It’s crazy to think that we are already half-way through this pregnancy! I’m officially 20 weeks along (now 24 weeks at the time I’m posting this), and the first half of these nine months has flown by. Considering almost two months passed without us knowing that I that was pregnant, plus the fact that I have barely had any “symptoms,” most of life has just been going by as normal. Now that I’ve finally started to grow a little bump and we’re realizing just how fast these months are flying by, our new life is setting in and changes will start to come quickly as we enter the second half.
Since I’m officially half-way through this pregnancy, I thought I would share an update about how everything has been so far. Prior to getting pregnant or before I even thought it was on the horizon, I always had been somewhat interested in pregnancy just because I knew at some point I would most likely be pregnant (I’m sure other women can relate!). It’s one of those topics that you know the general idea due to watching other women in your life go through it or your mom sharing her experience, or even through TV and movies. But there’s plenty I’ve already learned just through these 20 weeks that I didn’t know before getting pregnant, so I thought I would share for other women who are either interested or just found out they’re pregnant.
Here’s 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Pregnant (Part I):
- Most of pregnancy is uncomfortable. I always thought pregnancy wouldn’t be super uncomfortable until your belly got larger, but in reality, the changes that happen to your body starting from the beginning can make simple things uncomfortable. Aside from morning sickness (which I was super lucky not to get), another symptom that is not talked as much about is insomnia. The number of factors that have affected my sleep since we discovered I was pregnant are far and wide. Everything from waking up in the middle of the night due to feeling hungry, to my normal sleeping positions feeling uncomfortable, to muscle cramps and aches, a frequent need to go to the bathroom, and even vivid dreams. As your uterus begins to expand, which is the original cause of your overall expanding belly, you might notice yourself feeling uncomfortable towards the end of each day. When I could still fit into my high-waisted pants, I noticed they would seem much tighter and uncomfortable by the end of the day, even though my belly didn’t necessarily look like it had grown at all. Once this starts happening, I suggest transitioning to stretchy pants that will feel comfortable for longer days and ditch the high-waisted jeans!
- Symptoms greatly vary from woman to woman. If I’ve learned anything from the past few months, it’s that pregnancy symptoms truly vary depending on the woman, her genetics, and either fortunately or unfortunately, luck. One of my friends had terrible nausea and morning sickness throughout the entire first trimester of her pregnancy and would get sick multiple times throughout the day. Other women have felt so incredibly tired that they use any free time they have to take a nap. Many women have food aversions to things they loved prior to pregnancy, or super strong cravings for certain food items. Since these symptoms are so frequently referred to when the topic of pregnancy comes up, I thought that I would for sure have these symptoms. I was pretty surprised (and still am!) that I have barely had any of these symptoms throughout these 20 weeks. The only food ‘aversion’ I had was that I didn’t find dark meat very appealing for a couple of weeks, and preferred chicken or no meat. That only lasted a couple of weeks and since then, I’ve had no specific cravings or food aversions. Pretty much everything is the same, which is about the last thing I expected.
- Sleep is precious (and hard to get). I always figured it would be difficult to sleep once you hit the third trimester for obvious reasons. But nobody warned me that I might have trouble sleeping starting in the first trimester! Even before you might figure out you’re pregnant (and way before your belly starts to grow), your body goes through various changes. I’ll spare some of the details that can easily be found by searching Google, but probably the most uncomfortable side effect of pregnancy for me regarding sleep was night sweats. Obviously, your hormones completely change when you become pregnant, but I had night sweats every night for several weeks in both the first and second trimester. Not only would I wake up drenched in sweat, but I would then have to get up, change into dry clothes, and figured since I was already up I might as well get a bathroom break in so I wouldn’t have to wake up to go again later. Unfortunately for me, I had a really hard time falling back to sleep after this nightly cycle, whether it was because I felt more awake now that I had woken up, or I started thinking about everything else that was making me uncomfortable, or just general insomnia since I struggled with that prior to becoming pregnant.
- Be ready to give up more than just alcohol. This is the change that I was not nearly prepared for since, once again, nobody had ever told me. In addition to alcohol, a pregnant woman must give up a variety of food that may cause harm to the baby, such as deli meat, raw fish, fish high in mercury content, undercooked meat (say goodbye to pink steak), undercooked eggs (that means all eggs with runny yolks and anything with raw egg in the ingredients – think cookie dough, caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, etc.), soft cheese and anything unpasteurized. You’re also expected to limit caffeine, if not completely give it up, and cannot take the majority of medications. Basically, good luck if you get sick! FYI: Your doctor should be able to answer any questions about specific medications or provide you with an alternative and safe option for some basic meds.
- Hormones can be crazy. Although I lucked out of the majority of pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester, my hormones were definitely all over the place. In addition to the night sweats I mentioned earlier, I also had major mood swings that came totally out of the blue. Some days I would wake up super happy, feeling confident about this huge change that was going to happen in a span of several months, and not worried about a thing. Other mornings I woke up feeling pretty depressed, like my life was over, and there was no way I could handle being a mom. While this is completely normal, it can definitely be unnerving. If you suffer from lasting depression while pregnant, there are a variety of resources to turn to that your doctor can and should provide.
