11 Things That Could Happen During Pregnancy That So Many People Don't Even Realize

    "No, skin changes during pregnancy are not always welcomed."

    Becoming a first-time parent is often described as one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences ever.

    A mother gently kisses her baby's forehead, both in casual attire, sharing a tender moment

    As much as a soon-to-be parent may read up on what to expect when pregnant, listen to other people's experiences, and try to be best prepared, there will always be things that will surprise you along the way.

    Maybe you're confused about how long a full-term pregnancy is since you've heard mixed things. Or maybe you're still unsure what foods are actually off-limits for pregnant people. I enlisted the help of an expert to explain and get to the bottom of some of these common pregnancy misconceptions: Dr. Rikki Baldwin, OB-GYN, Memorial Hermann. Now, let's get into it.

    Pregnant person cradling their belly with both hands, close-up, indoors with a plant in background

    Misconception #1: A full-term pregnancy is the same nine months for every pregnant person.

    Pregnant person sitting, holding ultrasound photo over belly

    Misconception #2: A pregnant person's water breaking is the only indication they're going into labor.

    Pregnant person in a hospital gown standing by a curtain, hand on back, expressing discomfort

    "Amniotic fluid is sterile and should have no color or foul odor associated with it. If there is a color or odor, then this could be a sign of distress for the baby or a sign of infection, respectively. Other signs of labor include bleeding like a period or regular and painful contractions," she added.

    Misconception #3: You should eat whatever you're craving because it means your body needs it.

    Person holding a piece of sushi with chopsticks over a plate of assorted sushi

    "Pregnant people can eat deli meats during their pregnancy when they have been heated up either by a toaster or microwave. Heat kills a common bacteria called Listeria that can be found in deli meats," she added.

    Side note: Some deli meats now have a food additive that helps prevent Listeria before they're packaged. Overall, it's best advised to avoid deli meats until your pregnancy is over. 

    Misconception #4: Pregnant people shouldn't exercise too hard.

    Group of people in a fitness class doing squats with kettlebells

    "If something does not feel good or they feel a bit more tired, they should rest or decrease their activity. We recommend not getting your heart rate too high (more than 120 beats per minute) for extended periods. Yes, there are instances where pregnant people have run marathons, swam, and played tennis. I encourage my patients to live their best lives and just be careful," she continued.

    Misconception #5: Any person in labor can get an epidural.

    Pregnant person in hospital bed with fetal monitoring bands, monitor in background

    "The patient is the boss, and they are the only ones experiencing the pain. It is their decision and their decision alone regarding the use of an epidural or not," Dr. Baldwin added.

    "There is a subsection of people that may not be candidates for an epidural. These include people with a history of brain or spinal injury/surgery. It is very important to consult with an anesthesiologist during the prenatal period to evaluate this," she explained.

    Misconception #6: Pregnancy improves people's skin.

    Person adjusting their hair while looking in a mirror

    Misconception #7: Sex is pleasurable for everyone during pregnancy.

    Close-up of a person's hands clasped together on a bed

    Misconception #8: A person's period doesn't change after pregnancy.

    Person lounging on a couch in a zebra-stripe top and black pants, holding a grey stuffed animal

    Misconception #9: Spotting during pregnancy isn't common.

    Person sitting on a toilet with patterned shorts around ankles

    Misconception #10: Everyone can easily breastfeed.

    Woman holding and looking at a baby swaddled in a patterned blanket

    "Some people are unable to produce enough milk and decide to stop trying to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is encouraged, but babies still thrive with formula as well. As in any case, it comes down to personal preference," Dr. Baldwin explained.

    Misconception #11: A person's body returns to normal after delivery.

    Woman interacting with a happy baby lying on a bed

    As always, listen to your body and speak with your doctor if you have additional questions or concerns.

    If you're a first-time parent or an experienced one, share your experience with me in the comments below.