Dispelling some of the myths around pregnancy
From tales of agonised pushing to unbearable pain, the chances are every pregnant woman will hear at least one - often unwanted - birth horror story.
They’re also likely to be told gory pregnancy stories too, often ones including vomiting, violent aversions and more pain.
All legitimate areas to discuss - when prompted - but not particularly reassuring when preparing for labour.
Midwife Clemmie Hooper is acutely aware of how off-putting these topics can be.
“Women tell me they’d be talking to someone at a party, who would go, ‘I had the worst labour ever’, and a competitive thing of who had the worst time would start,” says Hooper, who is mum to four daughters.
“If you had a friend who had cancer and was going for chemo, you wouldn’t be like, ‘I know someone that died. All their hair fell out and they were sick and had to give up their job.’ You wouldn’t. You’d probably offer them support and love.”
It’s part of the reason Hooper has written her first book, How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out, where she addresses common anxieties around pregnancy and birth in a big-sisterly style, backed up with the experience her career has brought her.
And here, she shares her advice on how to cope with the most common bodily anxieties during pregnancy:
IF YOU FEEL DOWN ABOUT THE SIZE OF YOUR STOMACH, CONSIDER THE REASONS BEHIND IT
“Rather than feeling like it’s a burden or you’re being punished, try to think that your body is growing a whole other human and in order for that to happen, it has to change. Not everyone is a size eight with this bump popped on. Most women get big around the thighs, the hips, the breasts, the back, the arms, because your body is laying down fat stores to feed your baby.
YOUR BODY MIGHT CHANGE IN SURPRISING WAYS
“Your tummy might get hairier. It’s a hormonal thing. Your belly button goes flat as your tummy gets bigger and it might pop out. But again, think about what’s happening to your skin. Your skin is incredible. It’s stretching to allow this baby to grow. You might get stretch marks. You might not. You feel differently about your body after having a baby. I’ve had four children, of course my body doesn’t look how it did. I’m alright with it because I’m just proud of what my body did. Try and embrace it. It’s a short period of time you’re pregnant and then afterwards, your body changes again and is ready to feed a baby. Women are incredible.”
IT’S OK TO FEEL NERVOUS ABOUT MASSAGING YOUR PERINEUM
“No one’s going to make you do it, so if it’s just not for you, fine. But I would say it’s probably a good idea to think about it. There is evidence to suggest massaging does reduce tearing. If you’re in the bath or shower, just have a feel of that piece of skin with your thumbs - about 2-3cm inside you - because that’s the bit that has to stretch to allow the baby’s head to come out.”
IT CAN BE HELPFUL TO SHARE YOUR CONCERNS
“There’s some really bad terminology knocking around. We know that psychological damage can take you right into late adulthood. This can affect you when you have sex or to the loo or even [put you off] having another baby. One woman was so worried about her stitches that I asked her for a handheld mirror and said 'we’ll look together and I’ll talk you through it'. She looked at me like I was bonkers and kept apologising. I showed her everything and point where the stitches were and she was like, ‘It looks fine. Women worry more about what it will look like from the outside because you can’t really see the inside, but actually, hasn’t changed that much."
* How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out by Clemmie Hooper is published by Vermilion, priced £14.99. Available now