beyond a big belly
“I’m pregnant.” With these words, two
people begin the journey to become
Men’s role in pregnancy is crucial,
but babies grow within their mothers’
bellies. From conception on, a woman’s
body slowly but surely changes to
accommodate this growth.
As the baby grows, the changes to
a pregnant woman’s body usually go
beyond a growing belly. Internal organs
shift and are compressed, breasts tend to
swell and be tender, hips and feet widen
to carry the extra weight, and almost
everything else can swell. No single
statement can describe pregnant women.
Some are blissful and lithe, others can
be cranky and achy and the rest can
be virtually anything in between.
Pregnancy can be a bit like the opening
line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two
Cities: it was the best of times, it was
the worst of times. Some pregnancy
hormones can actually change brain
chemistry, causing depression or anxiety.
Statistics show about 10 per cent of
pregnant women become depressed,
compared to six per cent of women
who aren’t pregnant.
Pregnant women can also become
more emotional and unpredictable
because of fluctuating hormones.
Excitement, fear and anxiety and
waning self-esteem can also take
a toll on nerves and confidence.
AHS’s Bounce Back Book notes that
feelings of joy, excitement, enthusiasm,
happiness and love accompany the
arrival of a new child. However, it is not
unusual for parents (most commonly
birth mothers) to feel irritable, sad
or overwhelmed after a baby’s birth.
This is known as the “baby blues.”
If the baby blues last for more
than two weeks, it’s time to contact
a physician or public health nurse.
Feelings of this nature have been
linked to post-partum depression.
It is also important to remember
post-partum depression is not just a
“woman’s thing”—it has been found
in other caregivers as well, such as
fathers and adoptive parents.
Having a baby is hard work, and
tough on a woman’s body. There are
two ways a woman can give birth:
naturally (vaginal delivery), or through
Caesarean section (C-section) surgery.
All mammals, except those that lay
eggs outside their bodies, give birth
to offspring by a vaginal delivery.
The process can take a matter of minutes
or go on for hours, but it always has
four stages: stage one involves early
labour and active labour; in stage two
the baby moves through the birth canal
to be born; in stage three the placenta
(which supplies food and oxygen to
the baby through the umbilical cord)
is delivered; stage four is the first
few hours after birth. Any number
of situations can arise during labour;
attending a prenatal class helps both
moms and dads understand them.
C-section surgery is used when a
woman cannot have a vaginal delivery.
For the baby to be born, the doctor
makes a cut in the belly just above
the pubic hairline.
Not surprisingly, it can take pain
medication and a few weeks to physically
recover from either type of delivery.
Meanwhile, a woman’s body will
continue to change after either type
of delivery. Women who breast and
bottle-feed can experience swelling
and discomfort as breasts fill with milk.
You can help her by offering a warm
compress, bringing the baby to nurse,
and caring for the baby when she needs
time for rests and other tasks.