Crazy hormones, low energy, nausea, mental fatigue--the first trimester to the last definitely has its drawbacks. By the end of the second trimester (or even sooner), things are getting pretty uncomfortable, and the baby is likely kicking and jabbing internal organs like he or she is playing the drums. Muscles are being stretched, internal organs rearranged, and just walking is beginning to feel like a chore.
It feels like a concerted effort just to use the restroom. Everything feels about 10 times more difficult than it used to prior to pregnancy. All of this can have expectant moms-to-be saying, "What gives!" These changes keep coming and the only relief women have is during the few weeks of their second trimester when pregnancy symptoms seem to abate for a while before coming back full force.
Some people spend the entire first trimester feeling nauseated, while others are sick throughout their pregnancy. And the lucky ones aren’t sick at all. Then there’s the fact that expecting moms cannot take anything besides Tylenol when they're sick because it isn’t safe. Good for the baby, miserable for a pregnant mama. There’s no doubt about it. Pregnancy is incredibly difficult, and nine months is a long time to carry a tiny human being.
Despite being sick, bloated, tired, and all physical and emotional feelings on the spectrum, pregnancy has its benefits. From health benefits for the body to things women might not otherwise get to enjoy while not pregnant, there are multiple ways to benefit from carrying that little one (or ones) and enduring 40-ish weeks of pregnancy. Here are 20 benefits of pregnancy.
15 Helping Prevent Breast Cancer
The positive health benefits of pregnancy go beyond just fewer periods. With fewer periods, women limit their exposure to estrogen and progesterone. A reduction in these hormones, which are produced by the ovaries, can decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer due to less stimulation of cell growth.
Pregnant women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by breastfeeding as well. Some studies have shown that breastfeeding for at least three months can reduce a pregnant woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The changes that women’s breasts go through during pregnancy and nursing may keep the breast’s cells resistant from turning into cancer cells.
The protection that pregnancy offers women typically decreases by age 30, which is why women who are in their 30s are encouraged to breastfeed for as long as possible.
14 Peace Out Period
This has to be the best part. No more monthly cycle of disruption to the body. No more pads, tampons, awful cramps, and all that comes with the arrival of a woman’s favorite monthly visitor. And, should a woman choose to breastfeed, it can take even longer for her period to return thanks to hormones. It could come as soon as a couple months postpartum or as long as past a year, so enjoy it while it lasts.
And, when a woman's period does return, it will likely come with more manageable cramping. It is uncertain as to why this occurs, but there are theories that childbirth eliminates some of the pain receptor sites in the uterus, which, in turn, means fewer cramps. What woman wouldn't get excited about that? Especially for the women who have debilitating cramps.
13 Ultrasounds and Baby Movements
Most women never forget the first appointment at their doctor’s office when they get to see their baby for the first time--seeing the tiny blip that is their child on the screen, hearing the fast woosh woosh woosh of the heartbeat pulsing in their ears.
Most women will have their first ultrasound and see their baby for the first time at about eight weeks, but likely will not feel any movement until around 18-20 weeks. And they may not realize that what they are feeling are the baby’s movements. They are very slight at first, like small flutters in the stomach, almost like a butterfly.
Once a woman feels the baby move, it doesn’t seem to stop. These movements may be a little awkward and uncomfortable, but they can also be soothing and feel special, as they help a mother bond and have a special connection with her child before he or she is even born. Even hiccups in the womb can be fun to experience. Pregnant women can connect well with the baby before birth through feeling these movements.
12 Reduced Risk of Other Cancers
Recent studies have shown that if a woman starts her family when she is younger and has multiple pregnancies, her risk for other types of cancers is even lower, as pregnancy can protect women from both ovarian and endometrial cancers.
One theory suggests that women who ovulate less (due to pregnancy and breastfeeding) are less likely to develop ovarian cancer. Another study found that women had a 32 percent lower risk of most lung cancers if they had at least three children, while another found that women who had five or more children reduced their risk of colon cancer post-menopause.
