There’s no shortage of preparation women can do in anticipation of the emotional, mental and physical changes that come with pregnancy. However, we frequently hear from the LOLA community that there’s still some information lacking when it comes to what women really go through during and after pregnancy.
Whether you’re expecting, thinking about having children, or are trying to conceive, the more openly we talk about all aspects of pregnancy, the more empowered we’ll be. In that spirit, here are some of the things we don’t talk about — but should — when it comes to pregnancy.
Pregnancy loss is common
About 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage. A miscarriage in the United States is defined as loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, and sometimes women can miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. An American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology study exploring the psychological impact of miscarriage found that one month following pregnancy loss, nearly a third of women suffered post-traumatic stress. A lead professor of the study said, “The treatment women receive following early pregnancy loss must change to reflect its psychological impact, and recent efforts to encourage people to talk more openly about this very common issue are a step in the right direction.”
Postpartum bleeding is a normal part of the healing process
Mothers-to-be often expect morning sickness, breast sensitivity and weight gain during pregnancy. But what should they expect to experience physically after delivery? One significant change that all women experience after birth is postpartum bleeding (also known as lochia). Lochia is caused by the shedding and restoration of your uterine lining and typically lasts four to six weeks. At the onset, this discharge is bright red and heavier, but as the days elapse, it will present more like mucus. Since new mothers can’t use tampons for six weeks after childbirth, pads are necessary, and changing them frequently will keep the risk of uterine infection at bay.
Infertility is not just a woman’s issue
When it comes to infertility, the numbers are similar to miscarriage: Out of 100 couples in the United States, about 12 to 13 will have trouble becoming pregnant. Though cultural depictions can make it seem like the “biological clock” is a female-only issue, male infertility factors actually contribute to 30% of all cases, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Some more numbers that are important to know: When it comes to age as a factor, men 40 or older are more likely to report difficulty conceiving, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. And 65-80 percent of men who are infertile have a defect in sperm production, which can be the result of genetic disorders or issues with testicular function. Fertility is a team effort, which is why it’s important that both women and men take responsibility for their sexual health.
Depression is one of the most common pregnancy complications
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, also abbreviated as PMADs, can occur during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum, affecting one in seven women. It’s natural to experience mild mood changes like feeling more tired or irritable, but persistent feelings for weeks at a time might mean it’s time to ask for help. Other symptoms to look out for include diminished interest in being a mother, unhappiness and feelings of guilt. Chrissy Teigen, celebrity and mother of two, opened up about her own postpartum depression and anxiety in Glamour, recounting how she did not even have the energy to take her baby for a stroll and felt physical pain in the year following the birth of her daughter. After she received her diagnosis, she reflected on how the stigma surrounding postpartum depression had made her feel like it could never happen to her. Openly exchanging experiences, like Chrissy did, can help normalize postpartum depression, and early communication between doctor and patient ensures symptoms don’t go untreated. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends providers screen patients at least once during the perinatal period for depression and anxiety symptoms.
What “taboo” pregnancy topics do you want to learn more about? Tell us in the comments.