Pregnancy is something very wildly common no matter what part of the world you live in. After all, millions of women go through pregnancy each year which inevitably means that millions of babies get born each year. As such, any given pregnant woman will never be at a loss for companions who have been through the whole deal with morning sickness and darkening underarms, swollen feet and pregnancy brain fog, childbirth and C-section.
But despite the fact that it happens all the time, there are still several things about pregnancy that we don’t quite understand. It seems that every few years, we discover something new about it that changes the way we see the whole process of baby-making. It turns out that as we continue to understand pregnancy and childbirth better than ever before, we’ve discovered some insanely weird things about it.
Things happen to mom’s body that most of us couldn’t even imagine. We’ve also debunked some myths about pregnancy, some of which are pretty intuitive and have been accepted as fact for decades. In addition, since every mom’s body is different, some really crazy things have happened, pregnancy-wise, in the past.
So take a little tour with us and explore some of the strangest, most absurd but absolutely true facts about pregnancy that can make any mother scratch her head. Given everything that’s going on with her body, she probably already knew that the pregnancy thing is really crazy. It’s just that she didn’t know that it was this crazy.
15 Babies Can Taste
The baby begins swallowing amniotic fluid as soon as her digestive system becomes functional. That’s pretty much a developmental fact that most mothers know. However, it’s not only this plain amniotic beverage that the little one gets to taste in the womb. Studies show that babies can actually taste the stuff that mom is eating! See, flavor compounds in the food often find their way into mom’s bloodstream during the process of digestion. These inevitably end up in the amniotic fluid!
As such, researchers have actually found that babies develop a preference for food that mom ate while they were pregnant! For instance, moms who ate garlic during pregnancy gave birth to babies who liked the taste of garlic, whereas those who avoided it gave birth to babies who were repulsed by it. So it’s probably best for the expecting mom to eat plenty of vegetables, just so she won’t have trouble forcing them into a toddler later on!
14 Was That Gas?
Moms who have given birth before, on average, can feel their baby’s first movements, also known as quickening, earlier in the pregnancy compared to moms who are pregnant for the first time. This curious phenomenon didn’t make much sense at first. Until, of course, experts found out that many moms often mistook their baby’s first movement as gas or indigestion! After all, the average first-time mom has absolutely no clue what quickening feels like. It’s only after she gets to feel the more intense version kicks and rolls of the little one that she learns to recognize it.
As such, during any subsequent pregnancies, she’s more aware of the subtle movements of the baby. More importantly, she is familiar enough with it that she can certainly distinguish it from indigestion! Think of it this way: the first time you’re in love, you’re probably not quite sure if it’s love. Once you know what it feels like, you can recognize it right away!
13 A Bigger Heart
Some people might say that, figuratively, a mom’s heart gets bigger because it can now accommodate more love than ever before. However, that isn’t purely just symbolic. It turns out that mom’s heart does literally increase in size during pregnancy. This is because mom requires more blood to sustain the pregnancy as the uterus gets bigger and bigger. In fact, some estimate that there is an up to fifty percent increase in blood volume during pregnancy!
But, as we all know, blood is pumped throughout our bodies by the heart. A heart of the normal size just can’t handle all that blood on its own. So, during pregnancy, it does the sensible thing and increases in size to get things going. The bigger heart is now able to pump an increased amount of blood per minute, ensuring that the entire body, including baby, is well-supplied with a healthy amount of oxygen and nutrients!
12 Longest Pregnancy
Forty weeks is a long time to carry a baby. We can all agree on that. But how would you feel if you were pregnant for more than fifty-three weeks? That’s exactly what happened to one Mrs. Beulah Hunter, 25 years old, of Los Angeles, in 1945. She was pregnant for 375 days. Yep, more than a year! Doctors now speculate that, due to hard times, the baby did not get enough nutrition in the womb and so her little girl, Penny, took a bit longer to develop.
If we’re going to be totally technical and include pregnancies that did not end in a live birth, the record goes to Huang Yijun of China who carried a baby in her womb for so long that it turned into stone! This phenomenon, called lithopedion, occurs when a dead baby calcifies in the womb. 92-year old Yijun carried the stone baby inside her for 65 years!
