If you’ve ever tried to conceive, you know how much the wait between ovulation and the start of your period can feel like torture. The dreaded “two week wait” is often spent analyzing every little tingle and sensation, wondering if it could be a sign that pregnancy has been achieved. I talked to real women to find out their first signs of pregnancy before missed period.
These are the 7 that came up again and again!
SENSE OF SMELL
Many people become hyper sensitive to smells when they’re pregnant, and this can start extremely early in the pregnancy.
Christina tells of how she knew she was pregnant with her first:
I went to the grocery store to buy a pregnancy test because it was around the time that I could start testing. While I was waiting in the checkout line, an older lady came up behind me in line. She wasn’t even that close to me, but I got a whiff of her perfume so strong it punched me in the face! I had never had super sonic smell like that before, so I immediately suspected I was about to see two lines on that pee stick!
Corinne was plagued with an unpleasant smell that seemed to be everywhere:
All I could smell was pee. Everywhere I went, pee. No one else could smell it.
Suffice it to say, if you notice anything odd with your sense of smell, that can be a big indicator that there’s a teeny weeny bun starting to cook in that oven.
NAUSEA OR APPETITE CHANGES
Unfortunately, it’s very common for women to feel sick to their stomach during pregnancy (especially in the beginning). The hormone levels are rising rapidly, which many women can’t tolerate.
These hormones affect people in different ways, so you could feel nausea (for me it felt very much like being hungover), loss of appetite or even increased appetite.
Molly says: “I had zero appetite. That tipped me off.”
Angel describes she felt:
Queasy and heartburn from day 1. Never experience it otherwise.
In contrast, Alexa says:
I wanted McDoubles from McDonalds all day every day… for like two weeks straight.
As you can see, appetite can be affected many different ways!
FAINT LINES ON HPT
OK, time to tell my own first pregnancy story!
When my husband and I decided to start trying, my doctor had warned me that it would likely take 6 months or more to get pregnant. I doubted it would take that long since both sides of our families are filled with extremely fertile people. So the first month of trying I was obsessing over whether or not I could be pregnant.
Everything I read said not to even bother testing until you miss your period. Earlier tests would be unreliable and blowing through pregnancy tests can quickly become an expensive habit.
I didn’t want to listen to what everything said.
My old pal Amazon hooked me up with a super cheap 25 pack of pregnancy tests, so I felt no shame about wasting them. I took my first one (actually that’s a lie, I simultaneously took two) at only 7 days after ovulation. Yup, a full week before my period was due.
And I saw this:
Don’t see any second line? Don’t feel bad. They are super, super faint because they were taken so early. I had to squint to see them in person! So, not reliable enough to declare myself officially pregnant, but definitely a huge good sign.
And sure enough, I got my “Yes, positive+” on a digital test a couple days later.
If you are already seeing lines on a HPT, get ready to celebrate because it is very likely that a bundle of joy is on the way for you! And as soon as you get that positive, you’ll want to grab the Oh Baby Pregnancy Planner to help make your entire pregnancy a breeze. This 50 page bundle includes all your trimester to-do lists, hospital tour questions, birth plan template, and much more- all to get you fully prepared for baby.
CUE THE FATIGUE
Anyone who’s been pregnant will tell you entire beginning of pregnancy feels like you’ve taken a 3 month sleeping pill. The fatigue is severe and almost impossible to combat. The onset of this symptoms varies from person to person (for me it was 6-7 weeks, and eased up a bit around 14), but for some it is the very first sign.
I was constantly tired! I could literally fall asleep doing anything!
According to Christa,
The only symptom I had before I missed my period was exhaustion.
Of course if you don’t get enough sleep regularly or are stressed for any reason, you may feel exhausted without being pregnant. So while it’s not the most reliable sign, in conjunction with other symptoms it could be telling.
SORE BREASTS / PRICKLY NIPPLES
The ONLY physical sign I had that I was pregnant before the 6 week park was an odd sensation in my nipples. The best way to describe them would be tingly/prickly. It stood out to me because it was a strange sensation that I had never felt before.
I had sore boobs, but not the kind of sore boobs I get when my period is coming.
Other people notice an overall breast soreness, fullness, or heaviness. Darkening of the nipples is another symptom that can start in the wee early days of pregnancy.
Nicole mentions her first sign of pregnancy was “veiny boobs”. So you should be on the lookout for all kinds of breast changes.
Headaches! I had headaches that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did!
You guessed it, this is another symptom that comes due to the hormone surge as well as increased blood volume, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
If you’re experiencing headaches and suspect you may be pregnant, remember that ibuprofen and aspirin are not recommended during pregnancy. Stick with Tylenol or natural remedies like a cold compress.
“I had a very vivid and scary dream”, answered Megan when asked how she first knew she was pregnant.
