74 Interesting Facts about Pregnancy

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published April 12, 2017
  • At any given time, approximately 4% of women in the United States are pregnant.[3]
  • The word “pregnant” is from the Latin praegnantem, which combines prae- (“before”) and gnasci- (“be born”).[18]
  • The first recorded woman to survive a C-section lived in 16th-century Switzerland. Her husband, who was a pig castrator, performed the operation.[20]
  • A 15-year-old girl without a vagina became pregnant after her former lover caught her giving oral sex to another man and stabbed her in the stomach. The determined sperm traveled from the injured abdominal cavity to the girl’s reproductive organs.[6]
  • "Pica” is a disorder in which pregnant women crave non-food items, such as ice, hair, paper, drywall or paint, metal, glass, or feces. The word pica is Latin for magpie, which is a bird known for eating anything.[17]
  • The word “obstetric” is from the Latin obstetrix, meaning “one who stands opposite (the woman giving birth).” It is related to the word “obstacle.”[15]
  • The word “gynecology” is related to the word "queen"
  • The word “gynecology” is from the Proto-Indo-European root gwen, which means “woman” and is related to the word “queen.”[8]
  • Nearly half of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and of these, 43% end in abortion.[9]
  • Women who consistently use birth control have just 5% of unintended pregnancies in the U.S.[9]
  • Women with incomes at or below the poverty lines are 5 times more likely than those at the highest income levels to have unplanned pregnancies.[9]
  • Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies in the United States end in abortion (excluding miscarriages).[1]
  • The longest pregnancy on record is 375 days (12.5 months), instead of the normal 280 days. Amazingly, the delivered baby was only 6 pounds, 15 ounces.[26]
  • American women have almost double the rate of caesarean sections than what the World Health Organization recommends. WHO recommends a “medically necessary” target of 10-15%; the U.S. rate is nearly 33%.[2]
  • Approximately 10% of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.[14]
  • Fetal stem cells can migrate through the placenta into the mother’s organs, including the heart, kidney, skin, muscle, thyroid, and lungs. These cells can help repair tissue, prevent cancer, or spark immune disorders.[11]
  • Making the decision to have a baby is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

