35 Fun Pregnancy Facts That You Didn’t Know
Pregnancy can be a wild and wonderful time but did you know it can cause strange and sometimes wonderful changes? There are some obvious body changes during pregnancy but in this list, we’ll go over 35 fun pregnancy facts and changes that may surprise you. From changing body parts to facts about what your baby is experiencing, read on for our interesting list of 35 pregnancy facts.
You can crave non-food items
Unusual cravings to eat items that aren’t food is known as pica. This can be more common in pregnancy because of the body’s increased nutritional needs. If you aren’t eating the right foods or can’t eat due to nausea you may be more at risk to develop this condition. And depending on what you eat, it can definitely harm your health. Improving your nutritional intake can help but it’s always best to let your doctor know if you start to crave non-food items.
The uterus gets bigger
This may not come as a surprise but as your pregnancy progresses your uterus gets bigger. In fact, it can expand up to 500 times its regular size. Before pregnancy your uterus is typically about the size of a large apple, but during pregnancy the uterus’ muscle fibers will lengthen to keep up and accommodate a growing baby and by the third trimester it may be as large as a watermelon.
A pregnant woman’s blood volume increases by up to 50%
In order to supply the demands of oxygenated blood to a growing fetus, when pregnant your blood volume may increase by as much as 50%. Blood flow to organs like the skin and kidneys also increases and the extra volume is needed to make up for it. It can make walking up stairs or hills that much harder and research shows that physically active women often show greater increases than those that are less active.
Your sense of smell becomes stronger
Thanks to an increase in hCG, the pregnancy hormone, your body undergoes a natural physiological response known as hyperosmia or heightened smell. Although it doesn’t happen to everyone, it’s most common in the first trimester as hormones are rapidly increasing. Smells you never even noticed before may become overwhelming and your once favorite smells might make you gag during this time. Some smells more than others are common culprits but like all things, the level with which this affects you can vary greatly.
Your feet can grow bigger
Hormones strike again but this time they can make your feet grow bigger. The hormone relaxin helps soften and loosen ligaments and tissue for pregnancy, but since your feet are also packed with ligaments they can be affected as well. The ligaments in your feet loosen and relax causing your feet to flatten and become wider. For some this is a temporary phenomenon while for others their feet stay an increased size.
Babies can taste certain foods in the womb
Sense of taste begins to develop as early as 8 weeks, when taste buds first appear and is the most developed sense by the time of birth. Amniotic fluid is flavored by what you eat and since babies swallow amniotic fluid every day (between ¾ of a cup and 3 cups) they can taste what you’re eating. Eating healthy not only supports pregnancy but food preferences are formed early and can even begin to develop in the womb. Not only that, but some research shows that prenatal exposure to a variety of flavors can influence children’s willingness to try new foods so healthy eating can help in more ways than one.
Babies can cry in the womb
Although you can’t hear them, it’s true that babies can cry in the womb. Research has shown that babies are learning to react appropriately to negative stimuli and are basically practicing for the real thing. This practice can include imitating breathing patterns of crying, facial expressions and even mouth movements. It doesn’t last long and the vocal component of crying only develops after birth so there’s no real need to worry.
Your skin really can glow
Aside from the glow of being happy about your pregnancy, there are other medical reasons why your skin really can glow. Hormone fluctuations, an increase in blood flow, and increased oil in the skin (thanks to those hormones) can all contribute to making your skin look flushed and give you that characteristic “pregnancy glow”. It isn’t permanent and doesn’t happen to everyone, but you’re more likely to experience it during the height of bodily changes during the second trimester.
Hair can grow in new places
With an influx of extra hormones you may notice your hair is thicker and fuller. This is due to a change in the life cycle of the hair follicle as the hair stays in the growing phase longer. Thanks to an increase in estrogen, you may also notice hair in new and unwanted places. The face, belly, and nipples are common areas of unwanted hair growth but it’s not permanent and usually disappears after pregnancy.
Cravings may mean your baby is deficient in certain nutrients
Food cravings are extremely common in pregnancy but a growing number of people believe that this may be the body’s way to correct any nutrient deficiencies. There’s limited scientific evidence to support this theory, and your cravings may be caused by other factors like mood, lack of sleep, and poor hydration. The best way to reduce cravings is to consume a healthy balanced diet and stay well hydrated, as well as identifying any triggers for certain foods.