11 Male Pregnancy
Life is inherently unfair at times. Men have it easy while women get to feel all the pains of pregnancy and childbirth. Unless, of course, her husband develops couvade syndrome, a condition in which dad actually experiences physical pregnancy symptoms. In most cases, he’ll also experience mild symptoms such as morning sickness, mood swings and weight gain. However, some actually do experience more distinctive symptoms such as belly swelling and even labor pains!
It’s still unclear how this happens. Some people think it’s a sympathy reaction in which dad unconsciously emulates the symptoms mom is facing just to “be with her” in a sense. Others, however, believe that hormonal changes actually do happen in soon-to-be dads, causing the symptoms. Whichever the reason for couvade syndrome is, scientists are still stumped. But you must admit, it’s kind-of sweet, in a weird way, that dad somehow feels some of mom’s pain and discomfort!
10 Miscarriage Galore
Many pregnant moms fear miscarriage. After all, wanting a baby badly, only to have it for a few weeks and then lose it can be difficult. It turns out, however, that miscarriage is probably more common than the average woman thinks. Some studies estimate that up to a quarter of positively diagnosed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Those are some pretty scary numbers, but it gets worse. There are tons more pregnancies that actually end before the woman can even recognize that she has already been pregnant! As such, she’ll have her period at the usual time, maybe a bit later, and she’ll never think of taking a pregnancy test at all!
Most of these miscarriages, however, occur due to chromosomal abnormalities. As such, the baby produced probably wasn’t compatible with life anyway. If mom is having repeated miscarriages, however, it is best to consult the doctor to check for other possible causes.
9 Youngest Mother
Lots of people now grumble at the increasing sexual promiscuity of the young’uns. Teen pregnancy rates are rising, they’ll say while shaking their heads. But a pregnant high schooler certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the youngest ever mother on record. Lina Medina of Peru was only just five years old when her parents took her to the hospital, fearing that she had a growing tumor in her abdomen. Tests confirmed, however, that the large lump was actually a pregnancy! Needless to say, the doctors were pretty shocked.
It turns out that the young girl hit puberty at an extremely precocious age. And then, she was raped at some point. Her own father was suspected by the authorities at some point and was arrested. However, there really wasn’t any evidence that he raped his own daughter, and so he was released. The father of Lina’s child, until now, remains a big mystery.
8 Oldest Mother
At around the age of fifty, give or take, women hit menopause, that period in life where their menstrual cycle simply stops and they are no longer able to give birth. But stories abound of women who have been able to give birth even at advanced ages, including biblical figures such as Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Elizabeth, the cousin of the Virgin Mary. It turns out that these incidents aren’t just limited to the Bible.
For instance, one Daljinder Kaur of India was able to give birth to a son at the ripe old age of 70 (although some records suggest she was 72 years old!) Daljinder and her husband, 79-year-old Mohinder Singh Gill, had wanted their own child for decades. However, they were not able to get pregnant until, after half a decade, the couple opted for IVF treatment. This resulted in a pregnancy which blossomed into a bouncing baby boy named Arman.
7 Pelvic Separation
We often think of our hip bone as one inseparable unit that holds part of our body together. But it’s actually composed of several bones that are, more or less, permanently stuck together. That is, unless mom gives birth. Two of the bones that compose the pelvis are stuck together smack in the center by a cartilaginous joint called the symphysis pubis. Just like many cartilaginous joints, it can be moved, but only very slightly.
During childbirth, however, the baby has to pass through the pelvic bones at some point. As such, the symphysis pubis has to actually separate to accommodate the baby. We don’t know about you, but the idea of bones separating is just cringe-worthy. For most women, the separation is temporary and the bones pop right back together after childbirth. Some unfortunate moms, however, experience a more permanent and painful separation called diastasis of the symphysis pubis. Yikes!
6 Safer Pregnancies
While many people now advocate going back to “safer” childbirths of the past, the truth is that pregnancy now is safer than it ever has been before. After all, many pregnancy conditions that used to be death sentences, including a transverse lie, are now treatable. As such, many women whose lives could have been in peril a hundred years ago can now give birth safely in any medical facility.