    - Elizabeth Stone

  • The first pregnant man, Thomas Beatie, gave birth to a baby girl in 2008.[26]
  • Globally, one woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or in childbirth, amounting to over 350,000 women every year. Most of these deaths are preventable.[12]
  • Women who snore during pregnancy are more likely to have a C-section and to have smaller babies.[5]
  • A baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes in the United States. As they withdraw from drugs, the infants often tremble, cry inconsolably, clench their muscles and gasp for breath.[25]
  • In America, 31 states allow custody and visitation rights for rapists if the rape results in a pregnancy.[27]
  • Worldwide, there are between 40 million and 50 million abortions every year, or about 125,000 abortions per day.[1]
  • Male seahorses are the only creatures in the animal kingdom in which the males become pregnant
  • Male seahorses are the only creatures in the animal kingdom in which the males become pregnant and develop embryos similar to the ways female mammals do.[22]
  • A woman’s uterus will expand about 500 times its original size during pregnancy.[14]
  • Women can develop varicose veins not only in their legs during pregnancy, but also in their vagina and vulva.[14]
  • During pregnancy, a woman’s body releases a hormone called relaxin to loosen joints and ligaments in preparation for delivery. A woman’s increased weight coupled with more flexible joints leads to the “pregnancy waddle.”[6][14]
  • A pregnant woman grows an entirely new organ during pregnancy, the placenta. It acts not only as a protective barrier, but also as an endocrine organ by releasing hormones, such as hCG, estrogen, and progesterone. The placenta is the only transient organ in the human body.[14]
  • The word “placenta” is from the Latin placenta, which means “a flat cake.” It is also related to the word “plane.”[16]
  • "Pregnancy brain” is not a myth. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, pregnant women perform worse on spatial memory tests than non-pregnant women. Researchers point to hormonal changes as the culprit.[10][14]
  • By the 20th week of pregnancy, a woman has 50% more blood than she did before conception. Her heart enlarges to accommodate the increase in blood volume.[6][14]
  • Being pregnant can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Pregnancy swelling, or edema, can pool in wrists and ankles, which can pinch nerves and cause “pins and needles” tingling.[14]
  • The force inside a woman’s uterus during a contraction is 397 pounds of pressure per square foot.[14]
  • The average size of a full-term baby in the U.S. is 8 pounds. This is an increase from an average size of 6 pounds 30 years ago.[3]
  • The average size of a full-term baby in the U.S. is 8 pounds
  • The first time a woman delivers a child, the pelvic bone will actually separate in the middle. The cartilage in the middle part of the pelvis never really goes back together again.[14]
  • Becoming pregnant while already pregnant is rare, but it is possible. A woman in Arkansas carried two children with two different due dates.[14]
  • The dark line that seemingly “suddenly” appears down the middle of a pregnant woman’s belly is actually already there. Pregnancy hormones just change the pigmentation to make it more visible.[10]
  • Couvade syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy, occurs when a partner of a pregnant woman experiences pregnancy symptoms, such as weight gain, morning sickness, altered hormone levels, labor pains and even breast growth. It has been documented in dads around the world.[14]
  • Approximately 90% of babies can survive outside the womb at 28 weeks.[14]
  • In 2012, there were 213 million pregnancies, of which 190 million were in the developing world and 23 million were in the developed world.[9]
  • The scientific term for pregnancy is gravidity, which means “heavy” in Latin.[18]
  • Childbirth was so dangerous during the Middle Ages that women wrote their wills as soon as they found out they were pregnant
  • Childbirth was so dangerous during the Middle Ages that women wrote their wills as soon as they found out they were pregnant.[7]
  • Though rare, some women suffer from “pregnancy denial,” which is when a woman denies she is pregnant, even though she may suffer from pregnancy symptoms or even while she is actively delivering. These women misinterpret pregnancy symptoms as being cancer or blood clots, or as their organs coming loose inside them. Their babies are at high risk for infanticide.[21]
  • Pseudocyesis, or “false pregnancy” occurs when a woman believes she is pregnant, and may even show pregnancy symptoms, even though she is not pregnant.[7]
  • The country with the highest fertility rate is Niger (6.76 children per woman). The country with the lowest is Singapore (0.81 children per woman).[23]
  • Tennessee became the first state in the U.S. to allow prosecutors to charge pregnant women with criminal assault if they use illegal drugs and their infants are harmed as a result.[13]
  • Infant mortality rates for African-American slaves during the 18th century ranged from 38-50%.[7]
  • During the Renaissance, women were advised to drink mare’s urine and bathe in cow manure to increase their chances of getting pregnant.[7]
  • When obstetrician Sir James Young Simpson introduced chloroform as an anesthetic in 1847, the clergy protested, claiming that labor pains were a part of God’s plan.[7]
  • In 1914, physicians developed “Twilight Sleep,” which included morphine and scopolamine, as a type of anesthetic for women in labor. It made a pregnant mother sleep through the delivery, but it could also make her infant stop breathing. Several mothers also never woke up.[7]
  • Approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone
  • Each year, between 11 and 20% of women, or around 600,000 women who give birth, suffer from postpartum depression in the U.S. alone. The true number is even higher because the CDC reports only on live births. Women who miscarry or whose babies are stillborn can also suffer from postpartum depression.[4]
  • In 1522, Dr. Wert, a German doctor, was sentenced to death for dressing like a woman and sneaking into a delivery room. At the time, men were not allowed into a delivery room.[7]
  • Friends of a laboring woman were called “gossips,” or God sibs, as in “siblings of God.”[7]
  • In 1591, Eufame Maclayne was burned at the stake for asking for pain relief during the birth of her twins. According to religious leaders at the time, God wanted women to feel pain for Eve’s actions in the Garden of Eden.[7]
  • During the Middle Ages, women were told not to have too much sex because it wears out “the baby-making machinery.” That’s why, according to one manual, “whores have so seldome children.”[7]
  • According to one medieval guidebook, drinking red wine with a desiccated rabbit’s testicle increased the chances of a mother having a boy.[7]
  • From the 1600s to the mid- to late 1800s, doctors who did not wash their hands between delivering babies helped transmit childbed fevers, or puerperal sepsis fever. When one doctor noted that physicians were partly to blame and that they should wash their hands, he was so ridiculed that he went insane and later died in a mental asylum.[7]
  • Nigeria has the highest twinning rate in the world at around 4.5%. Some experts attribute this number to the large consumption of yams in Nigeria.[4]
  • Just under 500,000 babies are born each year in the U.S. to teenage mothers.[3]
  • A pregnant woman should eat approximately 300 extra calories per day
  • Pregnant women at a healthy weight should eat an extra 300 calories per day. This amount is roughly equivalent to a serving of yogurt and half of a bagel.[14]
  • Less than 1% of women in the United States choose to deliver their babies at home, while 30% of Dutch women opt for home births.[3]
  • The highest number of surviving children from a single birth is 8, with Californian Nadya Suleman giving birth to octuplets in January 2009. The octuplets were made up of six boys and two girls.[19]
  • The largest baby ever born weighed in at over 23 pounds but died just 11 hours after his birth in 1879. The largest surviving baby was born in October 2009 in Sumatra, Indonesia and weighed an astounding 19.2 pounds at birth.[24]
  • Fewer than 10% of babies are born on their exact due date, 50% are born within one week of the due date, and 90% are born within two weeks of the date.[3]
  • Despite several rumors to the contrary, microwave ovens do not pose a threat to an unborn fetus.[3]
  • During pregnancy, a woman is more likely to experience bleeding gums and nosebleeds due to hormonal changes that increase blood flow to the mouth and nose.[14]
  • About 3% of all pregnant women will give birth to twins. This rate is an increase of nearly 60% since the early 1980s. However, 17% of pregnant women over 45 will give birth to twins.[4]
  • Just 3% of all pregnant women will give birth to twins
  • Milk production and lactation can begin as early as the second trimester in some women.[14]
  • Carrying a baby “high” or “low” is dependent on a woman’s body type and is not a reliable predictor of the baby’s gender.[14]
  • Approximately 70% of expectant mothers report experiencing some symptoms of morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy.[3]
  • Pregnant women usually experience a heightened sense of smell beginning late in the first trimester. Some experts call this the body’s way of protecting a pregnant women from foods that are unsafe for the fetus.[14]
  • Nine out of 10 women have some sort of vaginal tearing during birth. Some tears require little care, while some tears can reach to the anus, and even the muscles affecting the anus.[14]
  • Pregnancy cravings are rooted in the body’s extra need for minerals and comfort-inducing serotonin
  • While not all pregnant women will crave pickles and ice cream specifically, pregnancy cravings are rooted in the body’s extra need for minerals and comfort-inducing serotonin.[14]
  • Many women experience thicker and shinier hair during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and consumption of extra vitamins. New hair volume gained during pregnancy typically begins to fall out after three months postpartum.[14]
  • During the second half of pregnancy, the fetus will begin to pee about a liter a day. The fetus swallows most of it.[14]
  • Nine out of 10 women have some sort of vaginal tearing during birth. Some tears require little care, while some tears can reach to the anus, and even the muscles affecting the anus.[14]
References

