I think it's safe to say a pregnancy is never "easy." There's nothing effortless about growing humans. Still, I wanted to believe I would have a pain-free, comfortable, straightforward pregnancy. I thought I'd glow, have beautiful, shiny long hair, and float my way through 40 weeks (more or less) of gestation. Ha. Yeah, that didn't happen. And, unfortunately, I ignored all those early signs my pregnancy was going to be rough. If only I had been paying better attention to my body and the numerous red flags it was throwing in my direction. Perhaps, if I would have noticed I had a long, demanding road ahead, I would have been better prepared for the trials and tribulations of gestation.
My two full-term pregnancies started relatively the same way. There was sickness, discomfort, and a strange out-of-body feeling that let me know it was time to pee on a stick. But even as terrible as I felt in the beginning of each pregnancy, I thought those symptoms would eventually pass. I'd read the first trimester was the trickiest and, arguably, the most difficult. I knew my body was adjusting to this influx of hormones, but soon (read: in the second trimester) I would hit my stride and feel better. Right?
Wrong. I was so wrong. Not only did those first trimester issues last the entire nine months of both of my pregnancies, but they'd serve as a precursor of the horror to come. And while I'm not trying to deter women from getting pregnant or scare women who are trying to conceive, I will say that it pays to be as prepared as humanly possible. So with that in mind, here are some early signs I was about to endure a difficult as hell pregnancy:
The 24-Hour-A-Day Sickness
When you're starting a difficult pregnancy journey, there's no such thing as "morning" sickness. It's "all the damn time" sickness. Doesn't matter if you're sleeping, if you've eaten a sleeve of Saltines, or if you just finished getting sick, you are bound to vomit.
And if your "morning" sickness lasts beyond the first trimester, you're really in for a world of hurt. Even when I got a prescription to help me keep my food down, I managed to throw up constantly for the entirety of my pregnancy.
Lesson learned. Morning sickness lasts all day and night, and doesn't always subside when you make your way into the second trimester.
The Regular Spotting
My second pregnancy was such a surprise, it didn't occur to me that spotting could be a sign that I was dividing some cells in my uterus. And then the spotting continued even after my pregnancy was confirmed, which did nothing but make me anxious, afraid, and overly-cautious.
This is easy to say now, to be sure, but I should've known that early pregnancy bleeding was a pre-cursor the the troubles I'd experience in my late second trimester/early third trimester; troubles that would eventually lead to my induction.
So take it from me: while it's usually not a cause for concern, don't ignore spotting when you're pregnant. Talk to your doctor and/or midwife. After all, that's what they're there for.
With the spotting came cramps. And at the time, I didn't know these two things were symptoms of a possible miscarriage. I thought they were part of the growing pains associated with an early pregnancy.
And, for the most part, that's true. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), "During the first trimester, cramping often results form normal changes that occur during your baby's development." In other words, cramping is a common symptoms that accompanies many pregnancies and, for the most part, is relatively normal.
However, cramping can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy and/or miscarriage. Since I had experienced two miscarriages before I was pregnant with my son, I spent the majority of my pregnancy with him fearing every cramp, ache, and pain. Thankfully, I carried my pregnancy to term, but I would be lying if I said it was easy.
High Blood Pressure
I remember when my legs and feet started to swell early on in my first pregnancy. I was thirsty a lot and couldn't stop going to the bathroom. All of this, I assumed, was part of the deal. You know, just par for the pregnancy course.
Turns out, I had pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia) which is a dangerous and even fatal if left untreated. Luckily I had an amazing doctor who was proactive with my care and made sure my baby and I were safe.
It's easy to write off consistent discomfort as just another typical pregnancy symptom. I mean, to a certain extent it is. But when it's extreme and seemingly never-ending, something could be wrong.
When I couldn't get comfortable, even in my first trimester and after changing positions multiple times, I finally told my doctor and, thankfully, we found the source of the problem. When I was pregnant with my daughter it was that hypertension. And when I was pregnant with my son, I was leaking amniotic fluid and needed medical attention as soon as possible.
Ever have the taste of metal in your mouth? A lingering coppery taste just sitting on your tongue? Or maybe a constantly unsettled stomach? As if you're always on the verge of vomiting?
I had these symptoms, but thought they'd quickly pass or where just normal and nothing I should concern myself with. And again, in many instances they can and do. According to What To Expect, "93 percent of pregnant women reported some change in taste during pregnancy." But it can also be a sign of kidney stones, heart failure, and other health conditions. So, again, it doesn't hurt to talk to your doctor if you're ever feeling "off."
Leaking Amniotic Fluid
In my experience, it's difficult to tell if you're losing amniotic fluid or just experiencing some normal pregnancy vaginal discharge. I put off calling my doctor because I was afraid I was overreacting to something that's "supposed" to happen. Turns out, leaking amniotic fluid isn't normal. According to Healthline, "Leaking amniotic fluid during the first and/or second trimesters can cause complications, including: birth defects, miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth."
Now, every woman and every body and every pregnancy is different. So what ended up being warning signs for me could very well be just a typical pregnancy symptom for you. In the end, and always, it's important to talk to your physician and/or health care provider. It's better to be safe than sorry.
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