Pregnancy can be a time of intense learning and discovery. From day one until the arrival of your baby, new questions and doubts are likely to arise daily. Many of these may be answered by your midwife, friends or antenatal teacher but some may feel too personal or, even, embarrassing to formulate face-to-face. Let us do the work and put your mind at ease on 6 things you wanted to know but daren’t ask about your pregnancy.
Can I have sex? There is no reason not to have sex during your pregnancy, unless you don’t feel like it or it makes you feel uncomfortable. Penetrative sex will not hurt your baby or cause your waters to break. Your libido (sex drive) may increase or decrease during pregnancy and both of these changes are normal. Hormones, tiredness, changes in body image or physical symptoms can affect how we feel about ourselves and towards our partner. Some women report feeling extremely sexual and attractive during their pregnancy, whilst others couldn’t think of anything worse. As long as it is consensual, you don’t feel uncomfortable or in pain and there is no medical reason why you should abstain, there’s no reason not to indulge.
Why am I so hairy? There are two main reasons for this: a sharp rise in the levels of the hormone oestrogen and the fact that you have reduced hair fall during pregnancy. The latter often means luscious locks on your head and, yes, more ‘fuzz’ on your body. Hair fall resumes again a few months after your baby’s birth, translating into a less ‘hairy belly’ and, sadly, a less thick head of hair.
Is it normal to leak urine? Leaking urine during pregnancy is not uncommon. Not only does your bladder have to contend with the increasing weight of the womb and your baby’s movements, but increased hormone levels in pregnancy can relax the smooth muscle of the bladder, making it less efficient at holding larger amounts of urine. A weakened pelvic floor (the mesh of muscles that support your pelvic organs) will not help matters. You can prevent or minimise leakage by regularly emptying your bladder and toning your pelvic floor with pelvic floor exercises.
Why do I ‘trump’ and ‘burp’ so much more? Levels of the hormone progesterone increase during pregnancy, causing tissues to relax. The digestive system is also affected by this rise in progesterone, which can cause a slowing down in the digestion of food and the movement of your bowels, leading to a build-up of gas, as well as constipation.
The stomach is also reduced in size as the pregnancy progresses, meaning larger portions of food sit in it for longer, producing gas and, possibly, feelings of indigestion.
I get shooting pains into my vagina, should I worry? Also known as ‘lightning crotch’ (!), shooting pains in your pelvic area can be quite common and can increase as your pregnancy progresses. These are usually caused by pressure on the nerve complex that connects your womb, cervix and vagina or by stretching of the broad ligament, which attaches your womb to your groin area. Your own or your baby’s movement can set off this spasm-like pains, which are sharp and short-lasting. Any longer lasting pain, or if accompanied by other symptoms, should be investigated.
What’s all that discharge? Vaginal discharge does change in pregnancy and tends to increase as you reach term. In pregnancy, this discharge is known as leucorrhea (or leukorrhea) and it helps to keep your vagina clean by washing away unwanted bacteria and pathogens, protecting your unborn baby from infection. It also helps to maintain a balanced pH and acts as a lubricant in labour.
Any vaginal discharge that has an odd or offensive odour, is green or yellow in colour, looks abnormal to you or is accompanied by burning, itching or pain (in your vagina or lower abdomen), should be looked at by your midwife or doctor, who may take swabs with your consent.
Embarrassing question about pregnancy are common and can be difficult to find an answer for. We have covered some of these to try and reassure you without putting you on the spot.