THINGS THEY DON'T TELL YOU ABOUT PREGNANCY AND BIRTH
Miscarriages are surprisingly common. Likely, many women you know have experienced one or more. And not talking about it doesn’t make it disappear. Women are encouraged not to announce pregnancy prior to the three-month mark, because the likelihood of unviable pregnancy occurs most commonly in the earlier weeks. In the event of pregnancy loss, women are supposed to carry on as though nothing happened or changed. If this happens, know you’re not alone, grieve as long as you need to, and don’t feel that it has to be kept secret. Take comfort, if you can, that a lost pregnancy probably means that the fetus was developing abnormally, meaning it’s very possible it wouldn’t have been a healthy child according to the laws of nature.
The unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy are not limited to the ones you hear about: Morning sickness, mood swings, heartburn, swelling, fatigue. All-day sickness is something I can vouch for; it’s like a 24/7 worst-ever hangover and it can last well past the first trimester. There’s also a bunch of unexpected ones: Peeling fingernails, lowered immunity, temperature regulation issues, unusual discharge, gestational diabetes, Bell’s palsy, dental cavities, skin rashes, itchiness, dizziness, blurry vision, sciatica. Everything under the sun, it seems, is considered a normal symptom of pregnancy. Thankfully, a lot of it is temporary. And, of course, some women feel better than ever during pregnancy.
When you are pregnant, you develop something called a mucus plug that seals the entrance to your cervix, keeping the baby protected from outside pathogens. Sometime prior to or during your labour, you will lose this plug. It will probably come out while you’re going to the bathroom. Do not be alarmed when it happens. You are not giving birth to an alien. It just means labour is approaching, but it could be days or even weeks before it starts. Just let your midwife or doctor know at your next scheduled appointment (unless there is bright red blood accompanying it, in which case tell them right away).
The due date is only an estimation. It is normal for babies to be born up to two weeks before or after the due date. In the vast majority of cases, there is no need to naturally or artificially induce labour. Even if your midwife or doctor recommends inducing, you can refuse, especially if you value minimal intervention. A fun idea to take the pressure off the impending birth is to plan a “Due Date date”; that is, plan a date night or special activity with your partner or family on the day your baby is due. If the baby comes before that you won’t mind the event being cancelled but, if not, you have something else to look forward to and distract yourself on that day. If induction is necessary or desired, acupuncture can be used as a natural option.
Going into labour is nothing like they portray in the movies. In all likelihood, your water breaking will not be the first indication of labour, and it could happen any time up until very close to the time of birth. The membranes can rupture in a big gush, or it might be a slow leak. When the water does break, things usually start moving more quickly, and it gets more uncomfortable because there is no longer a cushion between the baby’s head and your pelvis, but it is a necessary step closer to meeting your baby. Very rarely, babies can be born en caul, which means they are born with the amniotic sac still intact and fully surrounding them. Contractions tend to start slow and build up, getting stronger and closer together over time, meaning there is no need to call the midwife or rush to the birth centre or hospital the minute you feel a contraction. In fact, it’s advised to get some rest or just continue about your day as normal when contractions start, because it could be false labour or it could be a substantial amount of time before the baby makes an appearance, so you’d be wise to conserve your energy.
There’s a good chance you will poop while giving birth. Everyone there will see you do it. It’s an unpleasant thought. It’s an unpleasant experience. Physiologically speaking, when you’re pushing a baby out, everything in and around the area is going to come out from the pressure. At the end of the day, it’s really not a big deal, it’s just part of the deal. You might not even realize you’re doing it. You might not do it at all. (I’m one for two). Someone from your birth team will quickly whisk it away and everyone will soon forget about it because the baby will be the focus of attention shortly thereafter. If you’re really lucky, one day your partner will get food poisoning bad enough that they poop themselves in front of you, and then you can call it even.