When trying to have a baby, many women become more aware of themselves physically. They monitor their ovulation and pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of various stages of their cycle each month. In anticipation of seeing a smiley face staring back at them on a home pregnancy test, many research what the early symptoms of pregnancy are, so they’re better able to manage their expectations.
Once the pregnancy starts, mom's system is in for a whole world of change that doesn’t just last through pregnancy, but also for the next two years as her system works to return to its pre-pregnancy self. So, what does it really feel like to be pregnant? While each pregnancy for each person is its own unique animal, there are some trends and feelings that are universal. While some women can lean in to their inner goddess and really bask in the power of pregnancy, others have a tough time coping with the many changes they go through, counting down the minutes until they are no longer pregnant. Here’s what it really feels like to be pregnant, and trust me, it’s nothing like the movies.
20 Out of control Mood Swings
As someone who threw their fair share of pregnancy related tantrums, particularly relating to my morning sickness, I can confirm that although I was aware these outbursts were completely irrational, it was a challenge to tame them. Mom Marissa said, “When I was three months pregnant, a slice of cheese made me burst into tears. It wasn't even an actual piece of cheese -- just the idea of it. I was still in that phase when most foods made me gag, and after I ordered a plain turkey wrap at the diner, I became irrationally convinced that the cook was going to sneak in an unwanted slice of Swiss. As my husband tried to calm me down, I got more hysterical, convinced that my dinner would be ruined, and he just didn't understand what I was going through!”
19 Ravenous Cravings
Pickles and ice cream, midnight Big Mac Attacks, we’ve all heard of the intense cravings in pregnancy. While it may seem that only a specific food will do, Dr. Rebarber says, "It's not that the body actually needs the specific food you are craving, but it may need something in that food. And your taste buds just interpret it as a craving for something specific.” It’s more likely that a craving for fries may be that your body needs more sodium. Craving frozen yogurt? You probably need some additional calcium or fat in your diet.
18 Momnesia & Mommy Brain
The fog of mommy brain is widely known, and extends into the early, sleepless nights after baby arrives. This is another pregnancy symptom that can be blamed on progesterone, which is a calming hormone but is also linked to why you can’t find your glasses (they’re on your head) and forgot to head to that dentist appointment. Mom Caroline says of her ‘baby brain’ experience, "When I was pregnant with Parker, I once put my older son Peter's Legos in the refrigerator, and then I tried to serve him a cup of keys to drink!"
17 Hot, Hot, Heart Burn
According to Baby Center heartburn is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms that women get, with as many as eight out of 10 having to deal with it to some extent. Heartburn is caused by acid in your stomach coming up into your esophagus, which comes back (as acid reflux) into your throat and mouth, giving a burning sensation, pain, and sometimes leaves a sour or bitter taste in your mouth. Thankfully many heartburn medications are safe to take during pregnancy, so just ask your local pharmacist. In my last trimester my purse was filled with Tums.
16 Extensive Exhaustion
Since most women work to keep their pregnancy a secret until the second trimester, it can be a challenge to hide how exhausting pregnancy is, as they try to ‘carry on’ like nothing has changed. Many equate the feeling to the exhaustion of running a marathon. Mom Nelson says, “The first trimester, I would feel fine one minute and the next second I would feel as if I hadn't slept in a week," and added that normal activities like making a meal or simple housework seemed daunting. I remember taking a two hour nap every day after work and still falling asleep on the couch before 10 each night. Luckily by week 13, this feeling usually lets up!
15 Look But Don't Touch
This was the second pregnancy symptom I felt, and at first it seemed no different than the standard PMS type tenderness. The body gets ready for nursing early in pregnancy as extra fat deposits form in the breasts, to be able to produce milk in a few months. Many women find their breasts swelling long before their baby bump makes an appearance, and while they look fantastic, they ache. The sore feeling, like PMS tenderness, can come and go throughout pregnancy, and nursing – sorry ladies!
14 Round Ligament Pain
You know that feeling you get once in a blue moon, when you sneeze or cough hard and feel an acute shot of pain near your groin? Whether you’ve experienced that in non-gestating life or not, round ligament pain in pregnancy feels exactly like that and can be jarring, and can also be compared to some period cramps. Most common to begin between the 16th and 22nd weeks of pregnancy, round ligament pain is a sudden, stabbing pain that originates from the sides of the uterus down into your crotch.
13 Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks Contractions are how your body practices for real labour, and while most don’t start to feel them until later in pregnancy, they begin at around 12 weeks. Dr. Hoffman says that they’re not usually painful, but feel more like the uterus is tightening up, like a basketball. Others compare it to menstrual cramps, or like you’re holding a weight lifting position for a long time and your muscle begins to cramp from the strain. While uncomfortable, most women aren’t writhing around in pain from them, but are just aware of them as they come and go.
12 Out of Breath - Loss of Lung Capacity
As baby grows bigger, many moms find that they’re feeling it in their lungs. Suddenly a flight of stairs feels daunting. One mom complained on parenting forum Baby and Bump Momtastic, “I've felt like someone was kicking me in the solar plexus (right in the lower center of my chest/rib cage) and squeezing both lungs. It starts out as a sort of pressure in my chest/lungs, but tonight that spot in the middle of my ribs got really painful and I felt like someone was literally squeezing both of my lungs.” The good news is, once baby is out lung capacity returns to normal.