While there is still room for more studies and research to be done to confirm these theories, the news is encouraging for pregnant women. As we take care of our bodies and our babies, we are also looking out for our long-term health.
11 Stronger Senses
An increase in the sense of smell can be one of the first symptoms pregnant women experience. Thanks to higher hormone levels of both estrogen and progesterone, many of the senses are heightened during pregnancy. With a greater sense of smell can also come a stronger sense of taste, which is why many women can have food cravings.
It can also be why a pregnant woman enjoys certain foods more than usual or likes something she didn’t previously, or even has food aversions to something she previously liked.
Women can also experience an increased sensitivity to touch during pregnancy. A massage can work wonders for someone who may be experiencing neck or back discomfort and pain. And even sex can feel different with more blood flowing through the body, this can heighten the sensitivity of touch in sensual areas.
10 Guilt-Free Eating
Okay, let’s be honest--eating is never completely guilt free. And pregnancy doesn’t give us a free pass to eat junk food all day, either. But with pregnancy comes a little more freedom to indulge on special treats every now and then.
What is important to focus on during pregnancy is for women to keep their bodies moving, as well as to keep a diet rich in nutrients including iron, fiber, calcium, and protein. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, and dairy should be diet staples. These will provide essential nutrients for the growing baby and the mother.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some favorites like ice cream and pizza, too. Moderation is key. Don’t eat an entire pizza or a pint of ice cream in one sitting--at least, not every day.
9 Focus on Health
Becoming pregnant can serve as an inspiration for women to start taking care of themselves, who may have otherwise been making unwise or unhealthy choices. Whether giving up smoking or alcohol or simply choosing healthier eating options, a woman is not just benefiting her baby, but also her body. Research has shown that women with both Type I and Type II diabetes find ways to better manage their disease during their pregnancy.
Women also tend to be more motivated to be active, whether getting outdoors more frequently, taking walks, or starting a mild workout routine. Women who are active during pregnancy and who choose healthier lifestyles tend to keep similar habits even after childbirth. This leads to an overall improved wellness for pregnant and postpartum women.
8 Healthy Heart
Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the United States, and that’s not due to stress and high blood pressure from having multiple children. In fact, studies have shown that a woman who has been pregnant at least four times is half as likely to die from a stroke than those who were not pregnant or had fewer pregnancies.
The theory is that the more estrogen that circulates through a woman’s body during pregnancy could balance the lack of estrogen that occurs during menopause. And, it’s the loss of estrogen that a woman experiences that can cause heart disease.
Another heart-healthy habit is breastfeeding for at least seven months, which can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. When a woman’s body releases oxytocin while breastfeeding, the result has a great impact on the heart.
7 More Confidence
Even with all of the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy, many women find they appreciate their bodies even more, realizing just how much they are capable of. They no longer view their bodies as just physical in appearance, nit-picking every minor detail, they start to see their bodies as physically strong, which, in turn, makes us emotionally strong, exuding confidence.
Throughout pregnancy, the details of what the body looks like become less important, and women tend to focus on what their body is doing as they carry a tiny human. Women begin to see their bodies as strong, beautiful temples, a place to grow and nurture their future child, and a vessel of love and strength as we carry and birth our new baby.
Not to mention some women just like how the bump looks alongside their new curves. Many women over the last decade have taken to wearing bikinis during pregnancy and flaunting their belly with pride.
6 Mood Boost
The powerful hormone called oxytocin is not only good for the heart, it is also a natural mood-booster. Whenever a mother nurses or holds her little one, this hormone not only plays a role in bonding, it also can keep anxiety at bay and spirits lifted, which is fantastic in those crazy first weeks postpartum, when hormones are out of whack and a woman’s body is adjusting to no longer being pregnant.
