to labor at home, even sleep, pack last minute items, and have a light meal.
9. Your body can shake during delivery
It happened in both of my pregnancies: Right when I was in the thick of pushing and delivering, my body began to shake like crazy. My teeth were chattering, as if I had stepped outside in thick snow wearing only t-shirt and shorts.
At first I thought I was nervous, but my doctor reassured me the shaking was normal and was my body’s way of handling the changes in hormones.
10. You deliver more than just the baby
While the baby is in your womb, the placenta becomes its source for food and oxygen. Before kids, I never even knew pregnant women were also carrying a placenta, much less that we’d also deliver it after the baby is born.
But don’t worry—the placenta is nothing like delivering the baby. It doesn’t need strenuous pushing to get out, especially since it’s a blob and your baby has already paved the way.
11. You’ll look like you’re six months pregnant after giving birth
Even after delivering the baby and the placenta, your body won’t shrink down to its pre-baby size right away. Instead, you’ll go home looking like you did when you were six months pregnant. (Keep this in mind when you think about what to pack or wear those first few weeks after giving birth.)
Your uterus does shrink pretty quickly compared to how long it took to grow, but it definitely won’t be immediate or even overnight. It’ll likely go back to its pre-baby size four to six weeks after giving birth.
Like all things with parenthood, we learn on the job. As much as I read up on what it’s like to be pregnant, I often had to learn along the way as I experienced these situations.
We’re also all different—what may have been a sure symptom for one woman won’t happen to another.
Still, it’s helpful to feel prepared and know what to expect or what might happen. And that, despite my initial assumptions, pregnancy is much more than labor and giving birth, but the nine months preceding it.
Get more tips:
- How to Keep Up at Work During Pregnancy
- Surviving the First Trimester when You Have No Idea Where to Start
- 9 Things to Do Before the Baby Is Born
- Come Prepared: Your Hospital Bag Essentials
- How to Deal with Gender Disappointment During Your Pregnancy
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