Vivid dreams are a strange but common pregnancy symptom that can happen anytime during the pregnancy. I remember the dreams I had during my pregnancies being unlike any other dreams I’ve ever had- almost like acting in a movie. And I could remember them well unlike normal dreams.
Arianna says she was tipped off about being pregnant because she had a:
Crazyyyy dream! I dreamt I took so many positive pregnancy tests it covered my bathroom floor.
Sounds more like a premonition to me!
Did you have any early signs of pregnancy before missed period? Share your story in the comments!
Seeing that first positive pregnancy test is such a surreal, emotional moment. I know for me, the feelings of joy were quickly followed by a sense of “what do I do now?!” Rest assured, we’ve got you covered with all the first trimester to-dos. Here are the first 12 things to do in your first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
START TAKING PRENATAL VITAMINS
Some people start taking prenatal vitamins before they even start trying to get pregnant. Those people are on it. Others of us didn’t even know we were pregnant until six weeks in (oops), and had to start taking them right after finding out.
Either way, just start taking them as soon as you know you’re pregnant. If you’re feeling sick, try taking them with saltines at whatever time of day you tend to feel the best. I always had good luck taking them right before bed so I would be asleep before I noticed any nausea.
CALCULATE YOUR DUE DATE
Unless you were very carefully tracking ovulation, chances are you’ll have to estimate based on your last period. If you don’t use a period tracker, look over your last month and try to remember what day your period started based on what you had going on. Some event on it might help jog your memory.
Once you know your the start date of your last menstrual period, you can calculate your due date with a simple calculator like this one from Babycenter.
Some digital pregnancy tests estimate how many weeks you are based on the HCG level in your urine. This is a VERY rough estimate, so you would not want to rely on these to give you any reliable idea of your due date.
If you really don’t know your last period, an early dating ultrasound is typically done at your first OBGYN appointment that can tell you your due date. Which brings us to your next to-do…
MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR OBGYN
A lot of the important medical checks take place at the first appointment, typically around week 8. They’ll need to do bloodwork, the first ultrasound (be prepared, this is done vaginally not through your belly like ultrasounds you see on TV), discuss genetic testing, and take a comprehensive health history and family history.
GET YOUR PREGNANCY PLANNER + JOURNAL
Pregnancy can be so overwhelming, especially if this is your first go-around. The Oh Baby Pregnancy Planner guides you through each step so you can be completely calm and prepared.
This planner helps you stay organized throughout your pregnancy (hello pregnancy brain) and even walks you through things you probably didn’t think you needed to know (like questions to ask your pediatrician and how to set up your home before baby arrives). The Oh Baby Pregnancy Planner includes over 50 printables to help you prepare for baby and beyond.
The entire planner is great for any expecting mom, but I think my favorite part is the breastfeeding guide and newborn care sheets. This planner is packed with information I wish I’d had at my fingertips the first time around.
TELL YOUR SUPPORT PEOPLE
Ok so this one is personal choice. I know a lot of people subscribe to the conventional notion of waiting until the end of the first trimester to tell anyone they’re pregnant. The idea is that the risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester and it would be painful to have to go back and tell everyone you’re no longer pregnant.
I thought about it a little differently. If I were to suffer a miscarriage, would I want to go through that completely alone? Personally I think suffering in silence would make it even harder.
So instead of telling no one but my spouse about the pregnancy, I told the people that I would lean on in the event of a miscarriage. Those people are your support people. My siblings, a couple friends, and mother in law would help me get through it if I were grieving, so those are the people I didn’t wait 12 weeks to tell.
Who doesn’t love a growing baby bump progression? It’s one of the most fun things to document during pregnancy!
Of course, your pregnancy probably won’t show for a good ten weeks or so (or 16 as was the case with my first). That gives you a good amount of time to take your “before” picture before the changes really start.
While you’re on Amazon buying your pregnancy essentials, why not start your baby registry? It’s the best place to register because friends and family in any location can easily buy off it and send you a gift that you really want. Plus, they have everything!
I love Amazon because I can take the time to read reviews and compare my options, especially for the big items. You can keep your registry private until you’re ready to share it.
READ UP ON A PREGNANCY-SAFE DIET
Considering I felt ready to puke the whole first trimester, I didn’t put much thought into the food I was eating. My diet was mostly crackers and bagels for most of it. But if you’re one of the lucky ones who is still able to eat actual food, you’ll want to know what is and isn’t safe for pregnancy.
Alcohol is a clear no in early pregnancy. Most doctors advise against raw meat or super rare meat and deli meats (unless it’s been heated through). You have to watch the mercury level with fish, and make sure your cheeses and milk are pasteurized.
