10 things I wish I'd known about pregnancy

You’ve got that blue line on the stick and your world is about to change forever. Here are the things mums say they wish they’d been told about pregnancy…

1. Pregnancy is a rare time in your life when you’ll (hopefully) receive special treatment. So try to enjoy it

We know being pregnant isn’t a disability and you’ll still be able to do nearly everything you did before. Even so, people might offer you a seat, bring you a drink and carry your bags. If you’re lucky, they might even tell you to take a nap.

Your body is doing the most remarkable thing and you’re likely to feel more tired than usual (NHS, 2016a).  So, if you’re happy to be indulged, soak up the special treatment while it lasts. You’re growing a human being after all.

Although it might feel like you’ll be pregnant forever, some women end up pining nostalgically for their bump after their baby is born. Maybe take photos of your changing shape or write a pregnancy journal to help you remember this incredible stage in your life. It’s a nice way to involve older children, your partner and other family members too.

2. Pregnancy can have some embarrassing symptoms

There may be a few things you didn’t bargain for. Your breasts might start leaking colostrum (NHS, 2017a). You might have a milky vaginal discharge (NHS, 2018a). And, to top it off, you might have piles (haemorrhoids) (NICE, 2008; Ferdinande et al 2018). Great.

Mel Ralph, mum to Phoebe and volunteer with Redhill, Reigate and Horley NCT branch, says: “The first symptom I got which nobody told me about was horrendous trapped wind. I woke up in the middle of the night in agony every night for three weeks.”

As well as trapped wind and bloating, you might find you succumb to constipation (NHS, 2018b, c). There’s no denying it – these things aren’t particularly pleasant.

Emily Darko, mum to Jess and member of Tottenham NCT branch says: “When you’re pregnant, prunes are your friend and can be made more edible if you chop them up and put them in flapjacks.”

You might also feel self-conscious, particularly if you opt for a membrane sweep or have internal examinations in early labour. It is important to know that these procedures are entirely optional (AIMS, 2016).

Getting used to the feeling that your body is not your own any more can be tricky. Talk to your midwives or doctor if you’re finding this particularly difficult or if you’re worried about anything else physical or emotional in your pregnancy (Tommys, 2018a).

Your midwife will do what they can to be sensitive to your concerns. They may also be able to do something to ease the discomfort or simply explain what’s happening to allay your fears. If you’ve already Googled the symptoms you could always bring your online research with you to talk through anything.

3. You might not spend months with your head down the toilet with apparently never-ending morning sickness

There’s just no way of knowing how you’ll feel during pregnancy…until you’re pregnant. Everyone is different and every pregnancy is different. You might not suffer heartburn, exhaustion, swollen feet, dizziness, sore boobs, back pain, headaches, itchy skin, mood swings, forgetfulness, insomnia or any of the other lovely symptoms of pregnancy either (NHS, 2016b).

Even if your best friend had terrible sickness, you might escape. And, even if you felt utterly drained in your first pregnancy, you might not in your second. Try not to assume the worst.

The same goes if your pregnancy symptoms suddenly change or disappear. Speak to your midwife for reassurance but try not to jump to the conclusion that something bad has happened. Remember, you’re carrying extra weight, your blood volume has expanded and your ligaments have softened (Fraser et al, 2003). All of this could affect the way you’ll feel.

If you are suffering with any of the pregnancy ailments above, care for yourself with lots of rest, soft drinks and small digestible meals (NHS, 2017b).

4. You don’t need to eat loads (but you might want to)

Everyone feels differently during pregnancy. Some women lose their appetite completely, especially if they’re suffering from pregnancy sickness, while others are constantly starving.

It’s worth remembering that the NHS guidance is that you only need an extra 200 calories each day in the final three months. This is only a couple of slices of toast or pieces of flatbread (NHS, 2017b). So try not to go overboard with the old (and incorrect) pregnancy myth of eating for two and try to have a healthy balanced diet (NICE, 2010; NHS, 2017b). Equally, if you find that indulging a little is one of the ways of keeping you going throughout your pregnancy, don’t feel too bad about it.

