When we learned about pregnancy in general health class, it’s likely the details of the changes a woman’s body goes through and the various symptoms were glossed over. Pregnancy may only be 9 months long, but a lot happens in those 9 months, as well as before and after them. The good news is that so many women are starting the conversation now and opening up about these experiences a lot of us share. So, as women, what should we know about our bodies and pregnancy? We should definitely know more than the basics.
What happens to our bodies during pregnancy?
We all know the typical and obvious symptoms of pregnancy like missed periods and weight gain. But did you know that spotting can be a sign of pregnancy? Fatigue, breast tenderness, heightened sense of smell and taste and bloating are all also early signs of pregnancy. Here’s what other various bodily changes you can expect to go through during pregnancy:
- Mood swings (caused by hormonal changes)
- The infamous “morning sickness” AKA queasiness (not-so-fun fact: it doesn’t just occur in the morning for a lot of women.)
- Headaches (likely caused by stress or caffeine withdrawal – drinking lots of water can help with this)
- Digestive issues
- Hormonal acne
- Leg cramps
- Sensitive gums (Did you know pregnancy can make you more prone to gum disease? Turns out, flossing really is important.)
- Mild itchiness
…just to name a few. No big deal, right? Pregnancy makes a lot of changes to your body and any of these symptoms can occur throughout. However, no need to panic. Many women feel the need to express how easy pregnancy can be due to all of the negative talk around it. For some women, it can be a very trying and difficult time and for others, it’s a breeze. Sometimes, it’s one experience for one pregnancy and another for the next! You never know what your exact symptoms will be, but it’s important to know what can happen and what’s “normal.”
Is it hard or easy to get pregnant? How do I know if I’m infertile?
Becoming pregnant can be quite difficult for a lot of people, so it’s important to know that taking some time (even months) to fall pregnant is common. According to the Office on Women’s Health, infertility is defined as trying for a year or more to get pregnant and it’s also a common occurrence. If this is the case for you, you should check with your doctor to determine the cause. Did you know PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women? But proper education means this doesn’t have to be discouraging. Infertility caused by PCOS is actually entirely manageable with an ovulation plan created by you and your doctor. This is why staying educated and advocating for our own health is important. It can change our lives.
The good news? Just as it can be difficult, it can also be incredibly easy to get pregnant. Some couples begin trying and are surprised to discover they’re pregnant the first time around! One experience isn’t any better or more normal than the other and it’s important to try to reduce your stress around getting pregnant as much as possible. Ironically, stress in your mind stresses out your body and can actually make it more difficult for you to get pregnant.
When is the best time to get pregnant?
Fertility decreases with age, but there is no best age to get pregnant. You will, of course, be most fertile in your 20’s, but it’s entirely possible to have healthy babies in your 30’s and 40’s and we’re seeing it more and more often today. According to Healthline, fertility begins to decline around age 32 and speeds up around age 35. Older eggs make it more likely that your baby will have a health defect. However, perfectly healthy babies are possible even after 40! Making a proactive plan with your doctor will help ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy at any age.
Women’s Bodies After Birth
We often discuss and hear about our bodies during pregnancy, but not what happens to them and what changes occur internally and externally after birth. Being prepared for this is just as important as being prepared for your pregnancy body and your newborn baby. Some examples of these changes include:
- Incontinence (this often is caused by pelvic floor issues that can be fixed and disposable, absorbent panties can help in the meantime)
- Pelvic prolapse (when an organ shifts from its original position)
- Scar pain
Along with accepting your body’s physical changes (like loose skin and changed appearance,) it’s important to take note of what you’re feeling and what internal symptoms you may have. Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing anything that feels off and know that not only are a lot of these symptoms entirely normal, but they’re treatable.
When it comes to our bodies and the changes they face before, during and after the exciting time of having a baby, it’s important to prepare for what’s ahead. That means learning the risks associated, the kind of out-there symptoms and the physical changes we may not want to think about, as well as all of the beautiful changes that come along. When it comes to our health, it’s better when we’re prepared.