Krista Jensen
February 16, 2017 4:19 pm
Clemens Bilan / Getty Images

We all know the usual side effects — the decorative stretchmarks, the rosy glow, the aches and pains that accompany the insane miracle that is creating a brand new unique human life inside your own little body. There is so much about pregnancy that is so cool and fascinating, not that you’re necessarily going to want to hear any of it if you’re a professional toilet-hugger in your first few months. (It goes away! we promise!)

From body processes exclusive to certain times in your gestation, to scientific alterations to your very chemical makeup, pregnancy is as badass as it gets. This is superhero type stuff, like, women are all X-Men. Not, like, mutants. Just full of insane abilities that even we don’t even fully appreciate. We’ll explain better, below.

Pregnancy sets you on one of the most exciting, scary and mysterious paths you’ll ever travel. Here are some fascinating things you may not know about being knocked up. ♡

1Your feet change size.

Uh, if Cinderella had been pregnant, there may have been no way for her prince to find her again. This widening of our feet is due in part to water retention and the pregnancy hormone relaxin, “which loosens … the ligaments in your feet, causing the foot bones to spread,” says BabyCenter. So if you’re suddenly a 9 when you’ve been an 8 all your life, worry not. You just gained a little more ground to stand on! (Plus, most women report their tootsies shrink back to normal after birth.)

2Trying to bring on labor? Nipple stimulation is the only way to go.

Literally. While several methods are recommended for inducing labor naturally, the only one that doctors agree on is nipple-related, causing a release of the hormone oxytocin, which can bring on contractions. You many know this happy hormone as the one released after orgasm, which lowers cortisol, the main stress hormone. What you do with this info is totally up to you.

3There have been year-long pregnancies.

You read that right! While the normal gestation time for a healthy baby is 40 weeks, there have been documented shorter and longer pregnancies. In 1945, Penny Diana Hunter stated that her last menstrual period had been an insane 375 days prior to her healthy child’s birth. This clocks her full pregnancy in at nearly two weeks over a calendar year and two months longer than the average term. God bless you, Penny. You are a hero.

4Some mothers lactate at the sound of their (and other!) babies’ cries.

Now this is some straight-up wizardly power. As the post-natal body learns its cues for milk production, hearing a baby cry (even if it is not her own) will also trigger a milk let down and will sometimes even start the flow without preparation or, uh, consent. It’s like your body is still your baby’s body, even once baby is out and about.

5There is a scientific name for everything.

Seriously, science went a little vocab crazy when it comes to babies. And why not! The first, nutrient-packed milk your body produces? Colostrum. You baby’s first ever poop?  Meconium. That mysterious and kinda sexy dark line that women develop from their navels downward? The Latin linea negra, or dark line. Everything’s got a name, and they’re all whoppers if you’re into Scrabble.

6Heartburn = a full head of Elvis hair.

Some mommies want to know early what their babies will look like — whose nose he’ll have, if she’ll be a long, thin baby, if he’ll have his mother’s thick head of glossy hair at birth. As for the last one, pay attention to the amount of heartburn you experience. According to a small study, “the same hormonal process that ignites heartburn [is] closely related to the same pregnancy hormones that stimulates fetal hair growth.”

7Baby’s “finishing touches” are actually done pretty early.

Eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails — you may be inclined to think of these as the last few things to appear on baby, like the small, fine detailing on a cute little car. But no! Mayo Clinic cites that at only “12 weeks into your pregnancy [does] your baby is developing fingernails” and a tiny human profile, complete with tiny little hairs a little later. The proportions of the head to the body may not be right yet, but your baby’s got its nails only 3 little months in. Aww!

8We start the same size as whales.

Well, kinda. Our size as a teensy unfertilized egg is around 0.2mm, aka the same size as the eggs of  rabbits, dogs, whales and pigs. What size we grow up to be is determined by how much we love donuts.

9Everybody starts out female.

“Why do men have nipples?” has been everything from a party ice-breaker to the name of a popular trivia book, but its answer is totally fascinating: We all start female. According to Richard Bribiescas, Ph.D., director of the Yale Reproductive Ecology Laboratory: We all start as a generic embryo with a set of male or female sex chromosomes, but a distinction doesn’t happen until our hormones get involved a ways into our gestation. So, without the intro of male hormones like testosterone, a fetus would continue to develop as female. Our baby bodies have already started developing by the time said gender-defining hormones take over, which means female genitalia has already started to form in every fetus, early on. Who run the world?

10Yes, unborn babies can taste your Chinese food.

We’re not sure if this is good or bad (a friend’s mom’s pregnancy craving was raspberry ice cream with black olives mixed in …we’re not sure this is something we’d want to second-hand experience), but babies in our bellies can and do taste the foods we eat. ZocDoc says that around “13 -15 weeks, that little guy or gal inside you is starting to form taste buds and is even developing a sense of smell.” Studies show you can even influence your son or daughter’s eating habits later in life by introducing them to specific things, now. Want a veggie-friendly baby? Bring on the carrots!

So there you have it! A few very cool facts and tidbits that’ll make you a hit at your next baby shower. Just try telling a expectant mother that she’s about to size out of her shoes, or that her heartburn means a hair-blessed baby. All of this can happen within our miraculous and awe-inspiring bodies, don’t forget. Even if pregnancy is not specifically in the cards for you, just knowing what you’re capable of is a super empowering thing, baby.

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