The Underbelly of Pregnancy

The Underbelly of Pregnancy

The Underbelly of Pregnancy(Original Image Source: Huffington Post)

Spoiler Alert: This post is going to be full of things that could be categorized as TMI. If you’re squeamish about bodily functions, or just don’t care about anything related to pregnancy, feel free to skip this one.

I’ll be the first to admit that I went into this whole pregnancy thing with a very basic knowledge of what happens to the body.

Some of it I learned in the brief period I was pregnant last year, the rest vicariously through other’s pregnancies. And while I felt like I knew what was coming, the reality is most people don’t share the full picture.

I mean, who really wants to spend precious girl-bonding time talking about embarrassing bodily functions?!

And while this list is based on my current experiences and an easy pregnancy to date (i.e.—no morning sickness, minimal indigestion, limited discomfort), there are a few things that I’d wish I’d known. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk candidly with other women (including a childbirth educator) who have filled in some gaps.

Oh, and one more note: every pregnancy is different. So if you aren’t experiencing any of these things, that’s okay. Trust your body and your doctor.

The Underbelly of Pregnancy: 10 Things No One Will Tell You, But Should.

1. Pregnancy nose and nose bleeds.

I’m not sure when they first started for me, but I’d be hard pressed to remember a time when I didn’t wake up congested or see blood in the tissue after blowing my nose. Most of the time the blood has been dried, but there have been a few times where it’s been a full-on nosebleed that’s hard to stop.

Maybe it’s because everything gets dried out, or that the body is running on overdrive for the baby. Either way, it’s a simple fact of pregnancy life. Better invest in good quality tissues (you know, the super soft kind with lotion), or you are going to have a red, raw nose for 30+ weeks.

2. Constipation like WHOA.

I have never in my life been more constipated than during pregnancy. And we’re not talking any regular old constipation. We’re talking the haven’t-pooped-for-days-and-when-you-finally-go-you-want-to-die variety of constipation. There have been times when I’ve actually been afraid that I’m going to hurt the baby (or push her out) because the bowels are so difficult to pass.

The bigger you get, the more painful and uncomfortable it gets.

3. Speaking of poop…

One of the mantras on repeat during our first Confident Birthing Class is poop means progress. And we’re not talking about pooping during pregnancy like we were when talking about constipation. We’re talking pooping when you give birth. It’s normal, natural, and a good sign that things are progressing.

Your body, after all, has to make room for the baby to go down the birth canal. Just know that it can happen as early as a few days prior to going into labor all the way through giving birth.

4. Your body image will be tested.

As someone with a healthy view of her body, I have been rattled by how pregnancy has made me feel about my body from time to time. On a general whole, I have been loving watching my body change and my belly grow with each passing week. But there are definitely days where I feel massive, ugly, and just plain uncomfortable in my own skin.

It has also been hard to watch the scale go up 20-30lbs, even though I know rationally that it’s necessary and good. The Hubster has been great about showering me with love and complements about how amazing I look, but it doesn’t always matter.

Just know that even when you’re happy and confident and in love with what’s happening to your body, it’s possible (and normal even) to have a bad day or three.

5. The ravenous hunger.

There comes a point during pregnancy where your body just tells you to eat. Even after you’ve just finished two helpings of dinner and had a slice of pie.

It hit for me around 26 weeks and hasn’t really let up since. I’ve tried to keep it healthy by having lots of fruit and other “good” snacks around like hummus and veggies. I also try to add in more water, since I’m always thirsty. But, sometimes a girl just want a brownie. And cake. And…pretty much everything on Pinterest.

6. Oh, the invasive questions and sharing of opinions.

I am always a bit shocked at the kind of things people will ask a pregnant woman. And I’m not talking about conversations with friends, I’m talking conversations with people in the grocery store while waiting to check out.

You know, the people who ask you if you plan on breast-feeding your baby, because it’s __________ (the best thing ever, the only appropriate way to feed a baby, completely disgusting…). Also, everyone feels the need to load you down with advice about what (or what not) to do as a parent.

