The amount of information available to first-time moms in books, magazines, and websites can be overwhelming. And with nearly nine months to prepare for the arrival of the little bundle of joy, expectant moms have a lot of time to catch up on their reading. After you've had a baby or two, you may forget how interesting some of the information found in pregnancy books can be. Here are just a few items that may take a pregnant woman by surprise.
Fetal hiccups are normal
When I was pregnant with twins, one of my favorite parts was feeling both of my babies moving around simultaneously. One of the strangest sensations was the hiccups. Most of the moms I know have talked about feeling their baby hiccupping in the womb. Many nights, I remember feeling both of my twins start hiccupping at the same time, and then starting up myself.
Fetal hiccups are completely normal, and have been described in medical literature for more than 100 years. Recent research suggests that hiccups modulate a baby's heart rate in the womb late in pregnancy.
Your doctor can fight preterm labor
I was on bed rest with my twins for weeks before they actually arrived. During that time, I had contractions every 10 minutes on average and was already partially dilated. I learned early on, while reading about twin pregnancies, that preterm labor is common among mothers of multiples, but there are many ways doctors can fight it.
Bed rest and medications to slow the contractions are two common treatments. In some cases, a doctor may even sew stitches in a woman's cervix, performing a riskier procedure known as a cervical cerclage, in order to help prevent premature birth.
Sex during pregnancy is safe for you and the baby
One pleasant surprise for many expectant couples is the fact that sex is totally safe throughout pregnancy for most women. Your doctor will let you know if you should refrain from having sex at any point during your pregnancy.
Sex can help relieve stress and discomfort in a pregnant mom as it stimulates a release of feel-good endorphins. And although recent research suggests that sex might not actually speed up labor, it can be a fun way for couples to bond and share intimacy.
The ick factor of childbirth
An unpleasant surprise for many expectant moms is what I'd call the ick factor. From passing a strange glob of goo known as a mucus plug to having a bowel movement when you push with a contraction, new moms go through a lot of gross things to bring their babies into the world. A couple of generations ago, people didn't talk much about these things. Now, thanks to the great abundance of resources out there, every detail of childbirth is described so women know what to really expect.
Your baby develops really early
Thanks to the week-by-week pregnancy guides available in print and online, it's easy to see how soon a baby develops. Early on, babies have fingers, toes, a strong heartbeat, a functioning brain, and lungs that are practicing breathing and hiccups.
As a biologist, the rate at which a baby develops was surprising even to me. It was amazing to see my twins' hearts beating rapidly during an ultrasound at just five weeks' gestation, and to watch them playing air guitar, sucking their thumbs, and waving during a visit to the doctor just a few weeks later.
People may not have known much about how babies develop inside the womb just a few decades ago, but we do now. If you are pregnant, enjoy following your baby's amazing growth week by week. They'll fly by much more quickly than you expect.