I found out I was pregnant when I was approximately three weeks along. Long story short, I was eating one of my all-time favorite meals at my go-to restuarant, when I had the sudden urge to vomit. I quickly ran to the bathroom and spent 30 minutes throwing up. Not only was that bout of extreme nausea a sign I was pregnant, it was, unbeknownst to me, a way for me to predict how my pregnancy was going to go for the next 37 (give or take) weeks.
Throwing up my favorite meal turned out to be one of hundreds — yes, I actually mean hundreds — of vomiting sessions I’d endure while pregnant. At one point I was even hospitalized and later diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) — an extreme and severe form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, according to the ACOG. That first vomiting session wasn't just a sign of pregnancy; it was a sign of HG, something that impacted me the entire time I was growing another human being inside my body.
Now, just because I ended up having HG doesn't mean any nausea or vomiting in early pregnancy is a definite sign you'll end up experiencing HG, too. Pregnancy can be unpredictable in a variety of ways, and no two people or pregnancies are the same. But there are some things that can help you at least guess what your pregnancy will be like, in certain respects. Romper spoke with Dr. Brooke Vandermolen, M.D., a National Health Service (NHS) doctor currently working and training in Obstetrics and Gynecology, to help us all better understand how we can predict our pregnancies, so we're not caught off guard by the wild ride that is gestation:
1. Your Gender
Trans, nonbinary, and gender non-comforming people who are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, face barriers to quality and culturally-competent care that can impact their pregnancies in countless ways.
According to a recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which surveyed over 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people, nearly one in five transgender or gender non-conforming people are refused medical health care because of their gender identity. Due to transphobia, and a lack of inclusive language and support, pregnant people who are not cis women are at risk of facing discrimination while trying to seek the medical care necessary to ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy.
2. Your Pre-Pregnancy Fitness Habits
"Being fit and active before pregnancy will improve your pregnancy in a variety of ways," Dr. Vandermolen tells me. If you are active prior to becoming pregnant, Dr. Vandermolen says you have a better chance of experiencing “less weight gain" and have a "lower likelihood of developing blood pressure problems such as pre-eclampsia or conditions such as gestational diabetes.”
You could possibly even avoid developing joint and muscle pains in pregnancy, too.
3. Your Race
To be clear, it is not a person's race that is the issue: it is the systemic racism prevelant within the medical community that ends up harming pregnant people. Like any other institution, hospitals can perpetuate structural violence and leave pregnant people of color at risk of not receiving quality care. In 2004, Black, Latinx, and Native Americans made up only 6.4 percent of all physician graduates, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. And it is this disparity that contributes to the lack of adequate medical care provided to Black people and people of color.
Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy- and birth-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in some states, like New York, Black women are 12 times more likely to die. The racial disparity in health care will absolutely impact and change how a person's pregnancy is medically treated.
4. Your Access To Local Resources
Depending on your income and where you live, you may not have access to quality or culturally-competent medical services. Even worse, if the institutions near you aren’t compliant with the rules and regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), chances are high that you will lack physical access to spaces you need to visit for help or support.
"Lack of access to resources and services means women are more likely to feel disengaged from the maternity care and therefore are less likely to seek help when they most need it," Dr. Vandermolen tells me. "This may result in late diagnosis of complications that occur during pregnancy, as well as a lack of preparation for birth and labor.”
According to Dr. Vandermolen, the ability to regularly attend prenatal appointments helps pregnant people feel empowered. And when a pregnant person feels empowered, they will be more likely to communicate any potential issues early on and assist in early intervention and treatment.
5. Your Family Medical History
“Family illnesses may have a genetic element,” Dr. says. “Therefore, having a family member who has had complications in pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes may put you at higher risk in your own pregnancy.”
6. Any History Of An Eating Disorder
Experiencing HG, as someone in recovery after living with an eating disorder for a decade, was difficult on so many levels. The physical reality of constantly vomiting was one thing. Navigating body image-related thoughts with a rapidly changing body, was another.
"Pregnancy can be a really difficult time for anyone who has ever experienced an eating disorder, especially when experiencing changes in their weight and shape, as well as the emotional aspect of needing to eat sufficiently to benefit the unborn baby," Dr. Vandermolen tells Romper. “Having a past history of an eating disorder may cause it to flare in pregnancy, which may make the risks higher of insufficient growth in the baby, miscarriage, or preterm birth.”
7. Your Support Network
No matter what happens during your pregnancy, the type of support you have at your disposal can impact what your pregnancy will be like. Whether it's your partner(s), friends, family, a doula, or medical professionals, the close support available to you can determine how you'll be able to respond to and recover from the things you couldn't have possibly predicated you'd experience while pregnant.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.