Adity Chauhan, a woman in her mid 30s, still remembers her “legs trembling and mind awash with numerous thoughts” as she entered the doctor’s cabin for her first ultrasound following her pregnancy.
“I had had a miscarriage previously and had to opt for IVF. So, it was scary, since I heard horror stories of the child not having a heartbeat, to those about ectopic pregnancies. The only thing I wanted was for everything to be fine,” she told indianexpress.com.
This story resonates with a lot of first-time mothers, as “firsts are always special” — a house, a kiss, a job, and definitely a baby. As such, according to experts, it is normal for women to experience mixed emotions — from excitement to responsibility — during their first pregnancy.
Agreed Adity, a mother to a four-year-old now. “Although every pregnancy is special, women usually talk about the first one a bit more.”
“This is because we experience things for the first time and learn through that process. In the subsequent pregnancies, many women lose the excitement to a certain degree because they know what lies ahead — from a hungry cry to a cuddles cry,” she shared.
And even today, Adity struggles to put her feelings into words when asked how she felt on seeing her baby for the first time. “That was one moment when the only reaction we could give was a cry of happiness. I had my heart outside of my body,” she said.
Agreed Atashi Sharma, a mother of two, who added that “seeing life grow within you is an extremely special and unforgettable experience.”
Taking about her first pregnancy, Atashi — who has PCOS — said, “That moment is always fresh in my mind. I remember seeing my daughter in a pink dress wrapped in a white and pink sheet for the first time.” She continued: “Even today, I remember what I had said on seeing her first — that, she is beautiful.”
But, pregnancies can be an equally challenging time for women, and affects each differently — both physically and mentally, said experts.
What are the physical changes a woman goes through during pregnancy?
Acne, pigmented patches, an increase in the size of breasts for future lactation, and stretch marks are a part of the pregnancy process. “A pregnant woman’s facial skin may acquire the classic pregnancy ‘glow’, but some others may experience acne and pigmented patches on the cheeks called ‘chloasma’ or the ‘mask of pregnancy’. Pigmentation also extends to the development of a brown line in the centre of the belly called the ‘linea nigra’,” said Dr Sunita Varma, Director of Obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.
“Most of these pigmentation-related changes along with strect marks lighten after birth, but they do persist to some extent,” she shared, adding that hormonal changes accompanied by aches, and pain are also a part of the numerous physical changes that happen in a woman’s body.
What about the psychological changes?
First pregnancies do come with their share of psychological challenges, which are often not much talked about. “It’d be realistic to portray both sides of the coin, than just the side that involves ‘positive emotions’,” Dr Sumithra Sridhar, a psychologist, said.
She added that emotions of “surprise, joy, fear, panic, sadness” might overwhelm a woman, especially during their first pregnancy because of the lack of experience in the role.
Agreed Dr Varma, “Women become oversensitive, a little weepy, and may fly off the handle at the least provocation. These changes are especially evident in the first trimester. With physical discomforts increasing in the second and third trimester and the prospect of labour looming large, it takes a lot of family support and encouragement to keep the positivity and motivation going.”
She added that some women undergo anxiety stemmed by fear of labour and delivery.” It is a mixed bag of emotions. Joy and excitement of having a baby is paramount, but due to hormonal changes, emotions are extremely fragile,” she said.
What are the questions that people generally ask during their first pregnancy?
Dr Sumithra Sridhar told Indianexpress.com that many women fear about the baby’s health including feeling insecure about not being liked by their partners any longer.
She also added that some men feel “left out when the attention and care are showered on the expecting mother.”
“Whilst it is absolutely okay to feel left out, as a society, we are yet to accept that this is a valid feeling, so most fathers don’t openly acknowledge this with family or even their wives, in the fear of being judged,” she said.