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10 things you didn’t know about becoming a mum

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Think you know everything there is to know about conception, pregnancy and babies? You may be surprised by some of these extraordinary facts...

Before pregnancy

  • Your sense of smell, taste and vision can increase significantly when you’re ovulating.
  • A stress-free life helps with reproduction. An American study of women undergoing IVF found that 52 per cent of those who practised mind- and body-focused activities such as yoga became pregnant in the second cycle of treatment, compared with only 20 per cent of those who didn’t take part in the activities. 
  • Couples in their 30s only have a 15 per cent chance of conceiving each month, and it usually takes about eight months until they are are successful. 
  • Most couples have sex about 104 times before the woman becomes pregnant according to research.
  • During ovulation, you may have fuller lips, dilated pupils and a softer skin tone. Recent research at the University of Newcastle showed that men picked up on this, judging photos of ovulating women more attractive than others. 
  • Bacon for a boy? The old wives’ tale may be true: several studies suggest that women who eat a full breakfast and a high calorie diet when trying for a baby are more likely to have a boy. Whereas low fat diets around the time of conception increase the odds of having a girl.

During pregnancy

  • Most women go up by half a shoe size during pregnancy, because of increased volume of fluid in their feet (oedema). Also the hormone relaxin, which loosens the joints around your pelvis so that your baby can make his way down the birth canal, loosens the ligaments in your feet too – so the bones in your feet spread. 
  • The longest pregnancy on record lasted 375 days (as opposed to the usual 280 days). Beulah Hunter gave birth to Penny Diana in 1945 after almost a year and a half of pregnancy.
  • You don’t need to eat for two! Pregnant women of a healthy weight should eat no extra calories in the first or second trimester, then add an extra 200 calories per day in the third (equivalent to two pieces of toast with butter!).
  • Many women have thicker hair because higher levels of oestrogen slow down daily hair loss. Their hair may also be shinier during pregnancy because of the extra vitamins they take.

Birth and babies

  • In the UK, the chance of giving birth to twins is about 1.5 per cent. The rate has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. The likelihood of having twins increases as you age – for every 1,000 pregnant women over 35, around 22 will have twins.
  • Less than 1 per cent of women in America choose to give birth at home, while 30 per cent of Dutch women opt for home delivery. In the UK it’s around 2.5 per cent, with more mums in West Somerset doing so than any other region (11.4 per cent).
  • Fewer than 10 per cent of babies are born on their exact due date. Half are born within one week of the due date, and 90 per cent are born within two weeks of the date.
  • The largest baby was born in 1879 in Ohio, America, weighing an eye-watering 23lb 12oz/10.8kg (his mother was 7ft 5in). Sadly he died after 11 hours. Most recently, in October 2009, a baby was born in Sumatra, Indonesia weighing 19.2lb/8.7kg.
Bacon for a boy? The old wives’ tale may be true