Just when you thought carrying around a human-shaped bowling ball in your uterus wasn’t enough of a wild, 9-month ride, Mother Nature had to go and throw you a few curve balls.
All kinds of crazy changes happen during pregnancy, most of which your doctor probably hasn’t pointed out, and for good reason. The physical and mental effects of growing a new being could fill an entire semester’s worth of college-level lectures. You’ve probably heard about the stretch marks, crazy mood swings, and back aches, but there’s a real laundry list of other side effects that take a fair amount of Googling to discover.
If you’re left scratching your head, wondering why you’ve got a stabbing pain in your vagina and why your…..well, now that you think of it, you totally forgot that last question. Take heart, future mom, and read on to find out what’s up with those weird cramps and memory lapses.
“Baby Brain” is Real
The minute your body goes from zero to pregnant, your brain starts prepping for motherhood. A flood of hormones is released while your baby develops, sending your mind on a roller coaster of meltdowns and ecstatically happy moments.
In addition to this temporary hormonal insanity, your brain’s gray matter is actually changing so you’ll prioritize motherly tasks and better connect with your child. Studies showed that women’s brains actually shrunk during pregnancy, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The portions of the brain that were reduced – the gray matter, which assist in social functions and ascertaining how others think – actually helped the brain function more efficiently.
The moms whose brains showed this “shrinkage” were even found to feel the most connected and attached to their babies.
Basically, your brain is turning you into a super mom: intuitive, a master multi-tasker, protective of your child, and filled with love to give via all that oxytocin.
These changes, of course, don’t come without a few side effects. Besides all that gray matter reduction, your brain is now responsible for functioning for two. You’ll probably forget just about everything (or at least it’ll feel that way), become clumsy, and find yourself in situations we promise you’ll laugh at later (like talking on your phone while spending 10 minutes looking for it). Luckily this will subside post-birth.
You’ll Carry Your Baby Forever (In A Wild, Scientific Way)
Once your baby leaves your body, you can say goodbye to those warm, fuzzy feelings of being a human incubator, but don’t let the tears roll just yet.
Scientists have discovered that some of your baby’s cells go on living inside your body, and probably forever. A new study found that women acquire fetal cells each time they become pregnant. This most likely happens no matter the sex of your baby, but it’s easier to detect a few roaming, random Y chromosomes in a woman. Some of these cells have been found in women postmortem, meaning those cells from your little one stay with you until your passing.
This phenomenon is called microchimerism, and it’s still under intense study to figure out the full effects of hoarding fetal cells after birth. One theory explores how these cells might be used to the infant’s benefit, coaxing the mother’s body to produce more milk, heat, and mental resources. Either way, it’s a pretty wild pregnancy fact to bring up at your baby shower!
Your Vagina is Still Figuring This Whole Thing Out
Your vagina is going through a boatload of changes of it’s own that are, frankly, downright confusing, but nothing to fear.
Ever heard of “lighting crotch?” It’s unfortunately not the name of a new pop-punk girl band. During the tail end of your pregnancy, your baby will move and groove around the uterus, often right onto a nerve. Some women say it feels like they’re being stabbed in the vagina – yikes! If you’re stuck with a case of the lightning, get up and move around, go for a swim if you can, and avoid too much bending and lifting. This keeps pressure off your sensitive parts and keeps baby from settling into an uncomfortable spot.
Your vagina’s pH balance will also fluctuate from the usual due to increased estrogen, leaving you with a different smell and taste that some describe as metallic or salty. An abnormal pH means you’re more vulnerable to infection, so treat your yoni with extra care during sex or self-pleasure since contracting an infection can cause complications to your pregnancy.
As if all that wasn’t enough, prep your bathroom with plenty of panty liners. Those raging hormones will leave you wetter than an undersea creature, which definitely isn’t a bad thing – unless you’re wearing white pants at the office. Use this to you advantage since pregnancy also results in some super amazing orgasms due to increased blood flow to your genitals.
No, Really – The List Goes On
We could literally be here all day, ladies. The little odds and ends of pregnancy side effects could take up several days’ worth of reading material.
Your swollen breasts will leak. You’ll start to grow hair in new places. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a superhuman sense of smell. You’ll crave chocolate with a side of hot dogs and pickle juice (or worse and weirder). Your teenage acne will resurrect overnight. Your face will swell like you’ve eaten a bucket of salted french fries (and maybe you have anyway!). Oh, and did we mention you’ll rarely go a single night without getting up to pee?
The bottom line is that, while completely normal and natural, being pregnant often feels like the least natural thing in the world. It’s incredible, confusing, weird, and insane all at once, but then again, that’s probably why Mother Nature reserved this sacred task for women. So give your preggo self a break, settle in with an ice-cold glass of pickle juice, and ride it out, baby!
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.
Colleen began her sexual wellness career as a sex toy educator in manufacturing and retail. She has since branched out as a writer and marketer, covering all facets of sexual health and anatomy. At Intimina, she specializes in women’s medical care and health concerns, menstruation, sex and pregnancy, and birth control. Colleen frequently confers with top sex educators and intimate wellness experts to stay on top of the constantly changing sexual wellness space.