One thing I’ve always noticed is how some people find it amazingly difficult to write pregnant characters. A couple of months ago I wrote a full story about a pregnancy, and I did my research. So I might be able to help.
» Make sure you want to do this
Keep in mind that a pregnancy isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It takes doctor appointments, a lot of exhaustion, sickness and, most importantly, time. If you didn’t know, it takes about nine months for a baby to be born. That’s almost 275 days. That means that you should only go on if you really want to create a baby in your story, because you can’t skip too much time - it isn’t like the movies where in one scene the lady’s finding out she’s pregnant, and in the other, she’s already in labor.
Here’s a tip: if you really want to make your characters happy and thrilled with the news of baby, but you can’t afford the time and sweat that it takes to cook one, you have from 21-23 weeks to write a miscarriage.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the conception. Even if you don’t write any kind of smutty scenes, you should let the reader know when and where the pregnancy started.
Unprotected Sex: think about how you’re going to put this in your story. If your characters are usually responsible, they won’t simply forget wearing a condom. Think about what is going on: are they completely sane? Are they under the influence of alcohol? Are they high (which, I must say, wouldn’t exactly make your characters irresponsible - it would either get them too horny to care or even more responsible than they already are)? Or are your characters already drowned to each other in a way that they can’t think of anything else? Are they married and actually planned on having this baby? All of this will have an influence on how the pregnancy will flow, and how it will affect people around it.
» The Symptoms
Don’t think your character is going to find out she’s pregnant a week after the conception. It takes some time even for the baby to start, and if you remember biology classes, it’s not a simple process. It will take weeks, maybe months, for the woman to realize that she might be pregnant, and not all of the symptoms come in the first trimester. Usually, the first thing to warn her is that she is free of the devilish blood lost that comes once a month. Here are some symptoms that basically everyone gets:
- Absence of Period: every women keeps track of her monthly blood lost, even if not strictly. Of course your character might find herself way too busy or stressed and that will cause her not to realize that it’s been a week, a month, two months without it, but, eventually, she will notice. From the conception until birth.
- Small bleedings: sometimes, a woman might bleed a little when she’s in the first weeks or months of pregnancy. It’s nothing much and it doesn’t happen for too long; so it might cause some scare if she already knows she’s pregnant, or some relief if she was only suspecting. Either way, it doesn’t mean she’s not pregnant. It’s completely normal for a woman to bleed in her first weeks. From the first week until the end of the first trimester.
- Cramps: every woman has it - which can also cause confusion if she doesn’t know she’s pregnant or is only suspecting it. As you may know, some people experience menstrual cramps before, during or after their periods, and the same happens during pregnancy. From the first week until the birth.
- Breasts Increase: it might happen during the first few weeks, but after maybe one month, there will most likely already have a difference. A woman might notice something weird maybe not because they’re growing, but because they’re hurting. Your character’s breasts should get more and more painful at touch. As the pregnancy goes, they will continue to get bigger and bigger, and that might alert other people if she still hasn’t realized she’s got one in the oven. From the second/third week until birth.
- Dizziness and Sickness: some movies make it seem like a woman can’t eat, smell or sleep through a whole night without throwing up. The morning sickness will come after some weeks, and it will be a pain in the ass, but not like the television shows. Sometimes it’ll be the middle of the night and your character will wake up to vomit, or it’ll be the middle of the afternoon. Of course she will have a regular time where she will feel sick (when I say that, I mean as around 8am, for example, she feels like she needs to throw up) and in some mornings she will have it, and in others she won’t. Another thing that also is a bitch to pregnant women is that some scents will make them extremely dizzy and even feel the urge to vomit. Remember that it will not happen with everything and your character can easily go through a meal without feeling a thing, and ten minutes later she will sense a perfume that will set her off; other women don’t even feel dizzy about smells at all. Usually from the first couple of weeks to the second trimester.
- Stomach Swollen: not like a baby growing, obviously. All of the woman swells and her hands, finger, arms, everything will get bigger. It’s not like she’ll notice it when she wakes up, but when her ring starts to get too small, it’s because something’s not right. From the first couple of weeks until birth.
- Urge to pee all the time: this is something your character will need to get used to. It doesn’t only start after she already has a big belly, actually; even from the first weeks of pregnancy, she already needs to go a lot more often than she’s used to, and with a big baby pressed upon her bladder, she’ll barely be able to hold herself together. From the first month to birth.
