Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

What I Didn’t Expect When Expecting
Whose body is this anyway?

by Sarah McCosham

July 01, 2013

Congratulations: you’re pregnant! Now what? If you’re a mom-to-be, put your feet up and get reading! While you may be aware of the morning sickness in your future, there are many lesser-known pregnancy symptoms you may experience during the next nine months.

“I ate a cheeseburger.”

Pickles and ice cream may be the old joke, but unusual food cravings do often occur with pregnant women.

Aggie, mom of 20-month-old Annabelle, eats a very healthy, plant-based diet. So she was surprised when “around 25 weeks I had a craving for my first cheeseburger -- I never ate red meat before!”

Meanwhile, Andrea, who gave birth to her second daughter last March, craved salads, olives and orange Tic Tacs (not at the same time, though!)

The jury’s out on why pregnant women are prone to sudden, and often dramatic, cravings, but one thing’s certain: hormones are to blame. While it’s been speculated that people often crave what their bodies are lacking (for example, protein if you’re a vegetarian), there’s no scientific evidence to back up that theory.

In general, if you’re craving a piece of cake or cheeseburger, go for it! Just try and balance your unhealthy cravings with healthy choices. And, as a cautionary note, if you’re craving non-food items such as paper or chalk, talk to your doctor, as it may be a sign of a more serious issue.

Everything hurts

You’re growing a little human inside you, which requires a Hulk-like stretching of muscles, ligaments and skin. Dr. Abigail Litwiller, Assistant Professor of OBGYN at Indiana University, explains that during pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin causes the ligaments that hold the pelvis together to stretch. “This stretching is necessary to accommodate childbirth,” she says. The result? Aching, back-breaking, sleep-halting pain.

Lara, a teacher in Indianapolis and mom to toddler Charlotte, says that sleeping became more difficult as her pregnancy progressed. “Sleeping was definitely uncomfortable by the third trimester -- I wanted to stay off my back and tummy,” she remembers.

Adds Aggie: “I was nearing the end of my third trimester in the summer, which meant swollen ankles and calf cramps.” She found that prenatal yoga and stretching helped significantly. Dr. Litwiller says that prenatal massage is a great thing – “and women should receive massages from their partners, too!”

Labor, schmabor – recovery’s the rub

Birthing class helps prepare women for the physical and emotional hurdles of labor – but what about recovery? In a recent Indy’s Child Facebook poll, we asked women to be frank about what surprised them during pregnancy. Many women responded that, while they were prepared for labor, they were not prepared for recovery. As one mom stated, “A heads’ up would have been nice!”

Whether you deliver vaginally or by Cesarean section, the recovery process can be difficult. Dr. Litwiller explains that as the uterus contracts back to its pre-pregnancy size, women experience a series of painful, menstrual-like cramps. And ironically, says Dr. Litwiller, “for second or third-time moms, these cramps are more painful than with the first.”

Speaking of menstruation, for the first time in nearly ten months, you’ll experience a period of heavy bleeding as the body flushes out blood and other fluids. And, if you delivered vaginally and had stitches, you could feel sore as the stitches begin to heal.

This may sound scary; but remember, you just delivered a baby -- you can get through anything! The key, says Dr. Litwiller, is “staying on top of the pain.” Take Ibuprofen (or whatever your doctor prescribes), and accept help as you allow your body time to heal.

“I didn’t expect to love pregnancy – and parenthood – so much.”

Despite the aches, pains and crazy hormones, many moms still find ways to enjoy the experience as a whole. Says Lara, “I didn't expect to love being pregnant as much as I did. I mostly felt great and energetic the whole time.”

In the end, you have completed a monumental process, and entered into a sisterhood of other women with whom you can always relate. After all, have you ever heard of a mom who didn’t share her unique pregnancy story?