Pregnancy is a very special period. From conception to delivery, several changes happen in a woman’s body to make her able to carry the pregnancy without any complications.
Today, we would be looking at a few facts about pregnancy that may surprise you.
Let’s dive straight in.
1. A woman’s blood volume increases by about 50% during pregnancy.
As part of her adaptation to carry a fetus, a woman’s body undergoes significant changes. One part of her body that has a remarkable change is her circulatory system.
The blood volume increases gradually as the pregnancy progresses and by the 32nd week of pregnancy, it is amazingly 50% more than it was before she got pregnant. Also, the heart becomes more efficient, pumping 50% more blood with each beat.
There is also a massive amount of blood flowing to the placenta. Towards the end of a pregnancy, about 500 ml of blood goes to the placenta each minute!
2. Fetuses swallow their own urine while in the womb.
This might sound a little yucky, but unborn babies swallow their own urine while they are in the womb. How is this even possible, right?
The truth is that fetuses ‘float’ in a clear amniotic fluid that helps to cushion them from harm. As the pregnancy advances, this fluid is mainly made up of fetal urine. Other contents are of this amniotic fluid are nutrients, hormones and antibodies.
Fetuses routinely ‘breathe in’ and ‘swallow’ this fluid and pass it out again as urine, once their kidneys are developed.
As a matter of fact, doctors usually use the quantity of amniotic fluid to assess if a fetus has a normal functioning kidney and digestive system. If the fluid is too much, it is called polyhydramnios and may suggest a problem in the digestive system while if it’s too little (oligohydramnios), it could mean a problem with the urinary system.
3. Pregnant women are more likely to pass different colors of poop.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to complain of passing strangely colored poop.
To understand this, let’s discuss why normal poop is brown in the first place. When food is being digested, a greenish pigment called bile is secreted to help with fat digestion. Enzymes and bacteria act on this green bile, turning its color brown, hence the normal stool color.
Towards the end of pregnancy, food may pass through the intestines at a ‘faster than normal’ rate and there may not be enough time for bacteria and enzymes to turn the color brown. In this case, pregnant women may pass green stools (sometimes containing mucus).
Apart from this, iron supplements that are prescribed during antenatal visits can cause black stools.
It is important for pregnant women to discuss with their doctors whenever they observe a strange colored poop.
4. Only 4% of babies are born on their predicted due dates.
Many pregnant women hold the dates their doctors give them so dearly, but the truth is that most of the time, their babies aren’t delivered on that date. Only about 4% of babies are actually born on the expected delivery date. So you may wonder, why then do doctors give this date if it isn’t going to accurately tell when exactly to expect the delivery?
Well, doctors give an expected delivery date, so as to be able to track the progression of the pregnancy. During pregnancy, a doctor’s ability to understand how long the pregnancy has gone on for is very important. Usually, a pregnant woman should expect to go into labour within a period that spans two weeks before and after the due date.
5. Men can also have pregnancy symptoms
As weird as it may sound but men could have pregnancy symptoms when their partners are pregnant. This condition even has a name: Couvade syndrome. It is often also referred to as sympathetic pregnancy.
Men could experience symptoms like morning sickness, fatigue, bloating, heartburn, mood swings and insomnia. The symptoms are observable mainly in the first and third trimester of their partner’s pregnancy.
Theories suggest that it is caused by stress, emotional connection with the mother and their unborn child and hormones.
Even though men don’t generally like to talk about this, it not an uncommon thing.
6. Male fetuses can have erections in the womb.
If you have ever wondered when the males are supposed to start having erections, well, you have your answer already. Male fetuses have been found to have erections while in the womb during obstetric ultrasound tests.
Medically, fetal erections are called fetal penile tumescence. There are even researchers studying these erections and the penile length.
7. It’s normal to have swollen feet in pregnancy.
Pregnant women may notice that their shoes don’t exactly fit as their pregnancies progress. It is very normal for women to experience some swelling during pregnancy. There is an increased fluid retention in the body to support the pregnancy, softening the body as it expands and to prepare the pelvic tissues and joints for delivery.
Another reason for this swelling is that there is a decrease in venous return of blood to the heart due to the pressure exerted on veins by the growing womb.
Here are some tips to help manage swollen feet in pregnancy:
- Avoid standing for long periods.
- Use gravity by elevating legs above the level of the heart when lying down.
- Sleeping on your left side helps decrease the pressure on the veins that return blood to the heart.
- Drink more water.
- Use compression stockings.
Sometimes an increase in swelling can be caused by pre-eclampsia- a disease that is also associated with an elevated blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine of pregnant women. It is important for every pregnant woman to attend antenatal appointments to ensure that all is well with her pregnancy and to get her routine medications.
Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies is the founder of 25 Doctors, an online platform where you can chat with doctors.