I mostly just smile and nod, and then walk away knowing that we are going to do what’s right for us.

7. Sneezing feels like an attack on your life.

Every few weeks or so, my ribs feel like they are about to pop open. Add sneezing into the mix, and holy WOW does that hurt. I swear the last time I sneezed, I thought I cracked 3 ribs.

Even when your ribs aren’t feeling stretched to capacity, sneezing requires bracing yourself and pains shooting through your body. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

8. Fear of the unknown.

The emotional side of pregnancy has probably been more difficult for me than the physical stuff.

And I’m not talking about mood swings or meltdowns (though, those do happen). I’m talking about the fear of the unknown. This has shown up mostly for me around things like “how on earth will I keep this baby alive?!” and “how can I plan for anything when I don’t know what life is going to be like after April?!”.

Everyone says you just figure it out. Which I’m sure is true. But how?!

9. When the baby moves, it hurts.

The first time I felt the baby moving, it was magical. The fluttering, the knowing she was in there, the constant awareness that she was there…all fabulous. As she got bigger, her “kicks” got stronger. And there have been times when it’s been extremely painful and near impossible to sleep.

Also, not all kicks are felt in the “belly”. I feel a lot of kicks “down there”, which is a very polite way of saying she’s kicking my ass and my girly bits.

I’m not going to lie, the first time it happened I was terrified something was wrong.

So, I Googled it.

Don’t do that.

10. The guilt.

Maybe it’s part of my training for becoming a Jewish mother, or maybe it’s the nature of pregnancy, but guilt has been an ever present emotion over the course of this pregnancy.

Guilt for saying anything other than how wonderful pregnancy is, considering how long it took us to get here. Guilt for not being able to focus more on my business. Guilt for not having it more “together” or being able to set goals for 2014. Guilt for having an easy pregnancy while so many others suffer. Guilt for eating out too much. Guilt for not being able to cook more or help around the house. Guilt for needing a break…You name it, I’ve felt guilt as a result of it.

I do my best to stay present, but some days are still more successful than others.

Is there anything I missed?

What did you learn the hard way about pregnancy, or wish your girlfriends had let you in on prior to getting pregnant?

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More about Emily Levenson

Emily Levenson is a meditation encourager, mama, and Pittsburgh enthusiast. She recently launched a podcast called Nourish + Flourish and is a co-pilot at Propelle.