Do tell your midwife or doctor if you think you might have problems with eating, like an eating disorder, as they should give you special support (NICE, 2017).

5. It’s ok to feel scared, worried, stressed and even unsure about life with a baby

Becoming a parent is completely and utterly life changing. There’s no disguising it. And it’s an incredibly emotional time (Tommy’s, 2018a).

“Pregnancy hormones can make you weep about everything,” says Emily Darko.

Try to be open and honest about your feelings and any worries. Despite what people might expect you to say, you might not feel like this is the most magical and wonderful time of your life. Talk to your partner, family, friends or midwife if you can. Or seek support online (MIND, 2013).

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious at all the changes happening to your body and your life (Tommys, 2018a). But if you’re concerned there’s more to it than just a pregnancy wobble, or you feel you might have antenatal depression, there is plenty of support available (MIND, 2013).

One mum, Lizzy, said: “For the first time in a long time, I felt vulnerable and unable to control what was happening to me while I was pregnant. I vividly remember calling my mum from work when I was seven months pregnant. I was crouched down in my office sobbing behind the door so that nobody could see me. This had been triggered by someone being unreasonable at the photocopier.”

For information about how you might be feeling and how to cope.

6. Baby’s movements are different for everyone

Some women feel their baby’s movements early on. Others find it happens much later. Some babies have a regular pattern of movement and are more active at certain times of day, others are more unpredictable (NHS, 2018d).

A second pregnancy is likely to be different from the first. There is no normal. All of this variation can be a source of worry. Especially if you’ve heard you should be feeling certain things. The most important thing is to tell your midwife about any reduction or change in your baby’s usual movements. They’d far rather check you out and reassure you that your baby is healthy than miss something important (Tommy’s, 2018b).

Also remember the movements feel very different to every woman. Some say the first kicks are like a butterfly fluttering its wings, others say it feels like bubbles, pops, swishing or rolling. It’s so hard to describe as it depends on your body and your baby (Rayes-Greenow et al, 2013).

Most women begin to feel their baby move between 13 and 24 weeks (NHS, 2018d).  Movements will increase up until around 32 weeks then stay about the same for the rest of your pregnancy (Tommy’s, 2018b). There’s no specific number of movements that’s considered to be normal and no evidence that kick charts are helpful.

7. You don’t need as much baby stuff as you think (though it can be fun shopping for it, of course)

Baby brands are poised to make money from excited first timers. But really all you need when your baby is very young are babygros, nappies, a safe place to sleep and a means of feeding your baby (whether that’s breastfeeding or formula) (NHS, 2018e).

When it comes to bigger items like prams, car seats, swing chairs and toys, shop around and always check out your local NCT Nearly New Sale for excellent bargains.

8. Your relationships may change too

It’s a time of change for everyone. Keep sharing your thoughts and feelings. And be easy on yourself. The impending arrival of a baby makes everyone think about their own role. Your partner, friends, relatives or grandparents-to-be might all be facing emotional challenges too.

Your partner in particular may be on a bit of a rollercoaster. And sometimes your moods might not always match. You’ll probably face different emotional highs and lows over the coming nine months (Relate, 2019)

9. It really is an estimated due date...

Try not to be too hung up on your due date, it is unlikely that your baby will be born on this day (Jukic et al, 2013). It can make you feel impatient and fed up if your baby doesn’t get the memo about arriving on this day. Instead, see it as a rough window when he or she might make an appearance (Jukic et al, 2013).

You might even want to give people a date a week or two later to avoid the inevitable ‘any news?’ texts towards the end. This doesn’t help when you’re uncomfortable, ‘overdue’ and feel like the baby will never come.

