Birthing another human is nothing short of a marvel. It’s a natural phenomenon, of course, but it also puts the might of the human body on full display. Literally. And while pregnancy is made out to be the most special time in a woman’s life, it can also be quite difficult. In some cases, pregnancy and childbirth can even be traumatic experiences. Here are a few lesser-known facts about pregnancy and childbirth that might blow your mind and look at people who birth children in a whole new light.
A pregnant woman’s heart literally gets bigger
The volume of blood in a woman’s body increases by 40-50 per cent during pregnancy. As a result, her heart increases in size to pump all of that extra blood. This is the human body’s way of ensuring nourishment for the developing foetus. But it can be stressful for the heart especially if you have had cardiac problems in the past. In this case, your cardiac activity will be closely monitored at regular intervals during the pregnancy.
Babies can be born with teeth
Some babies, approximately 1 in 2000, are born with teeth. These teeth, called natal teeth, are often loose and mostly removed to avoid choking and injury to the baby and the breastfeeding mother. Because breastfeeding is already painful enough, the last thing you need is teeth on your sore nipples! This is one of the lesser-known facts about pregnancy that every expecting mother should be aware of in order to prepare herself.
Yes, breastfeeding is painful
Most of us know that breastfeeding can cause sore nipples, as mentioned above, but did you know that the process can cause other kinds of pain as well? While your child is getting essential nutrients from the colostrum and milk that your breasts produce, your uterus could contract, causing cramps that feel like menstrual pain. This is most often experienced in the initial 2-3 days after giving birth.
That pregnancy “glow” is most likely the result of hormonal changes
One of the causes of pregnancy glow is the increase in blood volume mentioned above which can give your face a flushed look. However, another cause of this glow can also be the increase in hormones like estrogen, human chorionic gonadotropin, and progesterone. These hormone fluctuations can also cause an increase in sebum production which makes your skin look shinier than normal. Fun fact – when the sebum goes a little extra, it can cause an acne breakout.
Ligaments and joints loosen throughout the body to prepare for childbirth
Here’s another lesser-known pregnancy fact. Hormones like relaxin and progesterone enable your joints and ligaments to literally make room for your baby to come through the birth canal. This is why pregnant women are considered more susceptible to injuries and are advised to be careful and sure of their movements, especially while exercising or doing household chores. It is this process that also makes a pregnant woman’s hips look wider.
Your vision, taste, smell, and voice could change during pregnancy
You can thank hormones for this one too! It is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience blurry vision, a metallic taste in their mouth, a heightened sensitivity to smell, and a swelling in their vocal cords that can change their voice. This happens due to a fluid build-up in your body because of the dance of the hormones. However, in most cases, these changes are temporary and tend to resolve on their own after childbirth.
“Water breaking” isn’t like what we see on TV
When a pregnant woman’s water breaks, it is not always a gush. If you’re expecting a dramatic splat on the floor when your time comes, chill. The water-breaking process is most likely to be a trickle of amniotic fluid that will continue off and on until delivery.
Childbirth can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Now, this is a problem that does not go away on its own once your baby is born. In fact, PTSD associated with childbirth and pregnancy has only recently been differentiated from postpartum depression. Women who suffer a traumatic experience at any point during pregnancy or delivery can be affected by triggers long after their child is born. And a traumatic childbirth experience is more common than we realise. From their babies being whisked away to the neonatal ICU and women being left alone to deal with the physical and emotional after-effects of childbirth to being forced to undergo unexplained invasive procedures, more women and their doctors need to be educated about the risks and seriousness of postpartum PTSD.
Babies have about 300 bones at birth
They eventually fuse together to make the 206 bones that adults have. For example, a baby’s skull starts out as separate bones joined by flexible tissue. To prepare for birth, the soft skull bones and loose connections between them can allow the skull to be gently compressed into a shape that fits through the birth canal. This explains the common yet amusing sight of newborns with slightly pointy heads. Within a few days after birth, the skull bones rearrange themselves to form a normal, dome-like shape.
Is it morning sickness or are you allergic to pregnancy?
Yes, you can be allergic to your own pregnancy. The hormones that run around freely in your body as soon as the pregnancy begins can trigger any number of reactions. And sometimes, these reactions can be terrible for the mother. Recounting the pregnancy that she was allergic to, author Sonia Purnell wrote in The Guardian, “My body was at war with the key pregnancy hormone Beta HCG and its line of attack was constant vomiting to try to get rid of it.” The only time Purnell’s nausea and vomiting stopped was when her water broke and she went into labour, but her ordeal didn’t end there. Read more about her horrifying experience here.
Babies can “find their mother” by smell
This is one of the cuter, lesser-known facts about pregnancy and childbirth. According to research, babies recognise their mother’s natural body odour and feel safer and happier when they can smell it. The sense of smell develops in the womb and helps the baby bond with its mother.
Babies pee and can poop in the womb
Don’t worry! The good news here is that babies don’t poop all the time in the womb. They could poop a bit during birth and that can be dangerous for the baby if inhaled. However, this is not too common. Your baby will most likely poop after birth and the excreta will probably be a greenish-black colour, so don’t be too alarmed. But babies do pee in the womb. And this urine is absorbed back into the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby in utero.
Some men have actually demanded and some doctors have actually encouraged “the husband stitch”.
It sounds like a criminal offence, but in this patriarchal world, “the husband stitch” is far too common. A woman’s vagina changes after childbirth. And after going through something as life-changing as nurturing and giving birth to a whole new human being, one would think the appearance of the mother’s vagina should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. BUT many husbands and obliging doctors have asked for and given an extra stitch during the repair of an episiotomy (don’t watch videos of this if you’re a woman, I beg of you) and vaginal tears to “tighten the vagina”. This is done so that the husband can enjoy the “pre-birth tightness” of his wife’s vaginal opening. It has no medical benefits for the woman. There is absolutely no good reason for this procedure to exist. Thankfully, many countries have now outlawed the performance of this procedure without the patient’s consent.
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