11 The Party-Free Hangover
Morning sickness is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, and in the movies, one of the very first things a pregnant woman experiences to make her click into the idea that she might be pregnant. Most morning sickness, caused by the quickly changing hormone levels, notably one called HCG, doesn’t start until week six of pregnancy, after a period has been missed. For me morning sickness felt like a bad hangover, you’re dehydrated because you can’t keep anything down, you have the sweats, and have no appetite. I had to get off the subway on my commute to be sick and in one of my less stellar moments even threw up in the trash can under my office desk. Thankfully for most, it ends some time in the second trimester.
10 Internal Insecurity
One mom sought out help on Baby Center saying, “I have felt very insecure these past weeks especially now that I have gotten bigger, that maybe my boyfriend will lose interest in me.” Others worry that they won’t be good parents. Taking on new challenges, like pregnancy, is scary and can feel overly challenging. Mix that in with a heavy dose of pregnancy hormones and you have the recipe for intense insecurity. Remember to talk things out with others who have been through it, and your partner, so they can help better support you and your needs.
9 Symptom Free Pregnancy
A symptom free pregnancy sounds like a dream to many expectant moms whose bodies are putting them through the ringer, but it can often trigger worry among those coasting along that something is wrong with them or baby. Mom Coco says, “I was (experiencing a symptom free pregnancy) and I freaked out about it. I was convinced I was going lose the baby but both scans showed a strong heartbeat. My mom was the same way, so I don't know, maybe it's genetic like stretch marks.” Get monitored by health professionals if you are experiencing a symptom-free pregnancy and try to enjoy!
8 Feeling Flatulent
On an average day, people who aren’t gestating a baby will pass gas about a dozen times. Thanks to the pregnancy hormone progesterone which relaxes muscles and slows your digestive tract moms can expect a lot more gas, bloating, and discomfort. While the gas can be uncomfortable, painful, and cause you to need bigger pants, even before you’re far into pregnancy, there are things you can do to lessen it. Foods to consider cutting down on include beans, whole grains, cabbage, broccoli, corn, high fat and fried foods.
7 Screaming Sciatica
Back problems and pregnancy go together like peanut butter and jelly, unfortunately. As many as 50 to 80 percent of pregnant women report some form of back pain. Pain can be mild or strong and range from shooting sharp pain to dull aches. Sciatica will not just provide back pain, but also pain in your rear-end and thighs. Pregnant women experiencing back pain are encouraged to contact their medical professional to help alleviate the pain safely. Sciatica creates issues with walking, standing, and even sitting, although in most cases will ease up post-pregnancy.
6 Taking On Too Much
With daycare waiting lists, a nursery that needs decorating, and hiring a replacement for your parental leave, it’s no wonder pregnant women can feel completely stressed to the max. Dr. Lucy Puryear says, “The (hormonal) changes have big effects on your mood. You can be tearful one minute and happy the next." Mom Kathleen recalls her pregnancy stress surfacing in brief, but intense 10-minute meltdowns saying, “All the stress in my life would merge, and I'd sob hysterically for 10 minutes. Then it was over, and I'd happily go on with my day."
5 A huge load to carry
Most women gain anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds during pregnancy thanks to the weight of the baby, placenta, water weight, and the addition of 50 percent more blood in their system than when they aren’t growing a baby. The feel of the weight gain varies; some women complain of feeling bloated, whereas others feel the strain of the additional weight in their joints and back. Mom Carol describes the later stages of pregnancy, "When you try to bend over, it's like there is a tent pole propped between your pelvis and ribs keeping you from folding over enough to reach your own shoes.”
4 Super Hot Like a Furnace
One of my friends had the air conditioning pumping so high in her twin pregnancy that her husband was sleeping beside her in a thermal sleeping bag, in August. While it’s common for the additional blood, weight, and pregnancy in general to make mom feel the heat more, be mindful to make sure that your body isn’t overheating. Symptoms of overheating include a feeling of weakness, dizziness, dehydration, exhaustion, or nausea. On hot days stay inside, limit your activity, and drink more water, even if it means additional trips to the loo.
3 Feeling Excited (or Not)
Some women are instantly excited about their pregnancy the second they find out, whereas others have mixed emotions, or the pregnancy doesn’t quite feel real as a baby you don’t know causes significant changes to your life and body. Both reactions, and everything between is completely normal. Paulette Saure says, “Initially, I wasn’t excited with being pregnant because I had a lot of fears about the process. The “what-ifs” about a ton of different scenarios were in my head. But as I progressed, the experience became a very loving one. Then I got excited about meeting our son. He’s going to have his own personality and his own dreams and goals, and I’m just excited that we get to be there every step of the way.”
2 Nervous Nelly
Being a parent adds a whole other level of stressors to your life, even though it is worth it. Mix these emotions with a cocktail of pregnancy hormones and you have a recipe for some stressful situations. Shira Danan wrote, “I've always struggled with anxiety, and at times, while I was pregnant, my fears became powerful [...] Though I had no cause for concern, I worried constantly about the health of my growing baby and obsessed over how I would cope if something was wrong.”
1 Sensitive To Smells
We all hear stories of women asking their husbands to change deodorant or hair gel during pregnancy because suddenly the smell makes them sick. Women first notice an increase in smell sensitivity during the first trimester, which some medical professionals tie to a trigger of morning sickness. This heightened sense of smell is natures way of preventing mom from ingesting spoiled food that may harm baby. Consider switching to unscented products, swapping who is cooking food that is bothersome, and avoiding the worst offending smells to help combat some of the more notable triggers.