1Abortions Worldwide This Year.” World-O-Meters. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

2 Almendrala, Anna. “U.S. C-Section Rate Is Double What WHO Recommends.” Huffington Post. April 16, 2015. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

3 American Pregnancy Association. Accessed: September 5, 2008.

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Health Topic: Pregnancy.” Accessed: September 4, 2008.

5 Collins, Nick. “Snoring While Pregnant Linked to Smaller Babies.” Telegraph. October 31, 2013. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

6 Cox, Lauren. “Oral Sex, a Knife Fight, and Then Sperm Still Impregnated Girl.” ABC News. February 3, 2010. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

7 Epstein, Randi Hutter. Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010.

8 "Gynecology.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

9 Hall, Katy & Jan Diehm. “The Geography of Unintended Pregnancy (Infographic).” September 11, 2013. Updated: November 11, 2013. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

10 Harms, Roger and Myra Wick. Mayo Clinic: Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2011.

11 Martone, Robert. “Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mother’s Brains.Scientific American. December 4, 2012. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

12Maternal Health Is a Human Right.” Amnesty International. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

13 McDonough, Katie. “Tennessee Just Became the First State That Will Jail Women for Their Pregnancy Outcomes.” Salon. April 30, 2014. Accessed: June 26, 2016

14 Murkoff, Heidi E., Arlene Eisenberg, & Sandee E. Hathaway. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2002.

15Obstetric.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

16Placenta.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

17Pregnancy and Pica.” American Pregnancy Association. Updated: July 2015. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

18Pregnant.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

19 Quinones, Sam, Jeff Gottlieb & Carlos V. Lozano, “Octuplets Born in Bellflower.” Los Angeles Times. January 26, 2009. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

20 Soniak, Matt. “How Did Caesarean Sections Get Their Name?Mental Floss. April 25, 2013. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

21 Spinelli, Margaret G., ed. Infanticide: Psychosocial and Legal Perspectives on Mothers Who Kill. American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. Washington, D.C., 2008.

22 Taylor, Ashley P. “Male Seahorses Act Like Pregnant Mammals, Study Suggest.” Live Science. September 8, 2015. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

23The World Factbook.” CIA. 2016. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

24Whoa, Baby! 19-Pound Boy Is Named Akbar.” Today Parents. October 19, 2009. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

25 Wilson, Duff and John Shiffman. “Newborns Die after Being Sent Home with Mothers Struggling to Kick Drug Addictions.” Reuters Investigates. December 7, 2015. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

26 Wood, Hannah. “Top 10 Amazing and World Record Breaking Pregnancy Facts.” Mirror. May 15, 2009. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

27 Zuckerman, Esther. “31 States Allow Rapists Custody and Visitation Rights.” The Wire. August 23, 2012. Accessed: June 26, 2016.

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