When I got pregnant seven years ago, I knew my body would change. I just didn’t know how much.
In my head, the changes would be superficial. I believed my body image might suffer and I might not feel confident wearing a bikini after having a baby. A few varicose veins and stretch marks would pop up. No biggie. I could handle all that.
Few people told me that pregnancy and childbirth could exact a lasting toll.
During my second pregnancy, my body freaked out and decided it didn’t like gluten or dairy. I didn’t realize that was the problem, of course, because I had always enjoyed those things, and my wonky symptoms could be explained by pregnancy. But months after baby, after he finally started sleeping and I realized I should be feeling normal again, I was still having heart palpitations and fatigue and digestive problems and bloating and low blood sugar and near blackouts. Oh, and shingles. Those were the cherry on top.
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It took a few tries, but I found a doctor who connected the symptoms to a cause. I was not a hypochondriac, it turned out. A few years and many tweaks to my diet later, I feel great.
Here’s another example. A few weeks after giving birth, my sister-in-law found herself with severe abdominal pain. Gallstones. A surgeon removed her gallbladder not long after. This happened to her cousin as well. In fact, this happens to about 12 percent of women during or shortly following pregnancy, according to BabyCenter. I never knew.
Then there’s my mother, who suffered near-constant, dime-sized ulcers in her mouth following the birth of her third child. Many days, she could barely eat or talk, and there was no cure. Relief came 17 years later during menopause, when her hormones abated.
These examples are anecdotal, of course. But it makes sense. After you spend nine months building another human, of course your body won’t know what to do with itself. Google turns up a variety of more well-known post-pregnancy ailments: thyroid problems, bladder control issues, prolapsed uterus, increased foot size, autoimmune disorders and on and on.
So, knowing all that, would I do it all over again?
Babies are lovely. Children are delightful. But if you’re thinking of having a baby, do yourself a favor: Put as much effort toward finding a good doctor for yourself as you put toward finding a pediatrician.
Follow freelance writer Lindsay Hanson Metcalf on Twitter: @hansonmetcalf