Your voice can change during pregnancy
Women’s voices are affected by hormones and certain times of the month or times of your life may change the pitch of your voice. Although scientists have known this for decades, voice changes in pregnancy weren’t well studied. New evidence confirms that women’s voices not only change during pregnancy but their pitch also lowers after birth. The reasons for this may be complicated and include both physical factors like hormone fluctuations and psycho-social factors like how others perceive us based on the pitch of our voice, or how tired you may be with a newborn.
Babies can get startled in the womb
Much like babies practice crying in the womb, they have shown that they can react to stimuli and get startled as well. Babies are born with reflexes such as rooting, sucking, and grasping among others and the startle reflex is another normal part of reflex development. It’s a normal response to stimulus and research shows that it starts to develop as early as 25 weeks. It peaks in the first month of life and should be gone by 5 to 7 months of age.
Only 5% of babies are born on their due date
Even though the centuries old method of calculating an estimated due date is the norm, it’s not necessarily accurate. Only approximately 5% of babies are born on their due date meaning only about 5 in 100 people give birth on that magical estimated due date. The truth is, it’s not unusual for babies to be born before or after their due date and it’s not an end date for your pregnancy. Term pregnancies are anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks and estimated due dates are just that – an estimate of when your baby is likely to be born based on the date of your last menstrual period or an ultrasound.
You’re actually not pregnant for 9 months
The length of pregnancy, proposed by German obstetrician Franze Naegele, conveniently rounds out to approximately 40 weeks. But like due dates, forty weeks is simply a convenient figure that has proven difficult to challenge. A number of factors influence the length of your pregnancy and Naegele’s rule is only a guideline and not a definite date. Even if you convert months into weeks or days, 9 months is only an average and not the norm for most women. But accepted cultural norms can be hard to change and the exact date of fertilization may be unknown so this rule persists.
Babies can yawn in the womb
It was well known that fetuses opened and closed their mouths in utero, but it wasn’t until it was specifically studied that scientists confirmed that babies do in fact yawn in the womb. Surprisingly though, this isn’t from boredom or sleepiness. Researchers believe that babies yawn as a response to brain development early in gestation and may be linked to neurological function.
Your heart grows bigger while pregnant
As your blood volume increases, the heart must work harder to pump all that extra volume. A variety of changes occur with the heart and cardiovascular system that are all completely normal. Since the organs need more blood during pregnancy, blood flow increases and the heart compensates with volume expansion and increased cardiac output. Although this is perfectly normal, if an underlying heart condition exists it can be exacerbated or exposed and require treatment. Other irregularities may appear with the heart working harder, like changes in rhythm and may or may not require treatment.
Your breasts can grow up to 3 cup sizes while pregnant
Breast changes can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy but did you know they can grow as many as 3 cup sizes while pregnant? For some this may be one of those fun pregnancy facts but for others it may not be as welcome. Increasing hormone levels mean changes to blood flow and fluid retention and as the pregnancy progresses the breast tissue prepares for nursing. Estrogen and progesterone are particularly influential on your breast tissue as well as prolactin, which stimulates both breast growth and milk production.
Your brain changes during pregnancy
Baby brain is real and not just an old wive’s tale on changing cognitive function. New research found that your brain actually gets smaller during pregnancy, but becomes more efficient to prepare for parenthood. Specific areas, like the front and temporal lobes, experience a loss of gray matter (the part of the brain that performs tasks) but researchers believe it helps new mothers form stronger attachments with their newborn. And although these changes may last for years after the baby is born, there was no decline seen in cognitive ability. In fact, it’s as if the changes to the brain are a type of cleaning where the brain gets rid of the clutter and becomes more efficient, effective, and helps the mother respond to the needs of her infant.
Babies can hear mom’s voice in the womb
At around 18 weeks, your baby can start to hear and this sense will rapidly develop over the next few weeks. Many pregnant people sing to their belly or play music for their little one but your baby will hear all sorts of sounds including your heartbeat, blood moving, or even your stomach growling. But since they are surrounded by fluid, all sounds will be muffled. That doesn’t mean they can’t hear your voice though. By the third trimester your baby will not only be able to hear your voice, but will recognize it as well.
