Being pregnant is a wonderful and exciting time, but it is also full of unknowns and unanswered questions that pop up daily! We discuss our top 10 Googled questions, with answers to prevent Dr. Google from scaring the sh*t out of us.
1. Is 'Baby Brain' real?
100%. Researchers are now beginning to understand that all adaptations we go through during pregnancy also include changes to the structure and function of our brain. The part of our brain for social cognition is enhanced, meaning we are able to decode our child’s various cries and figure out what they need.
Improvements in this social cognition might come at a cost though. While studies looking at cognitive changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period have produced mixed results, many women report experiencing memory problems and such like, for example, might suffer late in pregnancy because it’s not critical for offspring survival during that time. Instead, the body redirects energy and resources to caring for the baby.
2. Why are my nipples so big and dark? Will my nipples ever be a normal colour again?
Don’t worry they will go back! My husband coined a wonderful phase describing them as ‘Burger Nips’...
But these large dark nipples that have suddenly appeared on your chest overnight are here for a very important reason. This happens due to an increase in the body's melanin. This usually is stronger in areas where melanin is already present in higher quantities, such as your areolas and darker areas of skin, resulting in any existing scars or freckles to get dark as well. You might even notice some new dark patches forming on different areas of your body and even a line down the centre on your bump... all normal by the way! But the reason for these is because of your baby's instinct to feed from them. When your baby is born they will only be able to see light and dark contrast and the change in the skin of your nipples help guide the baby to their instinctive source of food and the newborn can even crawl themselves to your breasts immediately after birth. We experience the largest drop in hormones after giving birth and this will trigger the start of your skin going back to its normal colour.
3. How much bigger will my boobs get?
Every woman is different, but your boobs are likely to be around one to two bra cup sizes bigger than before pregnancy. Your band size will probably increase too, as your ribcage expands to make room for your baby and sometimes this doesn’t always go back to its original size. Your breasts are likely to become very large and engorged once baby is born as this triggers the production of your breastmilk, if you choose to breastfeed your baby all you need to do is ensure the baby is feeding often and removing the milk well. If you have any concerns then contact a Lactation Consultant either privately or if available through your local NHS service.
If you choose to not feed your baby from the breast, you can pump the breast milk and bottle feed or you can formula bottle feed. Either way it’s important to make sure you are comfortable and the more milk your remove from your breasts the more milk will be made, it is a ‘supply and demand’ thing. Watch out for blocked ducts and infections such as Mastitis which might occur when milk isn’t removed effectively, in this instance call your GP.
If breastfeeding or pumping your boobs may remain slightly bigger than they were before but will eventually start feeling soft and ‘normal’ as your boobs get used to the amount of milk they need to make for your baby. If you choose not to breastfeed, your boobs should return to a similar size they were before pregnancy in just a few months, but the beautiful thing is, everyone is different.
4. Will I harm my baby if my bath is too hot?
Babies and young children can’t regulate their own body temperature as well as we can, so it’s important to be aware of this. It is suggested to get a bath thermometer and the temperature should be no higher than 38 degrees celsius (100 F). Also, make sure the room temperature is comfortably warm too, nothing worse than getting out a warm bath when it’s freezing out is there.
5. Will I harm my baby if I have sex whilst pregnant?
Most definitely not. Your baby is well protected away from your vagina and vulva and even during the latest months of pregnacy sex will not harm the baby. The only time it is not ideal is if you have been advised not to have penatrive sex by your consultant or Dr. This may be due to your cervix being shorter, thinner or more chance of opening sooner. This can be down to previous operations or uterine abnormalities and genetic disorders affecting a fibrous type of protein that makes up your body's connective tissues, this might be described as an ‘incompetent cervix’. What a sh*t term!
But sex and orgasms are actually one of the only proven ways to help aid labour in the end of pregancy (only works when baby is good and ready in their own time though so don’t worry!) This is because having sex and orgasaming creates oxytocin, the love hormone, and this hormone is key for your uterus to contract and do it’s thing! Also in semen there is a hormone called prostaglandin and this helps ‘ripen’ your cervix and is what’s used in its synthetic form in the pessary during inductions.
So go get yours!
6. Why have my hands doubled in size?
Many women experience swelling, also known as edema, during late pregnancy. Thankfully, all this fluid retention is normal due to your blood volume and body fluids increasing by 50% during pregnancy to soften the body and provide for the needs of your baby.
It’s totally normal for swelling to often get worse at the end of the day, as well as happen in late pregnancy and come on gradually. Usually it gets better when you lie down and will appear in both feet and hands.
You can try gentle exercising to relieve the achey pressure of the fluid retention around joints, things like gentle yoga and walking are great. Avoid standing for a long time and wear comfortable shoes and socks (avoid tight straps or anything that might pinch). When you rest put your feet up as much as you can and drink at least 8 medium glasses of water a day, this helps your body get rid of excess water.
If you experience a sudden increase in swelling in your face, hands or feet and a very bad headache or a dull headache that won't go away, including problems with your vision, such as blurring or flashing lights, you should call your midwife or hospital maternity unit immediately as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
7. Do I always have to sleep on my left-hand side?
There's a lot you may worry about during your pregnancy. Your sleep position doesn't need to be top of the list. Experts recommend lying on your left side as it can improve circulation, giving the blood an easier route from your heart to the placenta. Lying on the left side also keeps your expanding body weight from pushing down too hard on your liver. We don’t want you to become anxious about this though. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated the risk is low.
8. Is an increase in discharge normal?
Yes, it is super normal to have more vaginal discharge in pregnancy. It’s normally white, or pale yellow and creamy in texture. This helps prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb. Towards the end of pregnancy, the amount of discharge increases further.
9. When can I start collecting colostrum?
If you would like to collect your colostrum, you can start hand expressing for a few minutes once a day when you are 36 to 37 weeks pregnant. You can collect the colostrum using 1ml syringes and then you can pop these in the freezer ready for when baby arrives. Collecting colostrum is great if you know you don’t want to breastfeed, or even if you do. Baby might need help with feeding from the breast due to tongue tie or jaundice (which might make them sleepy) or if baby needs to be away from you for any reason to begin with. Having this can provide them that boost before feeding is established as well as being highly concentrated, full of protein and nutrient-dense, so a little goes a long way in your baby’s tiny tummy. It’s also low in fat, easy to digest, and brimming with components that start their development and, perhaps even more impressively, it plays a crucial role in building their immune system.
Colostrum looks thicker and more yellow than milk as we know it. Its composition is different too, because it’s tailored to your newborn’s specific needs.
10. Why do I smell so much?
This is a fun side effect isn’t it! This is because blood vessels throughout your body widen to deliver all this extra blood your body has. This includes the blood vessels near your skin. Therefore, more blood flows to your skin causing you to flush (or glow) and making you feel warmer, and then you may sweat more as your body tries to keep you cool. This can make you ripe for more body odour, especially in areas where you have more sweat glands, like the armpits and groin.
Written by Hypnobirthing Specialist, Doula and Lactation Consultant, Hattie Turner.