The good news: the perk continues for years, beyond the newborn days. One study showed that a married woman with children was less likely to be depressed than a married woman without children. Another study showed that moms who had leisure time to themselves enjoyed it much more than a woman without kids enjoying time to herself.
Pregnant women can take heart; the mood-boosting benefit lasts far beyond pregnancy and throughout the child’s lifetime.
5 Primo Parking Spots
From grocery stores to the big-box baby stores, many places offer parking spots for new and expectant mamas. This is a great perk to take advantage of throughout pregnancy. While it may feel awkward during the first weeks when a mom-to-be may not be showing yet, pregnant women shouldn’t be afraid to make the most of this opportunity, especially when sometimes men are seen parking in these spots (true story).
The parking spots for new and pregnant moms are typically closer to the store, which is incredibly convenient, especially during seasons when the weather is less than ideal. And, it makes waddling to the store and bringing a cart full of items back to the car much less cumbersome.
Most women find these parking spots a godsend in the last trimester when moving period becomes increasingly difficult. While you may not need these parking spots in the first trimester, you definitely will in the last one!
4 A Free Pass to Take It Easy
As women, we tend to run around and feel like we need to fill every minute of our days. We push ourselves to the extremes and don’t allow for a lot of breathing room.
It is hard to shift from the mindset of needing to take on everything and do it all, giving us the freedom to relax every now and then, or even ask for help, or say yes to help when it is offered.
Sometimes we feel guilty for taking it easy. Like we are capable of doing things on our own and don’t need someone to do it for us.
But we need to remember: this time is temporary, and we should make the most of it when we have the opportunity to relax. Give grace and allow others to help us when we need it. It doesn’t make us any less capable. It makes us human, and we are able to recognize our own limitations. So, relax and take it easy.
3 The Generosity of Others
People notice a woman who is pregnant. She’s kind of hard to miss. And when people notice, they tend to be very polite and generous. Many will open doors for a pregnant woman, and just about anyone will give up a seat so that a pregnant woman can sit. And when at an event where a meal is served, it is often suggested to the pregnant woman to eat first. These actions make pregnant women feel cared for, special, and appreciated.
Those people in her life that are closer to the pregnant woman are likely to be more generous. Friends and family will usually give her gently used items that they previously loved, whether baby clothes or toys. And they may even offer to bring a meal to the new mom after the baby is born.
The attention and generosity of others are often welcomed throughout a woman’s pregnancy.
2 The Anticipation
The anticipation of not knowing the gender of the baby can be really exciting. Whether a pregnant woman decides to find out the gender at her 20-week ultrasound or wait until the baby is born, the anticipation of not knowing can help a woman get through the rough periods, especially the entire first trimester.
There’s nothing like the anticipation of a baby’s arrival, whether pregnant women know the gender or not. Whether a first-time mom who doesn’t know what to expect, or a seasoned mom who’s got this down, women who are pregnant are excited for the adventures that are ahead. As women, we typically anticipate the best and the worst, but we know that the joy of meeting our little one and being a mom would outweigh the hormones and sleeplessness that comes postpartum.
And just as we anticipate, our child will arrive beautiful and perfect. There will be daily challenges that come with being parents, but there are also incredible rewards.
1 Better Intimacy
Thanks to heightened senses and sensitivity to touch, a woman’s body derives even greater pleasure during sex while she is pregnant. With an increase in testosterone and estrogen, which are produced by the baby, in addition to more progesterone, this can lead to an increased sex drive. Many women take advantage of this and wind up having more intimate relations with their spouse than they did before pregnancy.
While the first trimester can be difficult to get through with sickness and fatigue, by the second trimester, a woman is typically more likely in the mood for sex. And with the increase of blood in the body that is flowing in the pelvic region, the area will feel extremely sensitive, making it easier to reach orgasm, even multiple times. And in those postpartum months, Kegel exercises will keep the blood flowing in the pelvic area and stimulate the sex experience.