This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

8 Things You Didn't Know About Being Pregnant

Congratulations, you're pregnant! (Or you're just reading this because you're curious -- either way, welcome.)

Now is the time you get to go shopping for pastel baby clothes, paint the baby's room (DIY in cute overalls, obvs), get stacks of presents and reap the benefits of having glossy hair, glowing skin and nails that could cut through glass. Right?

Kind of.

Pregnancy is an exciting time for many, but the lead-up to meeting your little bundle of joy may throw some serious surprises your way (like did you know your feet can grow a whole size?).

Here are just some of the less-advertised aspects of your ten-month journey, so you can really know what to expect when you're expecting.

Your placenta is probably bigger than you think

Most people would already know that after you give birth to your baby, you have to then deliver the placenta.

What you might not know is the average size of the placenta is similar to a dinner plate.

“Every placenta is very different – they come in all shapes and sizes,” registered midwife Kelli Zakharoff told The Huffington Post Australia.

“I’d say it’s about the size of the dinner plate when it’s completely out. I’ve seen placentas bigger than dinner plates but I’ve also seen them size of a saucer.”

Luckily for you, it's squishy and boneless so it shouldn't hurt -- it just might feel... weird.

Two words: mucus plug

You will get one. But don’t worry, as gross as it sounds, it’s for a good reason.

Basically, mucus forms in your cervix to help hold the baby on the inside, as well as acting as a barrier to ward off bacteria. As your baby descends into the lower section of the uterus, it can put pressure on the cervix, meaning this ‘plug’ can come away.

Don’t know what to look for? In Zakharoff’s words, it’s pretty much like a “chunk of mucus.” (Mothers-to-be, rejoice!)

“I normally describe it as being like when you see a two-year-old with a really horrible snotty nose -- it’s a bit like that. They can come away at certain periods over days.”

“Sometimes it can look a bit like gelatine, sometimes there’s blood in it. Sometimes it can be green stained… it could be 3cm long and come out really stringy. It’s variable.”

The good news? By the time you lose your plug, things are starting to get underway.

“When that happens, things are starting to move,” Zakharoff said. “Some women don’t notice it at all, but most do.”

Nine months is more like ten months

And stop freaking out about your due date, already.

“Technically yes, it’s more like ten months, if you’re looking at the gestational timeframe. But pregnancy is a pregnancy, and I believe your baby is in there as long as it needs to be,” Zakharoff said.

“The longest pregnancy we’ve had here is 43 weeks and six days. Does that make it 10 and half months? I think mothers put way too much emphasis on the timeframe."

“The fact is, unless someone conceives using IVF, technically we don’t know exactly when she fell pregnant. We count from the last day of the last menstrual period. My suggestion for expecting mothers is to make it a ‘due month’ rather than a due date. That way they are less likely to be disappointed.”

Nosebleeds are a thing

Women gain blood volume during their pregnancy (apparently that new growing human inside you needs it), meaning things like nosebleeds can occur.

“Nosebleeds, bleeding gums – these things are perfectly normal unless there’s a gingivitis issue or similar,” Zakharoff said. “Of course excessive amount of bleeding from orifices is never good, but the odd nosebleed throughout a pregnancy is generally fine.”

So, unless you want to get all Vampire-y, maybe switch to a soft toothbrush for now.

Your uterus doesn't come baby-sized

Turns out the uterus isn’t this big cave just hanging out waiting for a baby to fill it up. When you’re not pregnant, it’s about the size of your fist.

“The uterus expands with the baby, and will go from the size of your fist to a size that’s able to contain a 3.5kg baby,” Zakharoff said. “It will get right up underneath your breasts.”

After giving birth, it takes about six weeks on average for the uterus to retract to its normal size – and you most likely bleed that whole time.

“Generally a woman will bleed for six weeks post-birth. Like a heavy period for four to six weeks. While the uterus is contacting back down to its normal size, it’s expelling as well, and getting rid of all the uterine lining,” Zakharoff said.

“I should note it takes six weeks for the uterus to return to its normal size – not the stomach. What you’ve put on the outside might take longer.”

Your water might not break at all

We've all seen that movie when the protagonist's water breaks and hey presto, it's full steam ahead and off to the hospital.

Unsurprisingly, this isn't always the case.

"The water can break at any time -- it's a hormonal thing," said Zakharoff. "We've had waters break 24 hours before it's time to go to the hospital, and because we do home births, I have personally seen babies born in their bags of water, when the membrane hasn’t ever broken."

"It can break with a trickle or break with a pop. Many times, the water will break while the woman is in bed, it feels exactly like you'd imagine a wet bed would feel."

Things are going to happen to your nipples

They will become more sensitive, more erect, and often, darker in colour. Also your colostrum (in other words, your first milk) might make an appearance way before your baby arrives.

"I've seen women expressing from their nipples from about 20-odd weeks," Zakharoff said. "Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, your body is still gearing up for that to be a possibility."

You might also form a dark line from your pubic bone up across your abdomen. That's called the linea nigra and according to Zakharoff, it's "just a pigmentation from the changes of the hormones, the stretching of the skin and all of those sorts of things."

Finally, every pregnancy (and labour) is totally different

So as much as you'll want to hang off every word of your bestie's advice, her pregnancy might be not like what you're going through at all.

"I have never seen two babies or births that have been the same," Zakharoff said. "Nobody could tell you honestly what labour is like, because they're all very different."

It's recommended you find a health care professional that suits you and can guide you through the process. One mistake Zakharoff believes new mums tend to make is thinking they'll "wing it."

"Labour is like running a marathon and no marathon runner goes in without training. Find out a process that will work for you. And of course, painful though labour is, the big surprise at the end is your baby."

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