8 things movies get wrong about pregnancy: from the 'glow' to meltdowns

It's not like being on a Hollywood set, but it's not always as bad as it's made out to be, either

What to Expect When You're Expecting Trailer
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As with anything in life, pregnancy is different for everyone. But Hollywood would have you believe otherwise with its common tropes, which screenwriters have happily peddled out over the years.

It's important to debunk these, as for many girls growing up, their impression of this stage of life is formed mostly by what they see on the small and silver screen. So, we're here to bust a few myths and unveil some truths.

The bottom line is: you won't be Brooklyn Decker's character in What to Expect When You're Expecting, but you're unlikely to be Elizabeth Banks's, either.

1. Morning sickness doesn’t happen to everyone

It’s usually the first moment our protagonist realises something’s up in the movies: the overwhelming desire to vomit suddenly has her downing tools and running immediately to the bathroom. This only ever happens to her before breakfast.

Yes, that might happen to you, because so-called “morning sickness” (which can actually occur at any time of day or night) is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms.

But, then again, you might not throw up once in your whole pregnancy. Plenty of women don’t, despite what the movies tell you.

2. You might ‘glow’, but then again you might not

We regular humans don’t tend to have hair and make-up chasing us around all the time, so there will be moments when you don’t look your best.

Many women, for instance, experience pregnancy acne. Others don’t, but bouts of morning sickness may leave them looking a little pale.

An iron deficiency, which can happen, as you need more of the mineral in order to produce more red blood cells, can also have you looking a little ghost-like.

Also, you might not look any different.

Basically, the pregnancy “glow” so visible in movies is illusive to most.

3. Mama-to-be meltdowns aren’t comical

The depiction of a hysterically crying woman suddenly starting to laugh is a real thing, but while this is done to comic effect in the films, it’s actually quite uncomfortable in real life.

Mums-to-be experience a range of emotions throughout their pregnancy, largely because of the hormones, but also because of major physical and mental changes.

If you happen to be around a woman who is dealing with this, we advise taking it seriously, rather than laughing at – or even with – her. Even if she’s crying over spilt milk.

4. Cravings aren't always 'weird' – and you can ignore them

One of the most common questions a woman will be asked after she announces her pregnancy – alongside “have you got a name yet?” and “when are you due?” – is what weird food cravings you’ve had.

As with any symptom, not every woman will experience a craving, and they often won’t be for anything “weird”. In their first trimester, if they’re experiencing nausea and sickness, food aversions are actually more likely.

After that, while the jury is out on exactly why we experience cravings, a woman’s preferences may often have more to do with the desire for comfort or a craving for a food that will provide her with a vitamin or mineral she’s lacking.

For example, vegetarians and vegans, unlike Phoebe Buffay in Friends, are unlikely to all of a sudden start eating meat.

In fact, if someone on a plant-based diet finds themselves craving a steak, it possibly has more to do with a drop in iron levels than anything else, and so can opt for lentils, dark chocolate or spinach, instead, to curb the urge.

Generally, junk food should be avoided, so if you find yourself wanting chips, ice cream and a burger, then try and find a healthy alternative.

And, finally, if a woman finds herself with a truly unusual craving to eat a non-food item, this isn't a funny movie trope. This could be a condition called pica, which can be harmful to mother and baby, and needs medical attention.

5. Your bump won’t show for a while

That beautiful baby bump that appears almost the second after our movie protagonist announces she’s pregnant won’t necessarily show up until month five or six in real life, especially if you’re a first-time mum.

For a good while, you may actually feel fairly self-conscious that it looks like you've gained weight, rather than that you're carrying a child around.

Then it all happens so fast – and you’ll continue growing until baby arrives, putting on half a pound (about 200 grams) a week in the final stretch. So enjoy that smaller belly while it lasts.

6. You don’t have a ‘condition’ and you can lift weights

Some women may be medically advised to take it easy, but if you’re low risk, healthy and were active before your baby was born, there’s no reason you need to be bed-bound at any point (unless you’re tired, of course, which will happen). The common trope presented in plenty of movies of a swooning, fragile pregnant lady is, thankfully, fading into the past.

Cameron Diaz in 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'
Cameron Diaz in 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

Today, mamas-to-be can be spotted lifting barbells in the gym or jogging around the park (or at least they were pre-pandemic). This is not the time to start training for a marathon or making any gains, but you can stay active throughout your pregnancy as long as you feel good and your doctor says it’s OK.

7. But you also might not feel great sometimes

On the flip side, plenty more movies show ladies running around in figure-hugging outfits and stiletto heels, active until the moment that first contraction is felt. If you’re that kind of woman, then go you. But pregnancy isn’t always easy, and there will most definitely be days when you struggle to get out of bed and have no energy to even make dinner let alone do a prenatal workout.

Unlike before, when a lack of energy could actually be remedied by a quick stint at the gym, it’s likely to make you feel worse while you’re pregnant. So take it easy, rest and listen to what your body’s trying to tell you.

8. You don’t necessarily need to do kegels

This isn’t limited to the movies, where recently this subject has started cropping up more and more in scripts. Almost everyone, from the moment you announce you’re pregnant, will start telling you to do your kegel exercises in a bid to strengthen that pelvic floor. It’s meant to help these muscles recover quicker after birth.

But what they don’t tell you (and perhaps don’t know) is that some women already have overly strong muscles and working them even more might actually impede their birthing experience. It’s best to check with a specialist to find out what’s best for you.