Some women choose to cut out caffeine, but the guidelines say to just keep it under 200 mg per day. If you still need your coffee in the morning, 1-2 small cups per day is fine.
Try not to laugh too hard right now if you’re laid out on the couch with morning sickness and fatigue.
If and when you feel up to it, walking is a great habit to get into to keep you healthy all pregnancy long. Prenatal yoga is another good form of exercise that can also help with your aches and pains as you progress through the pregnancy.
If you are a fitness buff, it’s most likely fine to continue the workout routine you had before you got pregnant. Just clear it with your doctor first, and be sure to listen to your body and not push too hard.
THINK ABOUT MATERNITY LEAVE
Wait, I’m just at the beginning of pregnancy and you already want me to think about maternity leave?
You’ll want to research the maternity leave policy at your workplace and make an informed decision about the best time to tell your boss.
If the pregnancy will affect your ability to do your job (i.e. heavy lifting) you will need to disclose early on and your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for you. You’ll also want to know the amount of paid time off you have and how you’re allowed to use it, and whether or not you will qualify for unpaid leave under FMLA.
Depending on your area, there may be extensive waiting lists for daycare so having this information will help you determine when you will need your daycare spot and get one reserved early on.
Can you think of any other things to do in your first 12 weeks of pregnancy?
I’d probably add “be kind to yourself” and “take a nap!” How about you? Let me know in the comments!
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When I first got pregnant, I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of the whole pregnancy experience. Bring on the luscious thick hair and fast growing nails! Cravings? Vivid dreams? Sounds cool! But reading all the “What to Expect” books didn’t adequately prepare me for strange pregnancy symptoms to come.
I quickly realized there were some MAJOR side effects to this miracle of life thing that the books just left out! Luckily, I had two close friends who were pregnant at the same time as I was, and we were nearly constantly texting each other with crazy questions (and sometimes horrifying pictures) about bizarre pregnancy symptoms. You know it’s a friendship for life when you can compare mucus plugs in complete seriousness.
So I’m here with some of the most bothersome, strange pregnancy symptoms that the books did not prepare us for. You’re welcome. And I’m sorry.
One of the first symptoms I noticed that alerted me I was pregnant was that my “headlights” had come on and absolutely refused to shut off. No matter how warm or cold I was, my nipples had accepted the call to become ever vigilant lighthouse beacons. I could have easily diverted ships from rocky shores my entire first trimester!
Just to make this even more noticeable, my nipples darkened in color seemingly overnight. They say this is to help the baby find them more easily, but that doesn’t explain why it happens so early in pregnancy.
Then they started to hurt. “Breast tenderness” is basically a cute, clinical way to describe howling in the shower, attempting to shield your entire chest from the sudden onslaught of what HAS to be hot razor blades raining down from the showerhead. Even your comfiest bra becomes a medieval torture device.
This is also about the time that your boobs will start perking up and rounding out, so you’ll find you need to shop for new bras every couple months. You might be tempted to go braless to save money, but you’ll need something to hold your leak pads. And as the title suggest, there’s gonna be leaking.
If you’re lucky, it’ll wait till after your baby is born. But for a percentage of women, your breasts can start producing a thin, watery substance late in pregnancy. Not enough to feed a voracious newborn, but definitely enough to ruin a silk shirt. In a work meeting. Not that I’d know.
Buy the breast pads.
IF I DIDN’T DRINK, WHY DO I FEEL HUNGOVER?
The most unjust of all the strange pregnancy symptoms, every day of the first trimester feels like you were on a bender the night before. Queasiness/vomiting, scrambled-eggs for brains, irritable, exhausted and just want to spend the day in bed… seems like a horrible hangover to me. Except it’s every day, and you didn’t even get to indulge in a drop of alcohol the night before!
Gradually towards the start of the second trimester, the nausea, headaches and fatigue should subside. Unless you have hyperemeis gravidarum, in which case the awful sickness goes on for the whole pregnancy.
A WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF HEARTBURN
Heartburn is one that you do read about in a lot of the pregnancy books. Usually the spiel goes something like, “As your uterus grows, it may put pressure on your digestive organs and cause occasional reflux.” But what the literature fails to fully explain is that pregnancy heartburn is not even in the same universe of pain as late night chili heartburn.
Pregnancy heartburn is swallowing 1,000 flaming swords, binding your ribcage with piranhas, and lighting your upper GI tract on fire. Regardless of what you ate. Chili? Fried food? A banana? Dry toast? Doesn’t matter. You’re on fire, and there’s no extinguisher. Even better? Pregnancy heartburn doesn’t always wait for your uterus to expand enough to put pressure on anything!
For my first pregnancy, I had intense, nearly constant stabbing heartburn that started 2 weeks after my missed period! Seriously, it lasted from week 6 until week 39 when my precious internal arsonist was finally born.
