Being pregnant

5 things I didn't know when I first got pregnant

At 17 weeks pregnant, I'm realizing just how much my idea of what to expect has been influenced by what I've seen in movies and on TV.

When it comes to being pregnant, there’s expectation—and then there’s reality. I’m 17 weeks pregnant with my first child now, and I’m realizing how influenced my idea of early pregnancy has been by pop culture and TV/film portrayals of pregnant women. Now that I’m experiencing all of it firsthand, I’m learning that more often than not, what I saw on screen was a totally inaccurate depiction. I really didn’t know what to expect in real life.

While the following unexpected discoveries may not be news to all pregnant and expecting people—plus, everyone’s pregnancy journey is different and unique—you should definitely know about them ahead of time.

1. You may have to get a transvaginal ultrasound.

Sometimes referred to as an endovaginal ultrasound, the transvaginal ultrasound is not the ultrasound you see in the movies. At the 6.5 to 8-week mark, it can be difficult to find the baby in your belly. (The embryo is only about 2 cm in size at this stage—about the size of a Cheerio.) Oftentimes, this means that an ultrasound in the traditional sense—with a transducer rubbed over your abdomen—won’t be able to capture a visual, necessary for finding how many weeks pregnant you are. (You may also hear this referred to as a dating ultrasound.) When this happens, technicians ask if you’re OK with having a camera probe unit inserted into your vagina instead. What does it feel like? To be rather frank, it honestly feels a bit like a dildo or sex toy. However, only the tip of the unit is inserted. Admittedly, it’s rather awkward and uncomfortable to have this probe moving around inside you as you just lay there with a complete stranger. The technician said that it’s best to take deep breaths upon insertion and then throughout the examination, so I tried to relax and focus on something else to help alleviate the anxiety. By the time I was nine or ten weeks along and came back for my second ultrasound, it was a regular appointment with the ultrasound jelly on my belly.

2. A relationship therapist is a lifesaver.

Your body is going through a multitude of changes, which means that hormones and moods are unpredictable—it’s a roller-coaster ride. Emotions can be volatile and if you have a partner, the two of you are (most likely) going through this experience for the first time, with no playbook on what to do and how to prepare. Remember that your relationship shouldn’t take a back seat to your pregnancy journey. The best thing my husband and I did was set up regular Zoom sessions with our relationship therapist who could prep us with tools and skills to manage our ever-evolving expectations, and ensure a continued healthy and loving relationship, both during and after the pregnancy.

3. The “eating for two” comments are B.S.

As someone who is still contending with a range of mental health issues, including an eating disorder, I have really disliked how so many people felt perfectly OK commenting on what I eat or telling me that I have carte blanche when it comes to my eating habits. Informing me that I can “eat for two” and gorge on whatever I’m craving is quite triggering for me, and it’s just an ignorant thing to say. While pregnant, your weight gain varies, and it isn’t necessarily about the food you eat or don’t eat. Unless you’re my doctor or midwife, or have some kind of expertise about thoughtfully and mindfully accommodating my health needs while providing necessary nourishment to my baby, I really don’t want to hear your thoughts on it. 

4. You’re supposed to wait until the three-month mark to share the big news.

I had honestly never heard of this until one of my relatives informed me that waiting until 12 weeks was an unspoken rule. In my humble opinion, this is a ridiculous and arbitrary thing to say. If you find out you’re pregnant and you feel elated, go ahead and shout it to the world. While I understand the rationale and reasoning of waiting to tell (a safety precaution in case you miscarry or encounter pregnancy complications) it wasn’t for me—I have only wanted to promote positive vibes during my pregnancy. I also know that if anything bad were to happen, I’d want to share that too, and look for support from my loved ones.

5. Constipation is a (party) pooper.

Sorry to end on a decidedly TMI note, but welcome to pregnancy! Constipation is just one of the many side-effects and signs of pregnancy, and you can blame it on the fact that your hormones are in overdrive: you’ve got extra progesterone production going on, which slows down your digestion and can cause harder stools, while your uterus muscles are relaxing (to prevent early contractions). As a consequence, it also means that some pregnant women get constipated easily (points to self), even early on. Instead of feeling like a glowing pregnant goddess, my gut has stagnated and I frequently feel bloated, which can really affect my overall temperament and quality of life. To remedy the situation, my midwife and family physician have recommended regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, and including more fiber-rich foods into my diet to help “move things along.” These days I’m usually praying for small goals and milestones, such as more “good poop days” ahead. One thing’s for certain: once my bun is out of the oven, I’ll never take ease of pooping for granted again.