Pregnancy Can Be Excruciatingly Hard, However
From changes in the body and mind to changes in home life, pregnancy can be extremely difficult for many expecting mothers. It is an enormous stress on women that requires them to reorganize their entire lives. That stress can be physical, mental, and emotional: it can even cause women to lose their lives.
August 11, 2020Updated 2 months ago
For example, it's exhausting. Pregnancy fatigue presents as extreme physical exhaustion and can affect everything from a woman’s ability to work to her friendships and caregiving responsibilities. Especially when a woman already has other children or major responsibilities outside of the home, the fatigue-inducing hormones caused by pregnancy can pose a major challenge for an expecting mother’s daily functioning.
Growing a new human can be really tiring. "Pregnancy fatigue" is a real phenomenon where women, especially in the first and third trimesters, describe feeling tired all the time, almost to the point of exhaustion.
According to the online source "What to Expect," nearly all women experience pregnancy fatigue while pregnant, especially in the first few months. Pregnancy fatigue can start as early as the first few weeks following conception and implantation. That first phase of fatigue tends to lift by the second trimester.
But a second wave of fatigue tends to show up in the third trimester, or around week 28. Many women may again feel a bout of extreme tiredness, forcing them to take frequent naps and lay off their usual activities.
Pregnancy fatigue is not simply a mental or emotional problem: it has a scientific basis. Pregnancy hormones cause a variety of changes in the body: from altered sleep patterns to increased levels of estrogen and progesterone that act as a "natural sedative."
The fatigue can strongly limit women's ability to work, take care of other children, or just enjoy their normal activities. Constant, debilitating fatigue can cripple women's daily lives.
It's also emotionally challenging. The ups and downs caused by pregnancy hormones can have major negative effects on daily life. Mood swings, even for women without preexisting mental health issues, can be destabilizing. Those effects are even more severe—and sometimes life-threatening—for women with more acute mental health issues. These changes in mood in turn touch every aspect of a woman’s life.
Many women describe huge mood swings during pregnancy, as well as symptoms such as anxiety and even clinical depression. The range of emotions can be very challenging for pregnant women.
The physical fatigue—coupled with the changes in hormones—can cause a woman to go from feelings of elation to weepiness almost instantly. Those feelings in turn can quickly turn to elation.
"Pregnancy is a huge transition in a woman's life, and it involves a complex mix of emotions, both good and bad," Dr. Mary Kimmel, medical director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit, told LiveScience.
Anecdotal evidence supports this idea. One author described having a breakdown over a slice of cheese. "As my husband tried to calm me down, I got more hysterical, convinced that my dinner would be ruined and he just didn't understand what I was going through!" she described in an article for Parents magazine.
The first trimester is often characterized by tears and forgetfulness—bouts of sobbing, or putting your keys in the fridge. The second trimester tends to be accompanied by extreme happiness and even an increased sex drive.
By the third trimester, women can expect "crankiness and power-nesting," according to Parents magazine. That means irritability plus the desire to knit baby clothes and decorate the little one's new room.
Beyond the mental and emotional changes, pregnancy can cause serious medical complications. The medical conditions caused by pregnancy are wide-ranging, both in what aspect of a mother's health they affect and their level of seriousness. From indigestion, heartburn, and bloating all the way up to high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, some of those conditions risk both a mother's and her baby's health.
Being pregnant can cause a huge range of medical issues, from the annoying to the life-threatening. Still others threaten the health or even life of the baby.
Many of the most common medical issues aren't serious but certainly aren't pleasant, including cramps, indigestion, heartburn, varicose veins, and a blocked nose.
It can also cause more worrisome problems: being pregnant increases the risks of developing serious complications from influenza, for instance.
More serious complications include anemia, high blood pressure, and certain kinds of placenta issues that may lead to bedrest or even premature delivery of the baby.
