Things They Don’t Tell You About Being Pregnant

This is from a poster in my doctor’s office. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen that shows what happens to everything else, not just how big your uterus gets.

Any little thing wrong with your health is probably due to pregnancy.

Your body goes through amazing changes during pregnancy. Your blood supply increases about 50%, leading to extreme thirst, swelling and varicose veins. Your ligaments get all loose. Your posture changes. Your uterus jams all your other organs out of the way, leading to constipation, frequent urination, difficulty urinating, shortness of breath, feeling always full, heartburn, and more. Lots of other things happen as well, more than I can cover here.

My main point is that your body is changing in weird ways and the effects are numerous and unpredictable. So if anything happens healthwise while you are pregnant, it is likely due to the fact that you are pregnant. Bladder infection? Pregnancy. Carpel tunnel? Pregnancy. Kidney stones? Pregnancy. This is not to say that such things should not be brought to your doctor’s attention. Anything outside of the ordinary, particularly if it is not a “normal” pregnancy symptom, should be discussed with your doctor. I’m just saying that the root cause is likely the fact that you are pregnant. During my first pregnancy I couldn’t use my right hand. I didn’t have carpel tunnel, but it was something similar. I went to a doctor (not my Ob) about it, then a physical therapist. It was the PT who actually suggested that it might just be a pregnancy thing due to micro swelling. Sure enough, after delivery my pain vanished like magic.

No underwear is comfortable.

For most women I’ve spoken to, any little bit of pressure on the abdomen is really irritating during pregnancy. This makes wearing underwear and some pants extremely uncomfortable. I’ve yet to find any underwear that really works for the entire pregnancy. The hipster cut usually works for me, but often I have to wear a size larger than my actual size, which means it sags in the butt and threatens to slide off completely.

Likewise, bras can be constricting. I’ve tried wearing looser bras and this has actually been worse for some reason. At home I generally go bra-less.

Bending over is damn near impossible.

I worked up until a month before my delivery during my first pregnancy. Clumsiness and pregnancy seem to go hand in hand, so I always seem to end up dropping things more than usual. At work this meant a lot of dropped pens. I’d stare at the stupid pen on the floor, thinking “God damn it.” Bending over sucks. There’s no way to do it comfortably. Your belly both gets in the way and complains immensely if you apply any pressure. This means you either have to do the splits and bend over that way or you have to do kind of a side-bend-squat thing. Neither is comfortable, and if you’re wearing preggo pants or a belly band it feels like your pants are going to fall off.

Food aversions can be really strong.

I’m not talking morning sickness here. I’m talking about the reverse of cravings. You’ll walk into the break room at work and just smell something that makes you want to hurl. Suddenly your favorite food tastes different, or you can no longer eat a bunch of stuff. My first pregnancy I couldn’t eat Italian, Mexican or Chinese food. This time around salmon is taboo. A certain sandwich at Chili’s, which I love, makes me want to puke. Sometimes you’ll be chowing down on a food and it’s just dandy, then you take another bite and suddenly GAH I’M GOING TO PUKE.

It can be a little weird once you’re no longer pregnant. The brain makes really strong associations between foods we eat that make us feel sick that can be difficult to unlearn. Even if you loved the food pre-pregnancy, you’ll be wary of trying it again postpartum even though you know things will be fine. I recommend not trying any new restaurants while pregnant. If you dislike the food or have a bad reaction it will likely color your experience for good, and you won’t know whether it was just a passing thing or if the food actually did suck.

Labor isn’t that bad.

Movies portray labor as a horrific experience. Women are screaming for pain relief (which they never get for some reason) and there always seems to be some sort of complication. As a someone who eventually wanted to have children, the prospect of giving birth scared the hell out of me. My mother always told me to just imagine the wussiest woman I knew that had kids. If she could do it, so could I.  It didn’t make me feel any better.

But really, it’s not that bad. Pain relief is readily accessible if you’re willing to use it. Some women are all about giving birth naturally, but there is no reason you need to be in pain if you don’t want to. Epidurals are awesome. Once I got mine, I couldn’t believe I’d gone so long without it. What the hell was I thinking? I had no idea how tense I was until after it kicked in and I could relax and hold a normal conversation again.

Just get an epidural woman.

As for complications, most deliveries go just fine. However, there is a reason your Ob will want to see you on a weekly basis the month leading up to your delivery. There’s a reason that tests, like NSTs may be ordered. If the baby is in duress it’s a lot easier to catch these days than it was in the past. If needed, medical staff can usually intervene in time to save both you and the baby.

Postpartum recovery is really bad.

If you’ve seen Casino Royale you probably remember the torture scene. It’s kinda hard to forget. Bond is tied up to a wicker chair which has had the seat portion cut out. A guy then swings a huge ball on a chain repeatedly into his manhood. Vaginal birth is kinda like that, except it’s a baby’s head instead of a ball on a chain. The whole process abuses the hell out of your nether regions. You literally have a huge thing beating your birth canal bloody. You may tear or need an episiotomy. Sitting down is going to hurt like hell. In the beginning I had to sit on my Boppy pillow. I had to try and hover over my toilet to go to the bathroom.

Another side effect of squeezing a baby out is that your colon gets squished too. Pooping is going to be difficult. It took nearly a week before I could poop again, though not for lack of trying. Sitting on the toilet was painful. Attempting to poop itself was painful. The whole experience was far worse than labor, and it lasted for almost a week.

Bladder control may be an issue. It took NINE months before I stopped randomly leaking urine. If this is an issue for you I’d recommend buying special panty liners. Kegels are also supposed to help.

Sex may be extremely painful. Recovery for this one varies. It took me about a year to recover, possibly because I tore during labor and it was an internal tear. Lube is helpful for some, but not for everyone. Just don’t be surprised if it takes a while for you to be able to have vaginal intercourse again.

You’re going to bleed like crazy. For me, it was like having my entire normal period every few hours. The amount of blood is staggering. You will need the largest maxi pads available and some underwear that you don’t mind tossing out after the recovery.

I haven’t experienced a Caesarian delivery, so I can’t speak to how bad that recovery is. I do know that if you labored for a long time, including the pushing stage of labor, before having a C that your recovery is going to include all the horrible crap that comes with having a vaginal delivery. Here are some of the things I’ve heard though:

That you can’t sit up on your own (from laying down). Someone has to pull you up because your abdominal muscles have been cut. Either that or you have to roll out of bed. That you can’t leave the hospital until you’ve passed gas. That you’re not allowed to lift anything heavier than your newborn. That your underwear or pants may rub your incision.

I highly recommend putting together a postpartum recovery kit ahead of time. It should contain: super god damned heavy flow gigantic pads, Ibuprofen (safe to take after delivery), stool softener, nursing pads and lanolin oil (for your boobs). My doctor actually prescribed medication ahead of time this time, including Vicodin (hopefully I won’t need anything that strong as it knocks me out).

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