The moment you announce you’re pregnant, it seems like everyone and their mother has advice for what you should or shouldn’t do. You’ll hear horror stories about other people’s symptoms and births, but how do you separate fact from fiction?
We’ve rounded up some shocking pregnancy facts based on medicine and science rather than Aunt Mabel’s cousin’s sister’s “helpful” recommendations.
Still, this list is only informational and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Always check with your doctor or midwife before making any changes to your routine.
- You Should Continue to Exercise
Pregnancy can seemingly sap all of your energy, making you want to lay on the couch and nap whenever possible. It may seem counterintuitive, but incorporating some light to moderate exercise can help you feel more awake. Regular movement can also combat some pregnancy symptoms like excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and trouble sleeping.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Weight gain in pregnancy is normal and necessary, so your goal should be to gain a healthy amount of weight — no more, no less.
- You need to watch your heart rate when exercising. While working out, you should be able to hold a conversation. If not, then you need to go a little slower.
- Talk to your doctor about what activities you can continue while pregnant. For example, you’ll want to avoid movements where you lay flat on your back after the first trimester.
- Your doctor will probably give you the green light to continue with whatever fitness routine you had before getting pregnant. If you didn’t work out before, now isn’t the time to jump into something advanced. Try establishing a habit of daily walks and self care items to enjoy before baby.
- You Don’t Need to Eat for Two
Unfortunately, the adage of eating for two doesn’t hold up against modern medicine. So, eating all the sweets you’re craving may sound like a good idea at the time, but they’ll only do you more harm than good.
Pregnant women only need about 300 extra calories each day, and the nutritional value matters. Focus on eating plenty of protein and healthy fats. In addition, fruits and vegetables will help you get your daily dose of important micronutrients.
- Seafood Isn’t Off the Menu
Salmon rolls may be off-limits, but there are plenty of other doctor-approved ways to eat seafood for the next nine months. Choose fully-cooked seafood low in mercury like salmon, freshwater trout, tilapia, cod, canned light tuna and shrimp.
These options are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy brain development for your baby. Fish also provides significant levels of two other essential nutrients — zinc and iron. The FDA recommends eating 2-3 servings of low mercury fish each week of pregnancy.
- Your Baby Knows Your Voice in the Womb
Your baby’s hearing starts to develop during the second trimester and will continue to improve over time. Once you reach your third trimester, your little one will be able to hear and identify your voice and heartbeat. Your voice sounds muffled and lower, but they can still pick it out.
After birth, babies tend to prefer their mother’s voice over the sounds of other women. They don’t respond the same to other voices they’re exposed to while in the womb — with no preference for their father’s voice over other men. However, babies adapt to the sound and smell of their caregivers quickly, especially since their eyesight isn’t very good right away.
- You’ll Probably Need Multiple Bra Sizes
It’s completely normal for a pregnant woman to change bra sizes multiple times as they prepare to feed your baby after birth. You might experience a shift of one or two cup sizes. Late in the third trimester, when your milk comes in, your breasts will grow quite large.
Breastfeeding will maintain the larger size, but breasts generally get smaller after you’ve weened your baby. In some cases, breasts don’t return to prepregnancy size and appearance, especially if you’re at a higher BMI or started at a larger cup size. Generally, though, they won’t look as full after you stop breastfeeding.
- Fetal Stems Cells Stick Around
The link between mothers and their babies is strong, and during pregnancy, they even exchange cells. After birth, fetal stem cells remain with the mother long term. Scientists are still uncertain about the ramifications of this cellular exchange.
Research suggests fetal stem cells can help heal scars and repair organs. However, in women with cancer, affected tissue has a higher amount of these cells than noncancerous tissue. It’s unclear whether the fetal stem cells worsened the problem or if they’d traveled there to help repair the damage.
- Your Partner Might Experience Symptoms
While you might think your partner’s symptoms are a figment of their imagination or a desperate attempt to get some attention, sympathetic pregnancy symptoms can be a legitimate experience, especially for first-time dads.
Couvade Syndrome is the proper name for this phenomenon, and common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Back pain
- Leg cramps
- Changes in appetite
Typically Couvade Syndrome is at its worst during the first and third trimesters, mirroring the most difficult times for moms. Research suggests it’s caused by a deep sense of empathy called compathy or nerves about upcoming changes to the family unit.
Your Experience Will Be Unique
Despite the good intentions behind information you read online and advice from family, nothing will ever properly prepare you for your experience. What you go through in your pregnancy is individualized to your background, health, baby, doctor and so many other factors. Doing research can help prepare you for what to expect, but nothing will be better than advice from your doctor and your intuition and experience.