  1. Reply I love this post so much. I am so sorry to hear about your issues with #2 (#2 the in the list and dealing with #2!). For the first time in maybe my entire life, this baby has made me crazy regular. It was actually one of the first things that made me think I was pregnant because it was so atypical for me. What are you doing to deal with the constipation? I have another friend who is having similar problems (I think it's very, very common) and I had no advice to give on the topic. Another thing no one really mentions: Your boobs will start doing really weird (new? different?) things and will start to look like totally foreign body parts. I've noticed dried...something...hanging out in the nipple area from time to time over the past two weeks, which was totally unexpected. Add in the itchiness, the color change, the shape changes...everything and it's like I have to chest piece strapped to me that are complete strangers. I knew my breasts would get bigger but I wasn't really expecting all of the other changes and developments.
    1. Reply So interesting how everyone's body responds differently, isn't it! So far, just trying to eat more fiber and drink a TON of water. That seems to help. Also, apple cider used to do the trick in the beginning, as did grapes. Now, not so much. A few people have recommended magnesium supplements and baths with Epsom Salts (magnesium based), though have not tried either yet. And OMG yes do your boobs change. That's a great one to add to the list. The color change and change in size of the areola was a little shocking in the beginning...
  2. Reply Oh, sweetie, I would've told you any of this if you had asked. I try very hard not to give unsolicited advice about this stuff (what I call assvice). Nose bleeds happen because your bodily fluids are up, up, up. Mucous membranes are all swollen with that extra blood and such. (Or such was my understanding.) I, too, was shocked at the way my body changed. I tried to be amazed rather than shocked, but there were some things that were so surprising, it took a while to accept! And, just try to get more fluids and more fiber. Constipation is awful. Can I offer one more little thing: When you make your birth plan, be flexible. Try not to get fixated on "the perfect birth". No such thing. Have an idea, have a plan that can be adjusted, communicate with your husband and your health care providers -- and know that your precious girl will have her own agenda! ;)
    1. Reply I'm so glad that you are not sugarcoating anything when it comes to pregnancy. My SIL has been great with that as well. Though, she prefaces everything with "are you sure you want to know?" Cracks me up every time. As for the birth plan, the only real "requirement" I have is, is to end up with a beautiful healthy baby girl in my arms at the end of it. However she gets here is up to her. :)
  3. Reply For me, I didn't realize how CRAZY I would get by reading the internet. Especially pregnancy-related forums. There is so much self-righteousness and judgment going on there, and I totally bought into it and made myself a crazy person. One thing that took me a while to learn was the true value of having a medical/birth care provider who was willing to listen and talk. My midwife visits were not just quick "how's the baby doing? fine, ok you can go now," instead they were like 45 minutes to an hour long, where I'd whine and cry and share all my fears (more like therapy than anything else), and he (yes my midwife was a he) would provide an educated response, which helped to counteract a lot of the uneducated, histrionic lay-advice that is present on the internet. So get yourself a doula or a midwife or a doctor you trust, and make sure that they're available to answer your questions and fears. Note: your writing is not sanctimonious or judgmental at all. I think it's actually very approachable and judgment free. I just wrote this because I wish I knew how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole of internet pregnancy crazy.
    1. Reply Oh yeah. I avoid the internet when at all possible. I think I was way too embarrassed to ask anyone about the kicking "down below" -- didn't know how to ask, or want to be told that I'm insane. I learned my lesson there. Also, the forums with the What To Expect App makes me crazy. So much judgment and fear coupled with drama and really crappy advice. xo
  4. Reply You are doing amazing Em. Can't wait to kiss that little babe and cuddle with her. And - now that's something else to freak out about. People holding your baby! However, knowing what I do if you need a break an evening when I can leave my little one at home. I'll come over and hold her so you can cook or shower or take a walk or whatever you need. You won't know until you know and then - CALL ME!
    1. Reply Thanks love! And thanks for the offer to hold the baby. I'm sure I'll call with crazy questions and "is this normal" kind of stuff.
  5. Reply I had to switch to taking two vitamins together, a lower iron vitamin and one with no iron for a while due to nausea every time I ate or got hungry then the constipation. Prunes help as well! I didn't try the stool softener until after giving birth. I wasn't expecting to be short of breath and unable to walk very far for a while. Make sure to drink a lot of water. I was told eight 8 oz glasses a day. I'd be told I was dehydrated even when I felt fine. One advantage of not showing that much to people who didn't know me (I assume others thought I had a pudgy belly because I sure thought I looked pregnant) is I didn't get a lot of that unsolicited advice from strangers.
    1. Reply It's crazy how thirsty I get (and dry). I was never thirsty prior to pregnancy and didn't really drink all that much water. Definitely an adjustment for me.
  6. Reply Oh man, i remember the crotch twinges. I'm not even sure mine were kick related, but boy did they hurt and I didn't expect that at ALL. Also unexpected: my spidey sense of smell. I could smell EVERYTHING, and that wasn't always a good thing.
  7. Reply Oh the constipation drove me absolutely bonkers. I said I would rather go through labor again than have that constipation. I did find that switching to plant-based prenatal vitamins helped, though. I got them at Whole Foods. I think the brand was Rainbow Light. When the doc told me I was low on iron, instead of taking that awful-very-binding-I-hate-it-pill, I ate more kale and spinach. sigh It's all worth it in the end.
  8. Reply oh man, the constipation is the PITS! That's why I don't understand how people say they don't realize they're pregnant until they pop a baby out in the bathroom. Are they not constipated like I get??? I found quinoa was really helpful in moving things along!

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