“When I was pregnant with you,” your mother’s early-morning text message will read, “people would tell me I was glowing. I just felt so beautiful and confident knowing I had a perfect little baby inside of me.”
Nope. Don’t believe it. Your mom is an amazing woman, and you wouldn’t be who you are without her love and guidance. But she is straight lying to you about pregnancy. Your mom wants that grandbaby now, and she doesn’t want to scare you away from parenthood with any brutal honesty about morning sickness and hemorrhoids.
Having a baby is wonderful. Miraculous, even. But being pregnant can be really hard when your body begins to transform. Here are some of the challenges of pregnancy your mother is holding back from you, and some tips to overcome them.
1. Your breasts will change. A lot.
Sensitive and sore breasts arrive as one of the first symptoms of pregnancy—an indication that your body is producing extra hormones to support your baby. And hey, your boobs already get tender during your period. How bad can it be? It varies from mother to mother, of course, but for some pregnant women, tight fabric on the breast is like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.
Darkening areolas—the area around your nipples—are another early indication of pregnancy. You can blame your body’s increased estrogen levels, which boost production of melanin (which gives your skin pigment). This darkening may grow more pronounced as your pregnancy progresses, and the color shift often remains after giving birth.
(You may also notice the emergence of a dark vertical line running down your belly. That’s just linea nigra—Latin for “black line”—and is nothing to be worried about. Linea nigra usually fades a few months after delivery.)
Expect your breasts to start growing bigger at around six to eight weeks due to increased blood flow to your chest. They’ll continue to swell until you give birth as milk ducts and milk-producing cells form. How big will they get? It’s not unusual to go up one or two cup sizes, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. And—get this—as your skin stretches, it may become dry and itchy. You may also notice stretch marks.
Geez, your mom really should have given you a heads up about all of these boob issues. Our advice is to wear a comfortable and supportive bra, especially if you exercise. You can treat itchy skin and stretch marks on your breasts with a simple moisturizer. Cocoa butter and shea butter are both popular options.
2. Brace yourself for constipation. And hemorrhoids.
One of the most important hormones your body releases during pregnancy is progesterone, which helps to relax your uterus muscles so you don’t have early contractions. That sounds great, right? Yeah, progesterone! Unfortunately, progesterone also decreases the strength and frequency of bowel contractions, and it’s not unusual for pregnant women to find themselves pretty backed up.
Really, really seems like this is something your mom could have told you. She might also have mentioned that the common treatment for constipation during pregnancy is increased physical movement, more water throughout the day, and smaller meals with extra (but not excessive) amounts of fiber.
When relief from the constipation finally comes, you’ll discover the hemorrhoids. You heard right! Turns out many pregnant women experience swelling in the veins in and around their rectums. These hemorrhoids are caused by the growing uterus, increased blood flow, and strain from constipation, and typically range from the size of a pea to the size of a marble—no way you’re going to miss them.
Hemorrhoids may itch and burn and are sometimes accompanied by rectal bleeding during bowel movements. You might also consider using wet wipes instead of toilet paper to avoid aggravating the inflamed area. And keep getting lots of water, walking, and fiber!
3. This is where we talk about morning sickness. And afternoon sickness. And yes, evening sickness too.
Your mom must have at least mentioned “morning sickness” at some point? Huh. Well, to be honest, that term doesn’t fully capture it. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can happen at any time of day (or night), although illness can be worse first thing in the morning. Some combination of symptoms affect nearly three quarters of pregnant women during the first trimester.
Good news: About half of pregnant women who get nausea during the first trimester feel complete relief by about 14 weeks, according to BabyCenter. Most other women will see the symptoms ease up within another month or so. A small percentage will just be perpetually ill until delivery. Hope that’s not you!
Our advice: Avoid foods and smells that may trigger that puke-y feeling, and eat small meals throughout the day so that you never have a completely empty stomach. Don’t drink lots with your meals, have a drink separately. If you suffer from really bad nausea and vomiting, you may be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum and will need to see a doctor—and possibly get an IV. (Maybe your mom can drive you there?)
4. Wake up. Pee. Repeat.
You’ll want to go just go back to sleep, but you just can’t. You really, really, really have to pee again.
Here’s what your mom forgot to tell you: shortly after you get pregnant, hormonal changes will increase the blood flow to your kidneys, causing your bladder to fill more frequently. In fact, the amount of blood in your body will increase by 50 percent over the course of your pregnancy, leading to lots of extra fluid moving through your kidneys and bladder.
Your bathroom trips will only increase as your uterus gets bigger, adding increased pressure to the adjacent bladder. In your third trimester your baby’s head may actually press directly against your bladder—which will make you have to go worse than ever, just when rolling out of bed is becoming a struggle.
Why do you have to urinate so often at night, you ask? Because when you lie down and pull the covers over your tired body, the extra fluid your retaining in your feed and legs makes its way back into your bloodstream before making a beeline for your bladder.
Is there anything to be done about this constant urination? Yes, but… whatever you do, don’t cut down on your water intake. You and your baby both need plenty of fluids. Instead, try to stay very hydrated during the day and cut back on late night fluids. And make sure you lean forward when you’re on the toilet, which we help you fully empty your bladder.
5. Swelling? Swelling!
Hide the strappy sandals deep in the closet. It’s time to break out the loose-fitting grandma slippers and talk about swelling.
Mom may not have told you this, but swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by the additional blood and fluid that’s circulating through your body—that same blood and fluid making you go to the bathroom so frequently. 25 percent of weight gain during pregnancy is due to fluid retention.
As uncomfortable as swelling may be, it’s well worth it down the line it: extra fluid helps to soften your body, which allows you to expand as your baby grows larger. Extra fluid also helps prepare the pelvic joints and tissues to open for delivery.
Normal swelling—also called edema—is often experienced in the feet, ankles, and legs, causing them to swell and appear puffy. Occasionally, the face and hands also swell. Swelling may be experienced at any point during pregnancy, but it tends to be more pronounced around the fifth month and can increase noticeably in the third trimester.
You can treat swelling by keeping your legs propped up, using cold compresses on swollen areas, swimming regularly, and getting massage therapy. Maybe hit mom up for a spa gift certificate? In any case, you’ll wait have to wait until after delivery for the symptoms to subside entirely.