18 things I wish I’d known about pregnancy and giving birth

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Ellie and isaac

Pregnancy may be miraculous and beautiful but, let’s face it, some of the things that happen to us are down right weird and unexpected!

Here are my experiences and a bit of info that I’ve read along the way — I hope it helps you! If you want to know more about anything health-related, or you’re worried about something, then it’s important to speak to your doctor or midwife who will be able to help.

1.  Heartburn

There’s the old wives’ tale that says heartburn during pregnancy means you’re going to have a baby with lots of hair. For me, I had a little bit of heartburn and a newborn with a little bit of hair.

To ease any heartburn it’s a good idea to avoid spicy, rich, fatty and fried foods. I also found mine was worse when I was lying down.

2.  Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks is the name for practice contractions. For some people they may hurt or feel uncomfortable but for others you might not feel anything at all, just a tight belly.

I was in the latter category — from about 20 weeks I would wake up with a hard belly and my son all curled up on the side I was lying down on.

Getting ready for our Christmas party earlier ?

A photo posted by Little Lullaby (@littlelullabyuk) on

3.  Leaky nipples

When I was about 28 weeks pregnant I was in bed watching One Born Every Minute when I looked down and my shirt was all damp. This was one of the things that surprised me the most during pregnancy.

I called my mum who reassured me it was normal and a sign that my body was getting everything ready. From then on, breast pads were my best friend!

4.  Breathlessness

If you look at an anatomy diagram of a pregnant woman, you’ll understand why it’s normal to feel very breathless during pregnancy. All of the organs are squashed up together due to the expanded uterus.

However, anaemia can also be common in pregnancy, which is a sign that the body needs more iron. I developed slight anemia and felt extremely breathless without doing much activity at all. I started taking iron tablets prescribed by my midwife and felt much better — walking up stairs didn’t feel like climbing a mountain any more!

5.  Baby hiccups

When you feel your baby get hiccups for the first time, you will probably wonder what they’re doing in there. It feels like tiny, rhythmic kicks.

Here’s our #throwbackthursday look at Isaac’s cute little baby face! He was about 5 months here.

A photo posted by Little Lullaby (@littlelullabyuk) on

6.  Lightening crotch

Sometimes you might feel a very short, sharp pain in your crotch area. This definitely caught me by surprise while I was working one day and I had to have a sit down.

7.  Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a rare but serious condition that can lead onto eclampsia if untreated, which can be fatal. However, if you look out for the signs it can be easily monitored and treated.

Symptoms include high blood pressure, protein in the urine (these are checked at routine antenatal appointments), swelling, severe headaches, vision problems and pain just below the ribs.

8.  Your waters breaking

My waters broke a few hours before I started having contractions. Unlike in the movies, your waters will probably break during labour instead of a sudden gush in the supermarket (although there is a rumour that if your waters break in a supermarket you get your shopping for free!)

I was lying in bed about to go to sleep and I suddenly felt a gurgly pop. I suspected it was my waters so I checked and felt a thick liquid. Time to go into hospital!

9.  Being sick in labour

This doesn’t always happen but if it does, the midwives will be more than understanding. They’ve seen a lot worse, trust me.

You can reduce the chances of being sick by not eating fatty foods during labour.

10. Gas and air

Most people are familiar with what gas and air is, we see it all the time in films or on TV. What most people aren’t prepared for is the feeling of it.

It made me feel really dizzy, almost drunk and like I needed to lie down. It worked amazingly for getting me to focus on my breathing though.

11. Delivering the placenta

With all the emotion of your baby being delivered, you almost forget you have to deliver an organ that you grew in the space of nine months.

You can opt for an injection to help speed the process up (ask your midwife about it). After pushing out a baby, delivering the placenta is hardly any effort in comparison and it feels much more squishy.

12. First breastfeeding experience

I expected Isaac to latch on for the first time, have a feed and it would come naturally to the both of us. In reality, it’s a skill that you both have to learn.

Ellie breastfeeds her son in the garden

There are common problems that new mums can encounter but if you have plenty of support and determination, it’s more than possible to overcome most of them. Isaac and I didn’t have the easiest start to breastfeeding but 18 months later, he’s breastfeeding as I type this.

13. Mum tum

I had no idea what my stomach would look like after giving birth and I was a bit worried about it. For the first few days, it looked and felt like a deflated balloon but I was so preoccupied with my new baby, I didn’t care at all.

If you have stretch marks, they’re nothing to be ashamed of (they’re proof you did something amazing) but cocoa butter or other moisturising cream can help to reduce the sight of them.

14. Healing

It takes around 6 weeks for your body to heal after childbirth. Your body has been through a massive ordeal and on top of that, you have a dependent baby to look after. It’s important to look after yourself too, so your body has a chance to heal.

You’ll bleed for about 10 days and light bleeding and spotting can carry on for 4-6 weeks. If you notice the bleeding getting heavier, that’s an important sign to take it easy and call your health provider to make sure everything’s okay.

15. Baby blues and postnatal depression

We expect the first few days with a baby to be full of joy, laughter and smiles. While new babies do bring so much joy, the raging hormones are unexpected. The first few days can be incredibly difficult while your body is recovering and adjusting. You may feel very low, anxious and tearful.

This is completely normal and many new mothers go through this however, if it persists for two weeks or more it may be that you’re experiencing postnatal depression.

It’s important to talk to a health professional, especially as postnatal depression (which can also affect new dads) is more common in young parents. You need to seek help so you can be supported and, if necessary, be offered treatment.

16. Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a name for the greasy, yellow scaly patches that appear on a baby’s scalp. It sounds gross but it’s completely harmless.

It should clear up by itself in time but you can try massaging olive or coconut oil into your baby’s scalp to ease the buildup of scales.

17. Injections

I guess injections are the definition of tough love. Isaac cried like he had never cried before with his injections and I felt so guilty but I knew they were necessary to prevent any serious illness.

Your baby will forget about them straight away and usually some milk and a cuddle will sort them out. A temperature is common after some of the injections so make sure you have Calpol or something similar on hand and ask the nurse about when and how to use it if you’re not sure.

18. The umbilical cord

Gross story time. Isaac was 5 days old and his umbilical cord was really starting to smell. Later that day, I had noticed the cord had fallen off (yay!) but I could still smell it so I thought he might have an infection.

That evening, I pulled down my top to breastfeed Isaac and there was the rest of the cord. It had been sat in my top the whole time. If I hadn’t already been weed, pooed and vomited on I might have cared a bit more!

When your baby is born, they will cut and clamp the cord and your baby will be left with a cord stump and the plastic clamp attached to them until it falls off. Delayed cord clamping can have certain health benefits for your baby such as a decreased risk of anaemia. You don’t have to do anything to the cord stump apart from avoid submerging it in water.

Read more about Ellie’s life as a young mum at her blog A Young Mother’s Life.

Please note: The information in this blog has been checked by a health professional, but Ellie is not medically-trained. It’s important to speak to your midwife or doctor before making any decisions that may affect your or your baby’s health.

More about pregnancy and birth from young mums like Ellie

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