Rare conditions in pregnant women, such as hyperemesis gravidarum, cause such intense vomiting that it can lead to women being hospitalized for dehydration. Both Kate Middleton and the comedian Amy Schumer were afflicted with hyperemesis.
“It’s very miserable,” Dr. Amos Grunebaum, director of obstetrics at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told TODAY. “You feel like you can’t do your daily activities, and you really want to eat and you can’t, and hopefully you get treatment really quickly.”
Other conditions can cause a risk not just to the mother's health but to the baby's as well. Gestational diabetes, where a mother's blood sugar levels are too high, can cause preeclampsia, early delivery, the need for a Cesearean birth, or a baby born with low blood sugar, breathing problems, and jaundice, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health.
Clothing changes can be costly and annoying. Maternity wear is a billion-dollar industry. Some upscale maternity clothes are priced as high as $200–300 per garment. For many women, both the cost and the time required to invest in maternity wear is a major hassle. Not to mention the environmental costs associated with so much textile waste.
For many women, shopping can be fun activity to pass the time. But buying a whole new wardrobe for just a few months can be both a financial burden and a nuisance.
Maternity wear—even if it just seems like a few new pairs of jeans and some stretchy tops—can actually be hugely time-consuming. Maternity clothes are a $2 billion industry, according to some estimates. Fortune Magazine reported that the average woman spends $50-60 per month every month during their pregnancy—resulting in $500 overall.
Other options are far more expensive. In recent years, a market for high-end maternity clothes—especially those that can be extended and worn after pregnancy—has reached an increasing audience. Take Hatch for instance, a maternity clothing line designed to be worn before, during and after pregnancy, as their website reads.
“The idea that you only have five months to invest in a piece of clothing that you’re buying, it doesn’t allow you to have an emotional affair with that garment,” Hatch’s founder Ariane Goldman told Racked. Each item is meant to function "during a time where it’s really needed, but stays in your closet, and it lasts because it’s wanted.” Each Hatch piece reflects that longevity: they're priced at $200–$300 per garment.
It's also wasteful: especially for women who only want to have one kid, or who don't have other women friends getting pregnant, those clothes may be destined for the landfill.
Especially for working women who need to look professional, the costs add up when you can't just wear an oversized tee shirt to the office. And few workplaces defray the cost.
Food planning for pregnancy can be another logistical nightmare: requiring time and money. From pre-conception to post-natal, sometimes changes to a woman's diet are necessary and require time, money and planning. Whatever a mother eats, her growing fetus consumes, and many women therefore devote a lot of energy to ensuring that all of their meals are nutritious and well-balanced. This is often a huge undertaking.
A proper diet during pregnancy is "critical to your baby’s growth and development," according to the American Pregnancy Association. Pregnant women need to make sure they're eating at least an additional 300 calories per day, including a balance of vegetables, grains, and proteins. That means thoughtfully planning and preparing meals, including shopping, chopping, and cooking.
There are a huge amount of restrictions what women can eat when they're pregnant, such as raw fish, high-mercury fish, raw meat, shell fish, caffeine, soft cheeses, deli meat, among many other things.
Especially for women on bedrest, or perhaps because of all of the restrictions on what pregnant women can eat, women may find themselves increasingly eating at home during pregnancy. And that means a skyrocketing grocery bill is just par for the course.
Meal planning can be complicated, too. Trying to make sure to get a proper, balanced diet, all while avoiding certain foods, means more time spent planning, cooking, and cleaning. It can be so complicated that there are dozens of articles on the Internet devoted to pregnancy meal-planning.
There are even those who encourage women to follow a strict diet while they're trying to conceive. That may mean several additional months of expensive, intricate meal planning.
Prenatal vitamins can supplement this balanced eating, but some of the top-shelf ones are costly. One month of prenatal vitamins can cost as much as $60-$90.
The challenges of pregnancy can be enormous. From emotional swings to costliness to the time-consuming nature of planning for a child, being pregnant requires huge physical and emotional sacrifices.
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