10. People will give advice, both solicited and unsolicited, and both useful and useless

And many will feel entitled to ask personal questions… Was the pregnancy planned? How are you going to give birth? Are you going to breastfeed? They might even comment on whether your bump is huge or tiny. And feel the need to stroke it. They might want to share their birth story (in far too much detail).

You may be easy-going about all of the above, or you might find it irritates you. Either way, it’s a good idea to have a think about how you want to handle situations like these. Whether that’s smiling, nodding and politely ignoring. Or conjuring up a witty one-liner to keep uninvited comments, advice or hands at bay.

There’s no ‘right’ way to be pregnant. You may decide to have plenty of relaxing sofa time, or to keep running. You may want to cut out certain foods from your diet, or continue having the things you love in moderation. You might choose to find out the sex of your baby, or wait to discover this yourself at the birth

It’s all completely up to you. So try not to feel pressured or judged in your decisions. Most of all trust your instincts and do what feels best for you during your pregnancy.

This page was last reviewed in January 2019.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

AIMS. (2016) Vaginal examinations in Labour. Available at: https://www.aims.org.uk/information/item/vaginal-examinations-in-labour [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Ferdinande K, Dorreman Y, Roelens K, Ceelen W, De Looze D. (2018) Anorectal symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum: a prospective cohort study. Colorectal Disease. 20(12):1109-1116. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29972721 [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Fraser D, Cooper MA, Myles MF. (2003) Myles textbook for midwives. 14th Edn. Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone: 193; 205.

Jukic A, Baird D, Weinberg C, McConnaughey D, Wilcox A. (2013) Length of human pregnancy and contributors to it’s natural variation. Human Reproduction. 28(10):2848-2855. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/28/10/2848/620772 [Accessed 11th January 2019]

MIND. (2013) How can I look after myself? Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/self-care/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2016a) Tiredness in pregnancy. Available at : https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/tiredness-sleep-pregnant/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2016b) Signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/signs-and-symptoms-pregnancy/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2017a) Leaking from your nipples. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/leaking-nipples-pregnant/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2017b) Have a healthy diet in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/healthy-pregnancy-diet/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2018a) Vaginal discharge in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vaginal-discharge-pregnant/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2018b) Common health problems in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/common-pregnancy-problems/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2018c) Stomach pain in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stomach-pain-abdominal-cramp-pregnant/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2018d) Your baby’s movements. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/baby-movements-pregnant/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NHS. (2018e) What you’ll need for your baby. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/what-you-need-for-baby/ [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NICE. (2008) Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman. National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/evidence/evidence-tables-from-the-2003-version-pdf-196748322 [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NICE. (2010) Weight management before, during and after pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph27/chapter/1-Recommendations#recommendation-2-pregnant-women [Accessed 11th January 2019]

NICE. (2017) Eating disorders: recognition and treatment. NICE guideline [NG69]. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng69/ifp/chapter/Pregnancy-and-eating-disorders [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Raynes-Greenow C,  Gordon A, Qiushuang L, Hyett J. (2013) A cross-sectional study of maternal perception of fetal movements and antenatal advice in a general pregnant population, using a qualitative framework. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 13:32. Available at: https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2393-13-32 [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Relate. (2019) How to maintain a healthy relationship after a baby is born. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parenting/new-parents/how-maintain-healthy-relationship-after-baby-has-been-born  [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Tommy’s. (2018a) Emotional changes during pregnancy. Available at: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-wellbeing/emotional-changes-pregnancy [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Tommy’s. (2018b) Baby movements in pregnancy. Available at:  https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy/symptom-checker/baby-fetal-movements [Accessed 11th January 2019]

Related articles

10 things I wish I'd known about pregnancy

Local activities and meetups

Help us reach families in need this Christmas
Help us reach families in need this Christmas

Courses & workshops

NCT Signature antenatal course

Find out more

NCT Essentials antenatal course

Find out more

NCT Antenatal Refresher course

Find out more