- Tiredness: after a few weeks into the pregnancy, your character should get tired more easily and feel sleepy all the time. It’s not like she won’t have the energy to do anything, but if you’re writing a woman who is usually out in an adventure, she will get exhausted from something she’s used to do and sleep for more time and more often. From the first week to birth.
- Cravings: for some reason, people think that cravings only appear after the baby starts to show. To be honest, it depends from woman to woman, but some feel the urge to have something even from the early weeks of pregnancy. Keep in mind that it doesn’t always have the be the weirdest things, but pregnant women aren’t intimidated by something most people would find disgusting. From the first/second month (might be only after the second trimester) to birth.
- Change of taste and smell: a woman will become more critical of what she eats when she’s pregnant, sometimes even changing her palate. She’ll also develop her sense of smell, which might cause some dizziness. From the first month to birth.
- Gases: don’t laugh. It happens to every pregnant woman, just as the peeing factor. There’s a baby pressing her organs, be nice. From the first couple of weeks to birth.
- Mood Changes: it increases as the pregnancy goes on, but your character might experience it since the first weeks. That’s one of the things that will get people to notice how different she is. From the second to the third trimester, she could become so bipolar other people might not even stand being around the pregnant lady. From the first couple of weeks to birth.
- Acne: don’t forget the hormones of a woman are all over the place when she’s cooking another human being. It’s the teenage years all over again. It can come in any moment during the pregnancy.
- Baby Belly: this one is pretty obvious. The biggest thing to point out is that your character won’t start to show after a month or two in the pregnancy, no matter the whole “it varies from woman to woman” stuff. The baby will only start developing once it has formed organs and stuff, and that usually around the third month, in the beginning of the second trimester.
» Finding Out and Gender
This is something you and only you can define, but there are only a couple of ways for your character to find out she’s pregnant: she will either go to the doctor and be examined, or she will take a pregnancy test.
Please keep in mind that pregnancy tests aren’t always right and even if they come off negative, your character can still mark an appointment with her doctor because, really, if she’s not pregnant and is presenting the first symptoms of it, something’s wrong and she must go the a hospital.
There is a hormone called HCG, and it is what will tell the doctor if the woman is pregnant or not. There are two different types of exams, the Qualitative, which will only point positive or negative, and the Quantitative, which will not only say if your character is pregnant, but also how far along she is. The level of HCG doubles after 48h into the pregnancy, so the doctors recommend to only take the test after a week of being late, and sometimes a woman might need to do it twice. If the result shows below 50mUl/ml, there isn’t a baby, and until 100mUl, it isn’t determinate. Above it, the woman is pregnant.
The gender of the baby will only be available after ten to twelve weeks, and that’s when most of the doctors can identify twins.
Getting off the technical pregnancy issues, you should go back to your story. Think about everything a baby means.
- How is your character going to take the news? Sometimes, unplanned pregnancy isn’t welcomed too well, not even by the mother. Your character could easily decide to abort without a second thought or she might just go with it, even if she’s not exactly happy, because it’s her baby and she wouldn’t kill it for nothing in the world.
- Think about the father: Is he a decent man? Does he have something going on in his life which doesn’t allow him to be a dad right now? Will she stick with the mother, even if it was just a one night stand, even if he isn’t happy about the baby? Will he be a complete asshole and push the mom to abort?
- Think about what will happen to the baby: What if your characters don’t want to kill their kid, but also can’t be parents right now? There is always the option to give the baby away to someone who can and wants a baby. Or what if your characters do abort? Or the woman has a miscarriage? There are different ways to run from an unplanned pregnancy, such as there are ways to make it work. Okay, so maybe the baby wasn’t planned. Maybe it’s what came from a drunk one night stand between two people who hate each other, but it’ll bring those two together. Always create a pregnancy with a reason in mind. There’s not need to get a woman knocked up just for the sake of it.
- How are they going to tell the news and how it will affect people around them? A baby isn’t only the responsibility of two people. Don’t forget that this baby has grandmothers and grandfathers, and maybe an uncle, or a borrowed aunt. What if the place where the mother works can’t have a pregnant employee? What if the father is engaged to someone and just found how he’s gonna have a kid? I don’t think a fiancée is fond to the idea of sharing her husband-to-be with a mistress and a baby who isn’t even hers.
