This is a tough post to write, but one that I think is really important for all mums out there. Some women love every second of pregnancy, but others absolutely hate being pregnant. I would know – I was one of them. If you feel guilty for not being pregnant and miserable, this post is for you.
Why I hated being pregnant
Back in 2020, I fell pregnant with my first child, and despite what I expected, I hated every second. I thought that I would get through it like a breeze, and I was so wrong!
Physically, it’s a slog. For someone who hasn’t experienced chronic illness or disability, the impact of pregnancy on your body can be a bit of a shock to the system. For someone who has, you now have not only your daily struggles, but with a collection of different changes that put your body under strain.
First, there was the morning sickness. I actually threw up very few times, but I did have the sensation of travel sickness all day, every day for about 11 weeks, until I finally heaved non stop at the sight of a mouldy piece of cheese. Then, I developed Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP), where the ligaments of my pelvis loosened too much, and meant my pelvic bones slipped in and out of place. By mid second trimester, I had heartburn that meant I had to contact a GP.
By far, the PGP was most uncomfortable. I could barely walk without burning. I’d feel my bones shift as I turned in bed at night. I wouldn’t be able to get up by myself if I was sat on the floor.
Then there was the mental strain. Of course, I found out I was pregnant during the first lockdown, and felt an incredible sense of loneliness. Even though one of my best friends, and my sister in law were heavily pregnant at the time I found out, they were about to give birth, and I didn’t want to steal their thunder – like announcing an engagement at a wedding! For the majority of the pregnancy, I was the only pregnant woman I knew. Yes other people have experienced pregnancy, and been through what I was going through, but no one was going through the same thing at the same time.
Then there was the overwhelming fear of something going wrong. 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 1 in 200 babies are stillborn in England. It being my first pregnancy was a blessing and a curse: I had no history of miscarriage or stillbirth, but that meant I had no idea what was right and what was wrong. Every twinge set me into a panic. The results of the screening test for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome at my 12 week scan left me in floods of tears, terrified that my baby would be born with a life limiting condition.
The last reason I did not enjoy pregnancy is ironic based on the imagery in this post: I actually really dislike the appearance of baby bumps! Pregnant bellies have made me cringe since I was a teenager, and suddenly, I had one. There’s something about photos of people’s bumps (I have the same aversion to scan pictures too) on Instagram and Facebook that make me really uncomfortable too – I compared myself to them. Thought, they must be loving it, while being reminded of how much I was not enjoying pregnancy and makes me feel real resentment.
Other reasons people do not enjoy pregnancy
My reasons are nothing in comparison to some of the others that people hate being pregnant. Preeclampsia, hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, anaemia all have adverse impacts on the physical and mental health of pregnant women. Then there’s history of miscarriage and stillbirth – we know those who have experienced it in the past are more likely to in future pregnancies. There’s the fear of birth itself. There’s physical self-consciousness. There’s relationship difficulties. There’s being responsible for other children when you are at your most vulnerable.
Why the guilt?
Society tells women that their purpose is to have children. From your doctor who refuses to consent to a hysterectomy, to your nosy aunt who asks when you’re going to have babies, it’s an expectation that women have a family. It’s an assumption that women want children, and if they don’t, well then they’re wrong.
We’re constantly presented with happy pregnancies and happy mums. Whether it’s reality TV shows like The Mummy Diaries, or the heavily organised media photos from the likes of Beyonce, Dani Dyer, or Meghan Markle, the narrative of ‘women loving being pregnant’ is thrown at us.
As soon as a mum shares struggles of her pregnancy on social media (like Chrissy Teigen did in 2020) she’s slammed, branded an attention seeker. I think there’s a real sense of dishonesty amongst the pregnant and mum community – we share the best bits, hide when we are pregnant and miserable, and can ultimately make each other feel more alone and isolated.
With this in mind, it makes total sense that some women hate being pregnant. It’s a natural experience, but at the same time, for most people it’s not. Absolutely, some women have five, ten children, and many stop at one. Being pregnant isn’t like catching a cold, or having a hangover. It’s not a common experience in people’s lives.
What you can do about it
It’s easier said than done, but if you feel guilty for being pregnant and miserable, don’t feel alone. Speak honestly to friends and family – you’ll probably find someone who felt the same way.
Take time for yourself. If it’s your first baby, you’re about to change your whole life. If it’s not your first, even more reason for you to need time for yourself! Book yourself a spa day. Go and get your hair done. If you have no major health concerns, drink that fancy coffee you’re craving – a one off probably isn’t going to hurt. If you’re not happy and healthy, baby isn’t!
Remove people from social media. I was pregnant at the same time as Dani Dyer, and Elle Darby, and the constant gushing about being pregnant (and followers crying about how happy they were for them) just made me feel absolutely awful. So I muted the accounts. And it’s absolutely okay to do so.
Count down the days. Remember that it’s only nine months, and once you have that baby in your arms, it will soon be a distant memory. Primarily because instead of heartburn, you’ll have an endless headache from your child screaming in your face.
Ask for help. If after trying these ideas you still find yourself feeling low and not enjoying pregnancy, you should reach out for help. You may be suffering with perinatal depression, which requires a little outside help. Contact Tommy’s, NCT, or Mind for support.
So, if there’s one thing to take away from all this, it’s try not to feel guilty for not enjoying pregnancy. It’s totally normal to find such a change to be difficult, to be both pregnant and miserable. Though you might not feel it now, once that baby is here, it’s so going to be worth it.