Very little helped the heartburn, but it did, thankfully, vanish just as quickly as it came. I celebrated by eating about 15 lbs of fried chicken and french fries in the hospital. I didn’t have it nearly as bad during my second pregnancy, but what blessedly brief spells of flaming guts I did endure with #2 were still beyond anything heartburn related I’ve ever experienced outside of pregnancy.
I hope you like the taste of chewable Tums.
AM I GOING CRAZY OR ARE THESE PREGNANCY FEELINGS?
The hormonal changes of pregnancy are another symptom that’s just really not explained well to most women. Tiredness, irritability, or moodiness are commonly listed side effects of growing a person, but those words don’t even scratch the surface of the irrational crazy that lurks inside of a pregnant brain, just waiting to bust out on an unsuspecting spouse. Or stranger in the grocery store.
Until week 7-8 of my first pregnancy, I hated my husband with an irrational passion that was only slightly eclipsed by his willingness to give me food. Luckily, he kept bringing snacks until I loved him again, sometime around weeks 9-10.
Later on, I was the weepiest weeper that ever wept. I’m fairly certain Sarah McLachlan and her heartbreaking ASPCA commercials kept Kleenex in business that year.
At the beginning of my second pregnancy, I got absolutely furious at my husband for complimenting me. I opened my mouth to bite his head off, realized what was going on, burst out laughing and said instead, “Dude. I’m so pregnant!” In that moment, the crazy vanished nearly immediately!
Unfortunately, it was replaced with crippling, could not sleep, recurrent night terrors anxiety. I guess my hormones decided since they’d failed to convince me to off my husband, they’d just torment me with visions of all the ways he, my babies, and I could die accidentally. Spoiler alert: there are a lot of them.
My close friend regularly struggles with anxiety and compulsive thoughts and just had her first bundle of joy. I warned her very early on about the pregnancy crazy and the prenatal and postpartum anxiety I dealt with. She was all geared up to have a similar experience, but instead she sailed through her hormone disruption with barely a tear shed.
It makes no sense. It has no consistency. You aren’t going crazy. But you’ll feel like it, and you might actually drive everyone around you nuts before it’s over.
We spend a lot of time in the first trimester wishing to feel those first flutters of new life stirring. In the beginning weeks of the second trimester, we listen inwardly, trying in vain to determine if that internal stirring was a baby nudge or a gut bubble. Adoring smiles, caressing the bump, it’s basically a scene straight from a sappy commercial!
Then the third trimester happens. And suddenly adoring smiles are consumed in grimaces of absolute pain as an impossibly accurate foot finds your always full bladder with agonizing accuracy. In short, those sweet little baby kicks HURT. In fact, the last few months of pregnancy take you from counting movements to practically dreading them.
Baby’s leg constantly wedged underneath my ribcage. Baby fists pummel your kidneys. Baby stretches feel like they’re going to split your skin open. Little skulls wedge themselves between your pelvis and your spinal column and then bounce with ill timed hiccups. It’s a wash of unexpected sensations, and you welcome them at the same time that you brace yourself for impact.
Pro Tip: Ice packs on any really sore spots can actually deflect baby away from them, and using a warm compress on the opposite side of your belly will usually encourage him to move around and reduce the risk of splitting his way out through your thinly stretched skin. Sometimes poking and prodding works too, but the ice/heat trick has never failed me!
I’VE GOT PAIN IN NEW PLACES
If anyone tells you that the aches and pains of pregnancy are nothing compared to labor, feel free to smack them with a What To Expect book. We expect labor to be hard, painful work, that’s why we all call it “labor!”
But even if you have the easiest pregnancy in the world, you’re going to have some pretty serious and often unexpected discomforts. Many pregnancies begin with cramping, and occasionally accompanying spotting can convince a mama she’s having a miscarriage. The cramping showed up for me all throughout the first trimester, quickly teamed up with sharp, stabbing round ligament pains.
Basically, round ligament pain is this sensation that a hot ice pick is rooting around your pelvic area willy-nilly. The ligaments (and/or scar tissue if you are pregnant after any kind of abdominal surgery or infection) stretch as the uterus grows and your other organs shift around to make room. It’s pretty scary if you aren’t expecting it, but it’s almost always normal, even in early pregnancy.
As the baby gets bigger and starts to displace things inside, other aches and pains show up. Your smooshed intestines can’t decide the best way to evacuate waste, so you spend a lot of time either racing to the toilet, or sitting on it waiting for the festivities to begin. Your pelvis decides that it needs to expand to a size reminiscent of an airplane hangar. Your spine is pulled forward by your blooming belly. Your hands and feet can swell to unrecognizable proportions regardless of salt intake. You might even get headaches from posture related tension or hormone fluctuations.