» Abortion, Miscarriage, Stillborns and Teenage Pregnancy
I needed to touch the subject. I’m so sorry to whoever gets triggered with this kind of stuff, but… It can happen.
- Abortion: not all countries allow it. For example, I live in a country where the clinics only perform abortions in people who will die from the pregnancy or who were raped (I think there’s something more, but.) Do your research. If the story is going on in the country you live, it’s easier because you know how the thing works. Don’t think abortion is the simplest thing to do. If you’re getting your teenage character an abortion, please notice that most clinics would need parents’ consent. So your girl would end up in an illegal clinic and God knows what can happen from there. As it varies from country to country, it needs proper research.
- Miscarriage and Stillborns: a baby dying is only considered miscarriage if it happens until around the sixth month (23-24 weeks.) After that, a baby who dies inside the mom is called a stillborn. Miscarriages vary from woman to woman, and it’s more likely to happen during the first trimester, which is why your character shouldn’t get too focused on building a nursery or anything like that during that time. Your character might bleed the fetus all at once or at different times (it could even take a few days), which, during the first trimester, could be easily confused with the normal bleeding. After the third trimester has begun, a baby who dies is a stillborn, and your character might not even notice it if the baby doesn’t usually kick or move much.
- Teenage Pregnancy: a pregnancy is already complicated between two married adults, so imagine between two teenagers who don’t even know what they’re doing. A baby around that age affects a lot more than an adult, not only because neither the girl or the boy are ready to take care of another life, but also because there is school, the social pressure, the parents and the risks. Teenage pregnancies have more risk on miscarriages than normal, so if your character actually wants her baby, she better lay down and take care of herself really well. When you’re writing a, I don’t know, sixteen year old girl getting pregnant, think about yourself when you were sixteen and how frightened you would be. Someone around that age can’t even take care of herself alone, so she needs the support of other people. If the father isn’t willing to compromise (which is more likely to happen if he’s older or the same age, because a baby at a teenage age can ruin the chances of chasing dreams and going to college or whatever else), your character needs to find other people. Don’t try to create a tough girl who can do all of this by herself, because she’ll need to be a lot extraordinary not to break down. She won’t be able to go to school if she doesn’t have people to take care of the baby, and later college, and later work. Teenage girls are scared of taking care of another life, so the parents are a wall of support she can have. Don’t shut her down to friends and family.
» Labor and C-Sections
So you’ve gotten this far (let me applaud you, because damn.) Your character has survived nine months of making a baby and it’s time for her to pop.
- Going Into Labor: the first thing that will happen to your character when she goes into labor is her water breaking. She might spill a lot of water or just a few drops, which might not alert her very soon, but - believe me - she will notice when the contractions start. A woman can bleed a little when she’s going into labor either because she’s already too dilated or because the water broke with a little bit of blood spilling, it doesn’t mean much. The contractions should start when the water breaks, and they’re painful as f*ck. Some women describe labor as the worst pain they’ve ever experience, and just a few can’t even feel the contractions until they’re too close and the baby is almost coming.
- Labor: I’m not going into details because what you should know is what you learned in health class and if you want that scene to be described really well, you do your research. What you need to know is that once a woman goes into labor, she’ll start getting contractions which are basically her body making path to the baby. It might be the most painful part of the process for some people, but once a woman is settled into a hospital and is dilated enough, doctors will give her a shot that will relieve the pain. Finally, when your character is 10cm dilated, the final process will begin and it’s time for the famous pushes and stuff. I would recommend someone to be with your character because, honestly, it will hurt a lot and she will need someone by her side in case of any complications or anything like that. Labors can variate from just a couple of hours to days (some women take a long time to get the 10cm dilated).
- C-Section: your character can choose to have a C-Section if she doesn’t want to go through the pain of the natural birth, so remember that if you want her to do that, she should book a date with the doctor. It can also be arranged if there are any kind of complications either for the baby or for the mom (like, let’s say the umbilical cord is wrapped around the little one’s neck). It is more risky for the baby if there wouldn’t be any problems with the natural birth, so your character will be warned if she chooses C-Section just so she won’t feel pain. What happens during the procedure: your character won’t feel pain because she will be anesthetized from the waist down, but she will be awake to hear the baby crying and even hold it in her arms.
My God, I think that’s it. I hope this was helpful (and for the amount of hours I spent researching, it better be) for the one who were wondering what happened during a pregnancy.