Your orgasm can become more intense
Thanks to the increased blood flow during pregnancy, your nether regions may be more sensitive leading to more intense orgasms. The uterus and vaginal area are more engorged and this increase in sensitivity, not to mention raging hormones and an increased libido may make an orgasm during pregnancy more intense, and feel better than it ever has. Not only is this a safe practice for a low risk pregnancy, but the compounding effect of pregnancy hormones and those released during orgasm can all add up to an intense experience. And although it’s a popular myth, there’s no truth to orgasm bringing on labor so feel free to enjoy yourself.
Your abs may separate during pregnancy
In a condition known as Diastasis Recti, your abdominal muscles may separate from being stretched. As your uterus expands and this area begins to stretch, the linea alba, or line separating the two sides thins and may even pull apart. As it gets pushed out it gets wider and the separation can cause your belly to stick out or a bulge to appear. After the baby is born it will usually shrink back down and there are specific exercises you can do to properly engage the abdominals. Some exercises can make it worse though so always work with your healthcare provider or a physical therapist who has experience with this condition. In rare cases, surgery is required but this is a last resort and most people are able to heal with proper exercises.
You may have a stuffy nose
Increased blood flow also occurs in your nasal passage and the nasal veins may be enlarged. An inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the nose can cause nasal congestion and a stuffy nose that just won’t quit. Pregnancy rhinitis as it’s otherwise known, can last for several weeks and is a relatively small, if not uncomfortable, hassle of pregnancy. It can lead to complications like sinusitis or ear infections, but even without treatment usually goes away a few weeks after the baby is born.
Your nipples change
Your breasts can change in a variety of ways with pregnancy. Your nipples may become noticeably larger and the area around them (areola) may also become darker. Some women even get stretch marks on their breasts as they grow. Small painless bumps may appear on the areolas as well but not experiencing these changes is not a cause for concern. Nipple changes are not an indication of whether you will be able to breastfeed or not. Hormonal changes are likely the cause and most changes will “return to normal” once you are finished breastfeeding.
Pregnant women can lactate when they hear a baby cry
The sound of your baby, or any baby, crying can send a signal to your brain that it’s time to start feeding. This response is technically known as the milk ejection reflex and more commonly referred to as the let-down response. This auditory signal basically causes oxytocin to quickly be released which in turn causes the tissue in the breasts to contract and release stored milk. Although it can be an inconvenient response, it’s nothing to worry about and many use breast pads to absorb the leakage.
Your center of gravity changes
As your baby grows, your center of gravity moves forward and you may notice your balance changing. Coupled with the hormone relaxin working overtime to loosen your ligaments and joints for childbirth, these changes can have an impact on more than just your balance. Your posture and gait can also change, often leading to the famous “pregnant waddle”. Since your center of gravity has changed, you are at an increased risk for general clumsiness or even falling. Be especially careful when performing exercises, wear flat shoes, and use handrails whenever possible.
You can have an orgasm during childbirth
Although the evidence for this phenomenon occurs to be largely anecdotal, it is possible to have an orgasm during childbirth. The same parts of your body that are involved in sexual pleasure are being activated as the baby moves through which in rare circumstances may cause you to orgasm. Add in the release of certain hormones like oxytocin and although it’s unlikely, orgasm during childbirth can and does happen. Oxytocin is a natural pain reliever, but even still having an orgasm during birth may be difficult to plan for and more of a rare occurrence than a solid part of your birthing plan.
Your due date is not counted from conception
Conception is more complicated than just egg meets sperm. Conception is really a series of steps and the beginning of pregnancy is actually when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, known as implantation. But this can be difficult to track with scientific accuracy. For this and many other reasons, your due date is not counted from conception but rather is based on the day of your last menstrual period. It can also be calculated via ultrasound but even then it is only an estimate of when your baby will arrive and since we already know that only 5% of babies are born on their due dates, it is merely a guideline.
You become more flexible
During pregnancy, the hormone released to help your pelvic ligaments loosen actually affects all ligaments in your body. Your overall flexibility may increase but it can be a cause for concern. The loosening effect on your ligaments and other connective tissues may prepare your pelvis for labor and delivery, but it also leaves them more vulnerable to injury and aches and pains. Don’t overdo it and take steps to protect your ligaments by doing pregnancy safe exercises.
