What to expect when you’re expecting

Louisa van den Bergh of Lulubaby explains what you can really expect from your pregnancy journey

Healthier hair
We’ve all heard of pregnant women having fuller locks, this is because it doesn’t really fall out like normal. But were you aware other parts of your body may become more hirsute, too? Hair on your tummy and face is common and this extra growth is thanks to pregnancy hormones and the extra blood raging through your system. Unfortunately, once baby is born, that luscious hair will begin to fall out.

Feeling hot
You’ll almost always feel hot (less sexy hot, more sweaty, red-in-the-face hot) and may feel quite uncomfortable. It’s hardly surprising, you have a lot more blood pumping around your body and a whole other person to carry. You may be hoping that all will return to normal once baby has been born, but alas, those hormones will have the last laugh. Ladies, you’ll sweat like never before, especially at night. No, it isn’t a bad dream, just a postpartum delight to deal with.

Bigger boobs
Sometimes they double, triple, or even quadruple in size; they can be tender and really hurt. If you escape with little change in the bosom department at first, be prepared for when your baby arrives and your milk starts to come in. Boobs can become enormous, hard and lumpy, and will literally fill with milk. Your nipples and areolae (the area around them) can get bigger and you may notice little bumps on the areolae. These bumps are normal – they release oily fluid and help prevent chafing. Don’t be alarmed if they look really veiny, too, they’re doing a precious job so more blood flow is needed in that area. If feeding becomes very painful be sure to seek help from your health visitor or doctor.

Stretch to prep
Don’t be alarmed if ‘down there’ swells up a bit and looks different or larger – this is normal and not permanent. The truth is, many first-time mums will need some stitches either because they have torn or been cut (an episiotomy) to make way for their baby’s head. But mums should be encouraged to know that you do normally heal beautifully. It may sting to pee (make sure you have a jug of warm water by the toilet) and sitting will be painful, but it will pass. Before your baby arrives, spend some time on perineal massage (yes, that’s exactly how it sounds). Try a trainer like the Epi-No with a soothing oil.

Toilet troubles
Many women suffer with an impaired digestive system during pregnancy. You may also develop haemorrhoids, nasty swollen veins around your rectum. Unfortunately, once baby is born, a little more discomfort may come your way before things start to improve. If you’ve had a c-section, constipation is a common problem as iron supplements (if you’ve lost blood) or certain painkillers will block you up. Stock up on high-fibre foods and keep well hydrated.

Pelvic pressure
Weeing all the time is commonly an early sign of pregnancy but happens again in later pregnancy. Your bladder has a huge weight bearing on it, and you feel the need to go all the time. Once your baby’s born, and depending on how big they are and how they were delivered, you may find you’re leaking down there again. Remember to work on your pelvic floor muscles early.

Bleeding after birth
Most mums would agree one of the best things about pregnancy is the months spent period-free. Some do bleed during the first few weeks, and should always seek medical advice on this, but for many it’s a lovely break. Once your baby has been born, you are greeted, however, with the mother of all periods, known as lochia and this can last up to six weeks.

Ready, steady, kick
Feeling your baby kick for the first time makes pregnancy feel more real and is a truly magical moment. But those first few gentle movements can soon develop into forceful kicks. You can see your stomach move and it can really hurt especially when their feet are poking right up into your ribs.

Here comes the tears
Most women are aware that pregnancy may make them a little emotional. After your baby has arrived, pregnancy hormones dive, and your milk-making hormones rise, causing a massive hormonal shift. This frequently results in tears on day three or four (often when your milk comes in). Even if everything’s peachy, chances are you will cry but for most this is short-lived. However, if you find that the tears come every day there is a chance postnatal depression may develop, and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Bonding with baby
For many mums, the moment they first meet their baby it is love at first sight. For many others, this is not always the case, it can take weeks or months. This is completely normal and not a reason to feel guilty. After what you’ve just been through, it can take time to bond with your baby, especially if the birth was not easy or breastfeeding is proving a challenge. Give yourself time and you’ll soon realise you have fallen head over heels in love with your little one.