Some aspects of pregnancy never change (morning sickness comes to mind). But things are also different from when our mothers were moms-to-be. A survey by American Baby and Good Books, publisher of the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, reveals what it's really like to be pregnant today.
Click to the following slides to see our survey results.
• 74 percent of pregnant women plan to share their baby's sex ahead of time.
• When their labor day arrives, more than half plan to give updates via Facebook or Twitter.
"People are so open now," notes Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. "Women are inviting more people into the delivery room and sending ultrasound pics to friends. There's been a social shift in the past few years."
One reason: advancing technology. "Prenatal screening has made it possible to detect birth de-fects and genetic diseases before a baby is born," says Roger Harms, M.D., co-medical editor-in-chief of The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. You can feel more confident than ever that your baby is healthy, so why not spread the news? Plus, being able to know so much while pregnant means "your baby is no longer an abstract concept," says Eva Ritvo, M.D., a psychiatrist in Miami Beach, Florida. "It's a life that you can see, so you can start bonding earlier."
Remember the custom of waiting until the second trimester to let slip that you're expecting? More than half of women (56 percent) ignored it and told others early. What's up with that? In the old days, couples would keep mum until the 12-week mark, when the doctor could hear the heartbeat and the risk of miscarriage decreased. Today, docs perform ultrasounds as early as six weeks. "Women see the heartbeat sooner," Dr. Ritvo explains. It's a hard thing to keep quiet! Still, it's better to hold off. "Wait until you hear the heartbeat on a scan done at the 12-week checkup," says Marra Francis, M.D., an ob-gyn in The Woodlands, Texas.
Check out the fun ways you told your partner about your new addition.
• "I cooked dinner with lots of 'mini' items, like mini carrots. I told him once he asked about how small the meal was." --Christina, Alsip, Illinois
• "I had our son wake him up by saying, 'We're going to have a baby.' " --Melissa, Wichita, Kansas
• "I put a hamburger bun in the oven and when my husband came home, I said I smelled something odd coming from there. When he opened it, I said, 'Oh, I guess we just have a bun in the oven.' " --Susan, St. Louis, Missouri
• "I arranged the letter magnets on my fridge to say that I was pregnant!" --Colleen, Mulberry, Florida
• "I just sat him down and told him. We already have five kids so I had to be careful that he didn't fall over!" --Rita, Hesperia, California
• 42% of moms-to-be said their pregnancy was a "happy surprise." Sound high? It did to us, considering that most women have been hearing about family planning since seventh-grade health class. Could an epidemic birth control failure be to blame? Not quite. "About half of pregnancies are unplanned -- most couples with surprise pregnancies probably weren't using birth control," Dr. Domar says. Dr. Harms agrees: "Many people simply don't believe they will get pregnant," he says, adding that alcohol probably plays a role in many unexpected pregnancies as well. Cheers to the best kinds of accidents!
• 43% of women say the hardest thing to avoid during pregnancy is caffeine. (Only 12 percent said alcohol.) What gives? "During pregnancy, you're tired," Dr. Domar says. "Without caffeine, you compound fatigue with missing that extra buzz." Perk up: There's no need to go caffeine-free; check with your doc, but most experts agree that a cup of coffee a day is usually fine.
• 47% of moms-to-be said pregnancy has brought them and their partner closer. Parenthood, alas, isn't how it looks in a Katherine Heigl flick. Still, although you can't expect a baby to save a rocky relationship, it can make a good one stronger. Dr. Ritvo says: "It makes sense. You're embarking on a joint project and combining your genes."
• 10% of women told their mom first about their pregnancy!
• 30% of moms-to-be say that their sex life has never been better!
What pregnancy symptom cramps moms-to-be style the most?
• 34% Nausea
• 26% Fatigue
• 16% Mood Swings
• 10% Cravings
• 7% Constipation
• 7% Other
You dealt with this annoying issue in all sorts of funny spots.
• "In a meeting at a customer's location -- all over the desk." --April, Yorkville, Illinois
• "My 8-year-old's second- grade class. It was Green Eggs and Ham day. Need I say more?" --Stephanie, Shelbyville, Kentucky
• "At church with my mother-in-law, who didn't know I was pregnant. I threw up three times." --Daniella, Kansas City, Missouri
• "In the car with nowhere to pull over. I had to throw up in my purse." --Tia, Victorville, California
Only 23 percent of women plan to go on a babymoon (another 41 percent would like to if they had the budget). But 37 percent don't even know what one is. Allow us to enlighten: A babymoon is a sort of "last fling" that some couples take before the baby arrives. There's no need to skip this treat because you don't want to break the bank; a quick trip to meander a nearby town or even a staycation can be fun. The point is to share Q.T. with your guy before you go from two people to three.
Getting the Baby to Sleep. To help ease new-mom concerns, we hit up Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night, for tips on building good habits.
• Start a bedtime routine. Look for things your newborn can start to associate with dreamland -- a bath, a massage, and don't forget the lullaby!
• Go outside. Exposing your baby to plenty of natural light, particularly in the morning hours, will help set her body clock. The more sunshine she sees, the faster she?ll learn that daytime is for being awake and night is when people sleep.
• Make your own sleep a priority. A well-rested mom is a better mom, so tuck yourself into bed with a book shortly after your baby goes down for her nighttime stretch.
Although 54 percent of moms-to-be told us they plan to breastfeed exclusively for a few months, only 33 percent of women actually nurse through three months postpartum, according to the CDC. Why the low numbers? A lot of it has to do with a lack of breastfeeding support, explains Jane Morton, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University. "The most common reason women prematurely give up breastfeeding is that they're not making enough milk," she says. So ask a nurse or lactation consultant at the hospital for help starting.
The top three celebrity role-model moms!
1. Kate Hudson -- Cool, calm, and laid-back
2. Natalie Portman -- Intelligent and elegant
3. Jessica Alba -- Stylish mama, stylish kids
• "Cocoa butter for my breasts and stomach. Also, bath oil for the tub." --Denae, Nashua, New Hampshire
• "The Boppy Pregnancy Wedge, by far. Helpful with ligament pain, big-time." --Kathryn, Houston, Texas
• "My BellaBand. It lets me wear my regular jeans." --Charlee, Columbus, Ohio
Originally published in the November 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.