- Baby’s first movements are super subtle. It’s most common to feel your baby move for the first time between weeks 16 – 25. Apparently if it’s your first baby, it’s likely you will not feel the baby move until closer to 25 weeks. However I felt our baby move right before week 17! I was sitting on the couch watching TV with Dom when I felt something weird in my stomach, sort of like a muscle spasm. But I had a weird feeling that it was the baby since it was such a different feeling than anything I’d ever felt. I said to Dom, “I think I might have just felt the baby move. Or it was a muscle spasm. Not sure but it was weird.” Since I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t sold that it was the baby’s movements, so I quickly looked it up (via google of course) and determined that there was about a 50% chance it was the baby. However when it happened again the next day, I was pretty confident. Ever since then, I have felt the baby move every day and the movements have gotten more noticeable, stronger, and more frequent. Now when someone asks what it feels like, I tell them it kinda feels like a little fish is swimming around in there (and sometimes punching you). Ha! Sounds super weird and is hard to describe when you haven’t experienced it, but it’s surreal to feel the baby move and confirm that there is actually a little human growing in there!
- Your skin might change during pregnancy. Apparently this is another symptom that greatly varies from woman to woman, but what I had heard most in regards to a pregnant woman’s skin was the ‘pregnancy glow.’ All I can say now is LOL to that. While some women might get this magical ‘glow,’ I would not consider myself one of them. My skin has become even more sensitive than it was prior to pregnancy and I had to completely change my skincare routine because I started breaking out all over again like I was back in middle school. Luckily with just a few different changes in my skincare regimen, I’ve found a new routine that has kept my skin mostly clear, but it’s still frustrating to be an adult woman with an already changing body due to pregnancy (most changes that you wouldn’t willingly choose), and on top of that get teenage acne. Not exactly a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately the skin changes might not stop there. While I haven’t experienced any other of the common skin symptoms (yet), it’s apparently very common to get melasma (splotchy darkening of the skin), varicose veins (noticeable blue veins on your legs that are often painful, not to mention not very pretty), linea nigra (a dark line that runs from your belly button down the rest of your abdomen), skin tags, darkening of freckles, moles and other darker parts of your body, and, of course, stretch marks (most often on your belly, breasts, thighs and/or butt).
- The size of your belly seems to change on a daily basis. Now that I am further into my second trimester (in my sixth month of pregnancy!), my belly size does not change as rapidly as it did in the end of the first/beginning of the second trimester. Often I would wake up in the morning barely looking like I was even pregnant, but by the end of the day my stomach would be protruding by several extra inches. I learned that there are a variety of reasons for this, the main reasons being that a) your body (and therefore, belly) retains fluid throughout the day, leading to an expanded stomach, and b) your abdomen muscles are the tightest at the beginning of the day, helping to hold your uterus up and in, whereas by the end of the day your muscles are tired out and can no longer hold your ever-expanding uterus as tightly as several hours prior. I actually found this super interesting, plus it makes total sense when you think about it.
- Leg cramps are a thing. Unfortunately if you’ve ever had leg aches – that feeling where your legs are just aching for no apparent reason and there’s not much to do to relieve the pain besides wait it out – you could feel these aches throughout your pregnancy. My leg aches didn’t hit until the second trimester, but now they are a frequent occurrence. The aches are definitely more likely to hit when I’ve been walking or standing around for several hours throughout the day, but they have also hit when I’ve only been out and about for an hour or so. Drinking water might help, but the most relief you’ll get it just giving your legs a break for several minutes.
- You’ll need to buy a lot of new things for yourself, too, not just your baby. I’ve been blown away by the amount of items a baby needs since becoming pregnant. When you haven’t really been around many babies, you just don’t know the number of items needed for newborns and toddlers that are necessary to keep them healthy and, frankly, alive. However I’ve also been quite taken aback by the number of items that I’ll need post-baby, as well. The female body is amazing and giving birth is truly a miracle, but it obviously takes a huge toll on the female body. There’s so much you’ll need to purchase for yourself during pregnancy and post-pregnancy to keep your body healthy, to keep up with your changing body (whether it’s growing during pregnancy or recovering after having a baby), and of course for when and if you decide to breastfeed. I won’t get into the extensive list, but it’s worth doing some research to at least mentally prepare!
For those of you who actually read this whole blog post, you’re probably just as curious as I was about what happens to the female body during pregnancy. Until you go through it, it’s such a weird “unknown.” While I could have probably found all of this information prior to becoming pregnant by searching the internet, I would have loved to have someone lay it all out for me so I knew what was coming and what to expect. Many aspects of pregnancy are amazing (and a lot of women love being pregnant!), but there are also a variety of symptoms and surprises that might catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. I always like to be mentally prepared rather than blindsided, so I hope you find this somewhat helpful! I plan to do another blog post closer to the end of pregnancy with an additional ’10 Things Nobody Tells You About Pregnancy,’ but for those of you who might have something to add, sound off in the comments!