The worst pain, towards the end, was the shooting, stabbing pain of sciatic nerve pain. I would be walking along like normal and then JUMP like something had come up from the ground and bit me. It was a sudden excruciating nerve pain in my back that shot all the way down my leg. Regular trips to the chiropractor helped some, but I mostly just had to deal with it until the baby was born and then it never showed its face again.
The most frustrating part of all the aches and pains is being torn between worrying that something is wrong and worrying you’ll look foolish for thinking something is wrong when it isn’t. Consider this blanket permission to ask your healthcare provider about anything that seems out of the ordinary. It is probably fine though, because basically everything IS going to hurt at some point.
NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME
The books also don’t prepare you for negative responses to whatever crazy thing you are dealing with in your pregnancy. Dismissive comments are usually meant to be comforting, but often only downplay and demean legitimate and worrisome concerns. Yeah, labor is going to suck, but telling a pregnant mama that a particular symptom is “nothing compared to labor” is useless. Frankly, sometimes the parts leading up to labor can suck just as bad!
IS THERE NO END TO THE POSSIBLE STRANGE PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS?
These were the worst of my personal symptoms, but there are so many more you could experience. Your eyes change shape and affects your vision. Your foot bones spread and change your shoe size. You could be gassy, itchy, barfy, rashy, smelly, or dischargey. Almost anything is possible when your body gets taken over by a tiny human alien.
Do not feel guilty about acknowledging the parts of your pregnancy that aren’t sunshine and roses. If you suddenly have the worst dragon breath known to man, horrifically swollen, sweaty, and smelly feet, and stretch marks that itch you nearly to insanity, you aren’t weird and you aren’t alone.
Most importantly, remind yourself that your enjoyment of the process of pregnancy has nothing to do with your love and excitement for your unborn baby. You are not ungrateful, uncaring, or a bad mom if pregnancy feels like a really not fun out of body experience. And you aren’t a bad mom either if you sail through gestation with dry, perky boobs and no stretch marks! (Though, we might hate you a little when you share your good fortune during the Mama Horror Story Swap.)
Read all the books. Ask all the questions. And buckle up. It’s going to be nothing like you expected. Welcome to parenthood.
Are you pregnant and wondering what’s in store for your sex life? Pregnancy sex is something everybody wonders about but no one seems to be talking about.
There’s no easy answer to how pregnancy will affect your sex life, because it will change it in a thousand different ways. Based on my experience and that of my closest female confidants, I’ve noticed there is a loose trajectory of how it will go; therefore we’ve outlined the 7 stages of pregnancy sex.
Step 1: Making the baby
If your baby was planned, chances are this was achieved through scientifically researched, calculated, and extremely well-timed baby-making sex. (Nothing says “sexy” like being told to come make your deposit NOW because your wife got a little smiley face on a pee stick, right?)
When it takes a while to conceive, this stage will cause you to quickly approach boredom and eventually desperation. You read that holding your legs in the air for 30 minutes and sacrificing a lamb to the fertility gods will boost your chances? Then that’s exactly what you’re going to do, damn it!
Some of us ended up with our babes without planning them at all. In that case, the baby-making sex was somewhere in between the throws of passion and a giant, oops-induced heart attack.
The first time having sex after finding out you’re pregnant
There is something uniquely terrifying about having sex right after you’ve learned you are pregnant. Your feelings will lie somewhere in between awkward nervousness and abject terror. If things get rough, will the embryo get dislodged from my uterine lining? Can a ball of cells see what’s coming at it?!
Weeks 6-13: Sleeping, puking, or both
Is your pregnancy pillow getting more action than your man? Must be the first trimester!
The rest of the first trimester you’ll see your sex life die a sudden death. Between the crippling fatigue that leaves you unable to keep your eyes open and the ever-present morning sickness, you just want to be alone on the couch. Any movement induces vomiting. Please don’t touch me.
Weeks 14-26: Second trimester sweet spot
Sometime after the morning sickness subsides and you start feeling like a human again, there is a short window of time when the sex is really good.
You have a cute little second trimester bump that makes you feel ripe, like a goddess of fertility. Your hair is thick and shiny and on point. The increased blood flow to your nether regions makes sex feel really good. You aren’t huge and uncomfortable yet, and can even pretend you aren’t pregnant if you have a good imagination.
Weeks 27-37: Large and not in charge
Third trimester: conditions are not ideal for good sex.
As you get into your third trimester, the goodness of the second trimester starts becoming… less good.
The main reason?
You’re huge. (Even if you aren’t that huge, you still feel huge). No view of your body is flattering. Everything is uncomfortable.
When you’re brave enough to even attempt sex, your movement is awkward. Prepare to try 12 positions to find one that works. Don’t be alarmed if your husband asks for the lights off for the first time ever.
