Making the decision to get pregnant is huge. It’s exciting, for sure — but no matter how certain you are that you want to have a baby, pregnancy can be scary too.
In the short term, you’ll go through big changes in your body and in your emotions. Pregnancy hormones can have a big impact on the way you feel, and unlike the magazine articles full of glowing women with beautiful bumps, the reality is that growing a tiny human is often very challenging.
And in the long term?
Well — you’ll have a child for the rest of your life.
IT IS AMAZING, but it’s no fairy tale.
This article is not intended to put you off getting pregnant. But we want to be real with you about the tough times and the risks that you’ll face if you decide you’re ready to get pregnant.
So, here are a three important things to think about before you decide to throw out the birth control and start a family.
1. Pregnancy is Difficult
OK, so people are always talking about how beautiful and magical pregnancy is. And it is — you’re growing a person! A real one!
But although it is possible for some women to breeze through pregnancy with no sickness, exhaustion or emotional breakdowns, that’s not how it is for most of us.
You’re facing the biggest change in your life, ever — and you’re dealing with the big emotions that come with that while your hormones are raging. The result? Tears, terror, and the occasional feeling of ‘what have I done to myself?!’
At the same time, your body is going through changes that can make you feel sick and tired. As pregnancy progresses, it might become harder and harder to sleep; and many women experience joint pain, particularly in the hips. And all of that happens in a healthy pregnancy, without any medical conditions of complications to add to the mix.
Pregnancy also means that you have change your lifestyle in order to protect the health of your unborn child. No more alcohol; some of your favourite foods might be out of the question; and there’s a good chance you’ll be so tired that late nights out with friends are a no-no, too. You have to watch your caffeine intake too — and this includes chocolate and caffeinated soft drinks, as well as coffee and tea.
If you decide to get pregnant, you have to be prepared to feel not-very-good for 9 months — and for some time after birth, too. If you are one of the lucky few who has a problem-free pregnancy you’ll enjoy it all the more because you prepared for the worst.
2. There Are No Guarantees
This is difficult to talk about. When you’re trying to conceive, everyone wants to be excited with you and no one wants to talk about the really scary stuff.
But the fact is that there are no guarantees. Getting a positive pregnancy test doesn’t always mean that you’ll end up taking a baby home — and dealing with complicated pregnancies and miscarriage is incredibly hard.
In the US it’s estimated that up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage every year. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Many miscarriages are unexplained, and it can happen to anyone.
The possibility of medical problems or miscarriage isn’t a reason not to try for a baby. But it’s good to understand and accept that there are risks before you decide whether you’re ready to get pregnant.
It’s important to make sure that you have the support you need to get through anything that comes you way: before getting pregnant, make sure you have close family or friends who you can turn to if things get tough. They’ll look after your wellbeing when you’re busy thinking about your bump.
3. Birth Will Happen
Yep. There’s no getting around it. If you’re pregnant, you’re going to have to get that baby out of you.
It’s easy to get caught up in being pregnant and pretend that birth is this thing on the distant horizon that you won’t have to think about for ages. But the time will come quickly, and it will hurt.
If you have a vaginal birth, you will push a human being out of your vagina. Contractions (the work that the muscles of your uterus do before you actually push the baby out, to draw him down into the birth canal) are painful and can go on for a long time.
Around 90% of women will have a vaginal tear during childbirth, which takes time to heal.
If you have a Cesarean section (often called a C-section), a surgeon and midwife will lift your baby out through an incision in your abdomen. You’ll either have a kind of anesthetic called an epidural — so your body will be numb, but you’ll still be conscious and know what’s going on — for this process or, in more urgent cases, you may be under general anesthetic.
Although the anesthetic means you won’t be in pain during your C-section, it can be very painful to recover afterwards. It’s surgery — you need help moving around and doing day-to-day tasks until your wound is properly healed.
For many women, giving birth is an amazing experience. It makes you feel strong and powerful, and at the end of it, you get to hold your baby in your arms and marvel at what you’ve managed to do.
If you want to get pregnant, you must accept that birth will happen. And then you can get ready for it so that when the time comes you feel confident, in control, and able to make decisions about the medical care, pain relief, and procedures that you are willing to consent to during labor.
You might even look forward to it — but you most definitely cannot avoid it.
What do you think are the most important considerations before getting pregnant? Drop them in the comments below.