In addition, we’ve addressed the two most common reasons for maternal death in the past: hemorrhage and infection. We now understand the factors that contribute to an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage, so we can nip it in the bud. In the off chance that it does happen, we can also now do blood transfusions to keep mom from going into shock. Plus, delivery room teams all now wash and glove their hands and keep all equipment sterilized, thus reducing the chance that dangerous microbes are introduced during the process.
5 Don’t Eat For Two
Cravings sure kick in when mom is expecting. And many figure that it’s alright because mom is eating for two. Only, that’s not accurate. Because one of the “two” is not a full-grown adult. In fact, even at mom’s most pregnant, she only needs to eat only 300 extra calories for the baby. For reference, 300 calories is only a small bar of milk chocolate. Or a medium-sized omelet. Or, if you’re feeling it, a large pile of brussels sprouts! Needless to say, it’s not very much. And considering all the health risks involved in excessive weight gain and overeating, it’s probably best not to go overboard.
However, if mom consistently craves food, there is a possibility that she could actually be craving a few nutrients that are deficient in her current diet. Some might even crave non-food stuff like chalk and laundry detergent! In this case, it’s best to consult a doctor to determine where the nutritional deficiency lies.
4 Heartburn And Hair
Correlation doesn’t always equal causation. And there are some very weird correlations out there. One particular study set out to disprove the legend that women with heartburn are likely to give birth to babies with a full head of hair. However, the study found, and we quote, that “contrary to expectations, it appears that an association between heartburn severity during pregnancy and newborn hair does exist.”
And we all know that “contrary to expectations” is basically research-ese for “Holy Moly, we were not expecting this, but here you go.” The researchers suspect that this is because the same hormones that relax the lower esophageal sphincter during pregnancy (thereby causing heartburn) may play a role in the development of hair of the baby in the womb. So while we wait for a few more studies to confirm this link, the mom with tummy troubles might want to invest in some good baby shampoo.
3 Baby’s Breath
While in the womb the little one will be breathing, in a sense. Of course, there isn’t much in the way of air in the womb. The baby, therefore “breathes” in and out amniotic fluid around her. The purpose of this isn’t actual breathing, however, as amniotic fluid does not contain enough oxygen to sustain the baby. This is merely an exercise, a bit of a dress rehearsal, if you will, for the big day when the baby finally gets her first real breath. After all, until then, the little one has to keep those tiny little breathing muscles nice and toned so they can do their job.
So how, exactly, is the baby actually breathing? Not through the lungs just yet, it turns out. At this time she is still getting oxygen from mom. Oxygen in mom’s blood gets transferred to the baby via the placenta and the umbilical cord, which is essentially “breathing in.” At the same time, carbon dioxide produced by the baby goes into the umbilical cord and transfers to mom’s blood. Pretty amazing.
2 Much Expansion
The uterus wasn’t a very large to begin with. In fact, it’s pretty small as far as body organs go, measuring only about the size of a small orange. To accommodate a baby, however, this small little sac undergoes some major changes! For one thing, it stretches, much like a balloon would stretch once it’s filled with air. At the same time, it also increases in mass as hormones stimulate the growth of uterine tissue. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the uterus pretty much becomes the size of a watermelon. That’s about 500 times its original size, if you think about it!
The other amazing side to this is that the uterus actually returns to its pre-pregnancy size after childbirth. This is a process that can take only as little as six weeks! By this time, the uterus will have lost some of the mass that it has gained and will have shrunk right down. There is one major difference, though: the uterus that has already been pregnant will be a bit stretchier and more elastic!
1 Getting Pregnant… Twice!
The pregnancy fact that tops the list is probably this: it is possible to get pregnant while you’re already pregnant! Granted, of course, that this is an extremely rare phenomenon that occurs in women who occasionally experience superfetation. This is basically when a woman still manages to ovulate within the first few weeks of pregnancy. If mom just happens to have sex at the right time, the sperm will fertilize the newly-released egg, resulting in another baby! Technically, this shouldn’t happen as pregnant women release hormones that suppress ovulation. Apparently, however, sometimes a few weeks into pregnancy the hormone levels aren’t enough to completely stop it.
As such, the two different babies in the womb will have different gestational ages, something which mom and the doctors will have to take into consideration as the big day approaches. The babies will, naturally, have to be born at the same time. However, one might end up slightly premature.