Week 38 until the day you give birth
By this point you are so over being pregnant, you can think about nothing else other than getting the baby out. This desperation leads you to beg your husband for his labor-inducing semen even though you haven’t wanted sex in months.
He is weak, so he relents. Somehow the two of you accomplish this chore. When labor doesn’t strike immediately after, you become irrationally angry.
Epilogue: Post baby sex
It feels like something’s come between us…
On the day you get your six week clearance to have sex again, it will be a mix of excitement and nervousness. What if the baby sleeping 3 feet away wakes up? Will he be emotionally scarred for life? Will sex feel like a hotdog shooting down a hallway?
Seriously though, wait until you are good and ready. Make sure your body is healed and you aren’t afraid. Take it slow. It can be good, I promise.
Before you know it, your sex life will reach a new normal that revolves around naptime quickies. Maybe even the odd evening home when you’re both able to stay awake past 9. As long as its happening at all, you two are doing good.
Someday we’ll be out of this stage.
Unless you keep going back to step one. 😀
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Now let’s see what some other experienced Mamas have to say about their experience with sex during pregnancy and postpartum.
Moms on pregnancy sex
“While I was pregnant I loved sex, couldn’t get enough of it! In fact, it was happening so often my husband finally had to put me on a ‘once a day’ rule!” -Miranda, Miranda Southern
“For me, I wanted sex all the time when I was pregnant. While it was still enjoyable, it definitely became much less comfortable as time went on. As far as postpartum, I waited the six weeks that the doctor recommended. I was so scared it would be painful, but honestly it was pain free.”
-Audrey, Mommy Enlightened
“I know some women love having sex during pregnancy. I just wasn’t one of them! There were too many discomforts, plus the feeling that your body is invaded and not your own. Especially at the end, it just isn’t going to happen.” -Lillian
Moms on postpartum sex
“I love sex on the norm. It’s a huge part of who I am as a person. But I’m wrecked for at least six months after having a baby. Who wants something going in the same area where they pushed out an 8 lb+ baby? I can remember after our fourth child was born, my husband was counting down until I was in the clear. To me, it was more of a just lying there and getting it over with sort of thing. New moms shouldn’t be ashamed of this & most of the time you can just blame the hormones.” -Farrah, New and Natural Mom
“Even though most doctors will clear you to regain sexual activity after about 6 weeks postpartum, don’t be too surprised if you want nothing to do with sex for a bit longer! In addition, your partner may still be traumatized from seeing a 6-10lb baby shoot out of your vagina 6 weeks ago, so he/she may need some extra time too! 😉” -Liesel, Labor Teen
“Postpartum sex is really rough. I’m not going to sugar coat it, if you had tearing, it is going to hurt. It took me a full year for the pain to fully disappear. I recommend taking it slow and communicating with your husband. We had to try a few different positions before being able to find methods that worked for my body. Sex is a huge part of marriage and when you are overwhelmed with a new baby it is the last thing on your mind, especially when it hurts. However, you and your husband need to prioritize that part of your relationship. If you continue to have problems don’t hesitate to speak with a doctor.” -Amy, So Goes Life
“There is NO RUSH to get back to having sex after having baby. A loving partner will understand and be patient with you. Plus, there are other things you can do until you’re physically ready for penis-to-vagina sex again. If you know what I’m saying.” -Melinda, Unfrazzled Mama
When you’re pregnant for the first time, you will find yourself diving into research-mode about so many topics. Labor, childbirth, newborn baby care, breastfeeding, infant gear, safe sleep, and more. Somehow, it’s so easy to neglect to think about yourself and what actually happens to you after giving birth.
Most people (myself included) think of postpartum depression when they hear the word “postpartum”. But all postpartum actually means is after giving birth.
So many things go on with a new mom after delivery, both physically and emotionally. Here is a summary of the most notable experiences that stood out to me after birth that I wish I had been a little more prepared for.
(Note that my birth experiences were both vaginal births, so if you have a c-section some, but not all, of these may be different.)
Being forced to get up and walk
I had never heard of this requirement in my life, but a mere 90 minutes after giving birth for the first time, I was told I had to get up and walk to the bathroom. I have no idea what the medical reason is for this, but I can tell you it was downright terrifying.
First of all, I had an epidural that was not fully worn off yet and one of my legs was still numb.
I also had brand new stitches from “many” second degree tears down there. Not to mention the blood loss.
All of these factors combined made for quite the show out of my hobble to the bathroom which was probably only 3 yards from my bed.
Immediately upon getting up I felt extremely dizzy and was scared I was going to faint. The one nurse who was helping me realized she needed backup and called for another nurse to help support my other side. I almost asked for a chair to sit down on half way through, but it felt ridiculous given how close I was to the toilet already.
