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Pregnancy can sure bring challenges that you don't have when you are not expecting. The early stages of pregnancy tend to come with many hurdles that are quite a struggle to get through. Morning sickness, fatigue and mood swings immediately come to mind.

Because many pregnant women follow the common suggestion to wait until the first 12 weeks are over before they announce their pregnancy, this toughest period is often spent alone. Alone, without the support of your co-workers, neighbors, or others. You don't generally look pregnant at this time, after all, so others cannot see what you are going through and your boss is not going to give you an easier time at work because you are exhausted and sick if she doesn't know that you are feeling that way. At the end of the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage decreases enormously.

You may be starting to develop a little baby bump, but that may also come a little later. In any case, most women announce their big news around this time. Morning sickness and fatigue are starting to lift, and most ladies feel more energetic, and more like themselves. Congratulations, you did it! You got through the hardest part of pregnancy without any practical support from anyone other than your partner. Soon enough, you will become visibly pregnant. And that's when the trouble starts.

"Let me carry that for you," a male coworker will tell you. "You did what!?" a childless friend will exclaim, "You painted the nursery all by yourself? But you are pregnant! You really shouldn't be doing that. That is what husbands are for."

Even your mom, who has obviously been pregnant before and should know better, will tell you that you should not lift your toddler up too much. Or work late. And your grandpa might wonder if you should really be driving a car. It is official: pregnancy is seen as a dangerous condition that should lead moms to-be to be extremely cautious if they don't want to damage their baby or go into labor prematurely.

Americans take an exceptionally medicalized approach to prenatal care and labor and delivery. This leads to good healthcare outcomes and prevents doctors from being sued. Generally, it is a good idea to take excellent care of your body while you are pregnant, to attend prenatal appointments regularly, and to avoid stuff that is obviously dangerous. This includes smoking, drinking, bungee jumping, illegal street races, and the like. You may even like to avoid raw cheese and the kitty litter tray.

Do you know what is fine, though? Carrying items (including your toddler), using non-toxic paint to redecorate your house, cleaning, and many sports including swimming, yoga, and brisk walking. Unless you have been diagnosed with a pregnancy complication like placenta previa or you are carrying triplets, pregnancy really isn't a disability. The attitude that pregnancy is no different than a disability for all practical purposes does not exist everywhere. In the Netherlands, pregnant women happily use their bicycles as a main form of transport up to the day they give birth, and nobody wonders if this might be dangerous. Sports are encouraged, and nobody tells you that it might not be safe to carry an older child.

When I was pregnant, I painted the whole house (while my husband held the ladder because your center of gravity does shift, making you more vulnerable to falls). I moved house, moved furniture around, assembled a crib, a cupboard, and other baby things, and I carried on working. My baby didn't suffer for it because I was enjoying a low-risk pregnancy that did not require me to be sedentary. In fact, living an active lifestyle gives you plenty of built-in prenatal exercise without even trying. Pregnancy is not a disability. It should not require any of us to stop going about our business relatively normally, unless we are in pain, have been diagnosed with complications, or actually want to take it easy.

What is your take? Do you ditch most of your physical activities when you are expecting a baby, or do you carry on as normal? Are you also frustrated by the attitude that a baby on the way means you have to pretend you are totally incapable of doing anything?

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