You’ll have more secretions
When your body undergoes major hormonal changes, like those experienced in pregnancy, it’s natural to experience vaginal discharge. The medical term for this is leukorrhea and it not only helps maintain the pH levels in your vagina, it also helps prevent yeast and bacterial infections by maintaining healthy vaginal flora. Just like vaginal discharge fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle, it can fluctuate during pregnancy as well. It will typically increase in amount, and may vary in consistency, thickness, and frequency. If you are using a fertility tracker such as Mira, you can match the changes in your normal discharge to the specific normal changes in your hormones. While not all pregnant people experience leukorrhea, many see an increase in mucus production and it may be thicker than your pre-pregnancy discharge.
Your wrinkles can fill
Since your skin retains more moisture during pregnancy, it often plumps up and the knock-on effect can mean smoother skin and less wrinkles. The plumped up skin smoothes out fine lines and wrinkles and contributes to that pregnancy glow. While it may be beneficial for your wrinkles, it can have a downside. Too much moisture may make the legs and ankles swell and when the skin is stretched it may feel more sensitive. Staying well hydrated will not only help your body store less water, it will also benefit your skin.
Pressure can make it harder to breathe
As the uterus continues to grow, it can begin to press on the diaphragm making it hard for your lungs to fully expand. This increased pressure may make you feel short of breath and cause more shallow breathing. The pressure on the lungs and diaphragm will decrease during the last few weeks of pregnancy though, as the baby gets in position for birth by settling into the pelvis. If you experience shortness of breath or have trouble breathing, it can help to move slowly, sleep propped up, and stay in an upright position to give your lungs more room to expand.
You may spot while pregnant
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a pregnant person like spotting, but this is completely normal and as many as 25% of all pregnant people experience some form of spotting. Although it can indicate problems or complications, it’s perfectly normal and can happen from conception right through to giving birth. Spotting can be caused by many things including sex, hormonal changes, infection, cervical changes, or even certain types of tests. If you are concerned you can always discuss with your doctor but if the spotting is coupled with other symptoms like dizziness or pain it’s always best to seek immediate medical attention to rule out any serious problems. Keep track of how much you are bleeding and the color of the blood and never use a tampon if you are pregnant.
You may develop heartburn
You can blame this extremely common symptom of pregnancy on hormones again. Just like they relax the ligaments in your pelvis to prepare for birth, they can also relax the valve at the stomach’s entrance. When this valve doesn’t close the way it should, stomach acid can move up into the esophagus and cause discomfort, otherwise known as heartburn. More than half of all pregnant people experience heartburn even if they’ve never had it before. You can find relief in the form of dietary changes or nonprescription heartburn relievers, but your doctor can recommend pregnancy safe alternatives if the pain is more serious.
Your skin can become sensitized to the sun
During pregnancy your skin can become generally more sensitive and that includes to the sun as well. Hormones are the cause of this and the increased sensitivity may make you more susceptible to sunburn or discoloration. Not only that, but the UV rays of the sun can even break down the folic acid in your body thereby increasing the risk of birth defects. You don’t need to avoid the sun completely, but make wise choices about sun exposure and use precautions as necessary.
You burn more calories
During pregnancy your metabolism increases to meet the demands of the growing fetus. In fact, pregnant people tend to burn roughly twice as many calories as normal since pregnancy is one of the most “energy-taxing” feats there is. Pregnancy pushes the limits of what the human body can do in many ways, including the amount of energy we can expend. One study found that the amount of energy expended, or calories burned while pregnant is even comparable to that of endurance athletes. You may not be running any marathons but your body does need to compensate for the extra needs of a growing baby as everything vies for a piece of the energy you are consuming. Your body is not only sustaining you, but growing a whole new life and this takes extra energy. The American Pregnancy Association only recommends an increase of 300 calories per day to make up for these demands.
You knew pregnancy came with some wild and wonderful side effects but did you know there were this many crazy pregnancy facts. You may only experience some of these, but these fun facts are sure to keep you in awe of just what your body goes through during pregnancy.