I have since heard of many postpartum nurse horror stories that are so much worse than this, that I don’t even want to complain too much about it. But at the time, I felt very humiliated and unsupported over this walk- no, shuffle- of shame. If I’d been given just an hour or two more to recuperate I’m sure it would have been a lot easier on me.
The pain of peeing
After pushing a baby out, you might have first, second, third, or even fourth degree tears (the one that goes all the way through- try not to wince, and don’t worry- these are rare). But even if you’re lucky enough to make it through without any tears severe enough to require stitches, you still had a great deal of stretching which is enough to cause many minor, fine tears in the tissue.
These will heal quickly on their own, but when you sit down to pee and the urine washes over them, it will burn like your entire womanhood has been lit on fire.
To avoid this, this handy dandy little squirt bottle will be your best friend. Just squeeze cold water on yourself while peeing and you will barely feel the urine on the cuts.
They give these out at most hospitals, but you may want to check and ask ahead of time and make sure they do at your hospital.
The scary first poop
Ok, I apologize that so many of these revolve around toilet issues. But this is the real deal and I’m trying to be honest more than polite.
Having to poop after giving birth is scary.
Maybe you are lucky and can avoid having to go in the first day or two after birth. Typically your body “clears out” before delivery, and you typically can’t eat during labor, so it’s possible.
But sooner or later, it’s going to happen.
Right in the midst of hobbling around feeling like your insides are falling out, while you’re rocking your padsicles trying not to feel anything down there- you have to push out a poop. I’ve been told this particular poop can feel like pushing out glass.
Luckily I had been warned ahead of time that when they offer you the stool softener, you say yes.
Without this warning, I’m sure I would have been perplexed as to why it was even being offered to me. “No thanks, I’m good, I’m not even constipated!” could have been my completely naive response.
Thanks to an older sister who had given birth before me, I said “yes please” and avoided a terrible post-delivery poop trauma.
Not gonna lie, it was still a little scary. But at least it didn’t feel like glass.
The most sore abs you’ve ever had
Think of pushing a baby out like the most intense ab workout you’ve ever done.
The pushing stage could go on for hours, especially if it’s your first. And chances are you haven’t done any ab exercises in many months.
Makes sense that you’re going to feel very sore after? You bet!
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My midwife had warned me ahead of time that it’s normal to bleed for up to six weeks after giving birth. I scoffed at that timeframe and thought “no way is it going to last that long.”
Well the karma gods must have heard me and laughed, because I ended up bleeding for TEN STRAIGHT WEEKS.
The first few days postpartum is when you experience the very heavy bleeding. You may have even heard about “golf-ball sized clots”.
This is the time when you need the big mama pads. Don’t send your husband out to go buy some cute little pads. Get the biggest, ugliest pads you can find. Pair them with the biggest, ugliest underwear you can find as well, because chances are they are going in the garbage after.
The next couple of weeks after that, the bleeding is similar to a normal period. You can use normal pads, and you’ll probably want to wear your comfy maternity underwear.
For an unknown number of weeks following that, the bleeding is much lighter. It changes from bright red blood to pink, then yellowish. It gradually tapers off to nothing just when you think you’ll never be able to live without pads again.
If you’re like me, you have something written in your birth plan about how “baby will room in with me” or “keep baby with me at all times.”
It’s a good goal to have, and certainly some new moms are able to pull it off.
Just consider the possibility of this:
Your water breaks at 1am after only a couple hours of sleep
The rest of that night is spent preparing and making your way to the hospital
20 more hours are spent in labor
2 hours are spent pushing
You are handed your bundle of joy and you have now completely missed TWO NIGHTS OF SLEEP IN A ROW.
In any other circumstance in life, after pulling two consecutive all-nighters you would go home and fall into a 12 hour coma-like rest.
But now you have a newborn, so you are sleeping with one eye open for maybe 90 minutes at a time.
If you decide in that moment that you’d like the nurses to keep the baby for a couple hours so you can get something that almost resembles real sleep, forgive yourself. You are allowed to change your plan.
Believe me, it won’t be the last time that your motherhood ideals don’t mesh with the reality of parenthood.
Not being able to handle visitors
During pregnancy, you are so excited at the thought of your new little one being here, you can’t wait to show him off to all your friends and family. You might even tell people you want them to come meet the baby while you’re still in the hospital.
I would caution against this in most cases.
The reality of the hospital experience may be very different than what you imagined. Of course there is the hefty dose of exhaustion, and there is also a revolving door of doctors and nurses coming and going to check on you and the baby. Vitals need to be taken, tests need to be done, more blood needs to be drawn.
Added on top of that is the stress of trying to figure out breastfeeding. There will certainly be no such thing as a schedule for a baby who is only a couple days old at maximum, so you will need to nurse at unpredictable intervals, possibly every hour.
