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Childbirth is one of those experiences you simply can’t reliably prepare for in advance.  Mothers-to-be everywhere routinely fill out complex birth plans and wish lists, only to find that when the time comes even the best plans don’t work out as expected. This can leave new moms feeling cheated, or worse still, as if they have failed somehow.

Babies are unpredictable… FACT! They will do things their own way and according to their own schedule, which is why listening to other moms birth stories can be both a blessing and a curse!  Everyone’s experiences are completely different.

There are a few childbirth facts that people rarely talk about – the ‘real’ details that would be useful to know about in advance. They may not be pleasant and like all other aspects of childbirth, won’t apply to everyone, but forewarned means forearmed so I thought I would share five facts that I wish I had known about in advance:

1. Weakened pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor is a large sheet of muscles situated between your pubic bone and tailbone; they support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Pelvic floor problems can occur when the muscles are stretched and weakened, with pregnancy and childbirth being one of the primary causes for pelvic floor problems in later life.

Common signs that your pelvic floor may be damaged after childbirth include:

  • Accidentally leaking urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise
  • Not making it to the toilet in time
  • Feeling like you always need to go to the toilet
  • Accidentally passing wind

Whilst in most cases the pelvic floor tightens back up (as long as you religiously do your pelvic floor exercises) it might be a good idea to stock up on incontinence supplies whilst your pelvic floor is returning to normal.

2. You’ll feel like you’re running a marathon
Moms-to-be know that childbirth will hurt; after all, it’s not called labour for nothing! But not many prepare themselves for the sheer physical exertion that will be required to endure the process.

Prepare yourself by taking regular, gentle exercise leading up to the birth and try to get as much sleep as possible whenever you get the chance. You’re body needs to be fit, healthy and relaxed as it prepares to do its most important job ever.

3. Your breasts will produce milk before the baby is born
Prepare yourself by stocking up on breast pads before the birth, even if you’re not planning to breastfeed. From about 16 weeks of pregnancy it is completely normal for your breasts to leak small amounts of colostrum, which is the thick creamy milk your baby needs immediately after birth. Don’t be alarmed – take this as a good sign that your body is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

4. You’ll leave the hospital looking almost as pregnant as when you arrived
It took almost ten months for your body to blossom into the beautiful state it’s in at the end of your pregnancy, so it’s foolish to think you’ll be back into your pre-pregnancy jeans when you walk out of the hospital with your new bundle of joy.

Your belly will be squishy, the skin still rather loose and you’ll probably be feeling strangely ‘empty’. Be reassured that things do eventually spring back into shape, but unless you’re a top model with a personal trainer and dietitian it may take a few months.

5. Your life will never be the same again
Having a baby means that you and your life will change almost unrecognisably overnight. The way you think, feel and act will be completely different and as much as you tell yourself your new baby will just settle into your old routine, this simply isn’t the case. Accept this now and things will be a lot easier when the baby arrives.

Debbie Fletcher is an enthusiastic, experienced writer who has written for a range of difference magazines and news publications. Follow her here: @Debbie_Fletch18

Earnest Parenting: help for parents-to-be who want to know in advance what childbirth will bring.