Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pregnancy, Labor, Delivery and Postpartum - What You May Not Know

I'm a first time mom - the whole experience of pregnancy, labor and delivery and life postpartum was completely foreign to me and I had no idea what to expect. I had never been around pregnant women growing up and had only ever held a baby a few times. So the time spent between the bed and the toilet, especially in the first several months of my pregnancy, I spent doing my research. Pregnancy groups and forums, blogs, books, apps...I looked just about everywhere and just spent a lot of time reading and asking questions.

But even all that research didn't fully prepare me for what was in store! Some of the things on this list I was aware of; others came as a complete surprise. So here are the things I came up with, that you wouldn't think to expect while you're expecting! 


1. Morning sickness is not necessarily just in the morning. It can hit you like a freight train at any time of the day and it can be ruthless. And unfortunately for many women, the saying that it "goes away after the first trimester" is a lie. An evil lie. For me, the vomiting lasted until a few weeks into my third trimester, then picked right back up during the last three weeks, lasting until the day I gave birth.

2. Don't rely on the heartbeat to determine the baby's gender. My son's heartbeat was 160 bpm at my first few appointments, making me think he might be a girl, then it dropped to the 140's after we found out the gender! The heartbeat really depends on how active the baby is at the time. 

3. Honestly, lack of sleep does not start when the baby is born. It starts much, much sooner. If you're lucky and aren't dealing with a lot of pregnancy symptoms in the beginning that are preventing you from sleeping in the first trimester, you will be able to take some serious hibernation-like naps, all with drool and crazy dreams. Otherwise, you'll begin to get up just about every hour at night to use the bathroom. Even when decreasing your fluid intake, you're still going to be getting up often. (And you really shouldn't decrease your fluid intake anyway.) It tends to get a little better in the 2nd trimester, then get worse than ever before in the 3rd. I got to where I could actually partially sleepwalk to the bathroom with my eyes closed, just to make it easier for myself to fall back to sleep when I got back to bed. 

4. Acid reflux. It haunted me for the entire second half of my pregnancy, finally letting up a tad once the baby dropped. Acid reflux just plain sucks. It seriously does. There were times that it was so bad, it would keep me up all night and cause me to throw up. It wasn't until I started stacking my pillows up high in the bed, cutting certain "trigger foods" out of my diet, that it became tolerable. Drinking a glass of milk or eating a yogurt also helped take the edge off for me. 

5. Just because you didn't see a single sign of stretch marks for the first 8 months of your pregnancy, does not mean they won't show up in your 9th month! Happened to me. 

6. Let me sing you a little song about something called "diastasis recti" or "abdominal separation". I did not even know it was even possible for your abdominal muscles to split apart until I went to lay back on the table at my midwife's office and saw my stomach shape itself into a pyramid, which was basically my uterus bulging out between my muscles. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. Apparently it's very common, but I had never heard of it before! I am guessing the cause of mine was likely due to poor posture.
It won't necessarily happen to you, but it's definitely something to be aware about. Unfortunately, once you have it during pregnancy, there isn't much you can do to help it until after baby has arrived. But there are precautions you can take and several exercises to do postpartum to assist the healing process. I wish so DESPERATELY I had seen this pin on Pinterest several months back, but I of course didn't think to look until after I was aware. This page has some great exercises and tips:

7. Besides a growing belly, you will notice lots of other changes! A few unexpected ones for me were: I only had to shave my legs once every two weeks, because the hair stopped growing! However what didn't grow on my legs, began to show up in other unexpected places! Haha! Another was that my hair would not get greasy very often at all, so I didn't have to wash it as often. 

8. Your sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy. So things that you normally might find pleasant smelling (perfume, candles etc.) can become way too strong. I also found my sense of taste was heightened. So I would have to brush my teeth about 4 or 5 times per day to help get rid of the nasty taste in my mouth! 

Labor & Delivery

1. This is one thing I was not prepared for: Even though it may not be active, labor can last for weeks! I went to the hospital two times for false labor, prior to actually giving birth. I started having real contractions at around 37 weeks that stuck around no matter what I did, unlike braxton hicks, which usually stop if you lay down and drink water. These were close together and fairly intense, but would eventually end up spacing off.

2. Just because you're dilated, does not mean that you're going to give birth the next day or even several weeks. As mentioned above, labor can last for weeks and all those braxton hicks or practice contractions are actually dilating you slowly! Every woman is different - some women will not be at all dilated or effaced and go into labor the next day. I was 1cm dilated and 60% effaced at 36 weeks and went past my due date.

3. Your water doesn't necessarily break on it's own! And when it does, it might not be the only time it does! I was 9cm dilated when my midwife broke my water and she had to do it again not only once but TWICE after she did the first time! I had no idea your water could be broken so many times. Apparently it has layers.

4. Contractions aren't always several minutes apart. Once I got to about four centimeters, my contractions were one on top of the other, because I was dilating so fast. I barely had 30 seconds in between them to breathe. This is what ended up causing my decision to get an epidural, because I just couldn't take it anymore. 

5. You may choose ahead of time to get an epidural. However, be aware that you have to be at least 4cm dilated to get it.

6. Yes, you are going to poo in front of people. And no, you're not going to care. You will be so preoccupied with pushing something the size of a watermelon out something the size of a lemon, that you won't even have time to think about it. I'd say you wouldn't notice it, but I did - which actually gave me a much needed laugh!

Postpartum Recovery

1. Recovery can be pretty painful, especially if you tore or had an episiotomy. Witch hazel, tucks pads and dermoplast will be your best friends! Also a peri-bottle (used to squirt warm water on your lady parts while you do your business), which most hospitals provide and send home with you. 

2. You're going to bleed. A LOT. And it can last anywhere from 2-6 weeks. At nearly 8 weeks postpartum, I am still spotting a little bit. It's definitely a good idea to stock up on some maxi pads before giving birth, because the ones you will (most likely) receive from the hospital won't last very long!

3. Contractions don't stop after giving birth, because your uterus needs to contract back to it's normal size. You'll feel them especially while you're breastfeeding, which is why I put a heating pad on my abdomen every time I nursed my son for the first two weeks. It seemed to really help. Also ibuprofen. LOTS of ibuprofen!

4. Your belly takes a while to shrink back to it's normal size! You won't just pop out the baby and BAM - there's your pre-pregnancy belly. It took about a month for my belly to shrink back down to it's "normal" size and it can take a lot longer than that. And once it does shrink down, it will be pretty wrinkly and squishy, especially if you ended up getting stretch marks.

5. Breastfeeding is HARD. I am not going to lie. Especially in that first month, it is very painful and exhausting. And once your milk comes in, engorgement is an added struggle, until your milk supply regulates itself. This can take several weeks. There are SO many times I've wanted to give up, especially in the middle of growth spurts and Vince wanting to nurse constantly. And you can't just hand your boob over, so someone else can take over a feeding. You can pump your milk and have someone bottle feed, but you have to pump to make up for that missed feeding, so your supply doesn't drop. So it's still the same amount of work, if not more, because you have to wash the bottles and pump supplies. 

6. Breastfeeding does have a lot of pros though! One, it helps you lose the baby weight! I had heard this many times before giving birth, but had no idea to what extent. It REALLY helps drop the pounds. Two, no washing bottles or mixing formula in the middle of the night! You can feed in a side-lying position to where you can both just crash right out after the feeding. Three, it is said to help prevent postpartum depression, because of the release of oxytocin.

That's just about everything! If there's anything I left out that you didn't think to expect while you were expecting, leave me a comment below! :)

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Leah | www.sahmiam13.blogspot.com/