Trying to coordinate a time for people to come might just be overwhelming to you during all of this. Even more so if visitors drop in unannounced.
You honestly might just be dying for some alone time.
My advice would be to hold off on visitors outside of the immediate family until you get home and decide you’re ready. Or, decide in the moment how you’re feeling in the hospital and let the people you want to see know when you want to see them. I recommend giving them a short window of 20-30 minutes so they don’t overstay.
Remember, you can always invite more people or extend visits longer. It’s much harder to take back an invitation that you previously extended or try to cut a visit short while it’s in process.
The clothing dilemma
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who left the hospital maternity ward in their pre-pregnancy clothes. It’s like the baby name myths of Lemonjello or La-a.
For the rest of the world, you’re going to leave the hospital in maternity clothes. Possibly the same size you came in with, but probably your second trimester size clothes.
You’ll also be sore, so stretchy clothes are your friend.
When packing your hospital bag, it’s a wise idea to pack a couple options of clothes (especially if you’re going with pants) because it’s very hard to predict how much swelling you’ll have or how fast your belly will go back down.
Don’t dress for fashion, you’ll be sporting humungo pads and mesh underwear and you will just want to be able to walk comfortably.
A lose-fitting comfy dress might be a good choice too, especially in the event of a c-section when you won’t want anything rubbing near your scar.
The rollercoaster of emotions
Even if you’re not a crier, get ready for a ridiculous amount of tears after you give birth.
I promise you, there will be crying.
You’ll cry because you dropped your pen. You’ll cry at every single commercial on TV. You might feel like you’re going crazy crying over these ridiculous things.
It’s just the insane amounts of hormones that built up throughout the pregnancy rapidly exiting your body. Some call it the baby blues, and it’s completely normal.
What you want to watch out for (and alert your partner to help you be on the lookout) is the normal baby blues becoming postpartum depression.
Crying for silly reasons and then quickly laughing it off during the week or so after giving birth = baby blues
Feeling anxious about being alone with your baby, not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to see anyone, feeling like you’re a terrible mother, or thinking that you shouldn’t have this baby, are not baby blues. These are red flags for postpartum depression.
If you’re even questioning that you could have postpartum, call your healthcare provider and let them do a screening and decide. If you feel unable to make that phone call, ask your partner or someone you trust do it for you. Don’t suffer until your 6 week follow up if you think there may be a problem sooner.
Another fun side effect of the hormonal changes is night sweats.
I gave birth in the dead of winter and New England and still woke up in the night completely drenched in sweat.
Yes, it’s gross, but luckily it only lasted a week or two and then it was back to dry PJs (well, dry except for the leaking breasts).
The pain of breastfeeding
I’ve written before in 7 Breastfeeding Surprises how I felt extreme pain and cramping in my uterus while breastfeeding shortly after giving birth.
In addition to that, many new moms experience painful breast engorgement and cracked nipples.
It’s safe to say you can expect breastfeeding to be uncomfortable at the start. The range could be anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to very painful.
Most of the time, these issues are resolved pretty quickly and breastfeeding should not continue to be painful beyond that initial stage. If it is, there is probably an underlying issue like a tongue tie or lip tie, and you should have a doctor look into it further.
Feeling like you don’t matter anymore
This is truly one of the hardest parts of the postpartum experience, and it’s rarely talked about.
When you’re pregnant (and especially at the end when you’re very noticeably pregnant) everywhere you go you get comments, accommodations, and just generally people trying to help you out. Everyone wants to give you a seat, hand you a glass of water, make sure you’re comfortable. Everyone asks how you’re feeling, how you’re sleeping, if you’re hungry.
As soon as that baby exits your body, all (or almost all) of that care and concern shifts to the baby.
Of course, in a way, that’s how it should be. The baby is a helpless new life and you’re an adult woman.
But that doesn’t mean that the change isn’t jarring, and that it doesn’t hurt.
If you’re lucky, you will have one or two close people in your life that still remember to ask how you’re doing and if they can help you with anything. Your partner, if he’s a good one, will still be looking out for your comfort and bringing you food and water.
Just don’t be surprised if all the other family members barely act like you’re there.
And if it makes you feel invisible, or sad, or like you don’t matter anymore, remember to talk to the people closest to you and remember that you are important. You are important now more than ever! The new baby craze will die down soon enough, and you will resume your normal, average place in society.
Most of all, remember that a good mother makes herself a priority. Seek out the support you need. Let others know how you’re feeling and get help when you need it.
The postpartum experience is paradoxically one of the most difficult and most beautiful times of your life! Remember to treat yourself gently. And when it gets hard, remember that it doesn’t last long.
Moms, what was your postpartum experience like? First time expectant moms, what are your concerns about the recovery after giving birth?